How to Find the Right Therapist for You

Part 1: Questions to ask yourself before beginning the counseling process

Posted Mar 11, 2020

Starting therapy can be intimidating. Knowing that your success in counseling is heavily influenced by the quality of the relationship you have with you provider, it's common to feel the pressure to find the perfect practitioner to help you in your process. Oftentimes individuals have to try multiple counselors before finding their therapeutic match. 

While you may want to find the right person from the start, how are you supposed to know if you have selected the right person to guide you? This series is designed to help you to find the right provider for your healing journey. In this piece, we start with 4 helpful questions to ask yourself even before you start looking for the right provider for you.

What do I hope to address?

It’s a common misconception that therapy is just talking. While providers may vary in their approach, in most cases it is helpful to have a general idea of what is being addressed in session. If you are unsure about what you are hoping to work on, this can cause a delay in your collaboration, and serve as a hindrance in your healing.

In addition, defining your specific concern can help you better gauge what you are looking for in your provider. For example, if you are hoping to work on concerns related to addiction, perhaps you may benefit from seeking a clinician who has specific training or credentials in that topic area.

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How will I pay?

Therapists have different payment rates and options. For many people finding the right match for payment can determine whether or not you are able to seek help from a specific provider. What are you able to afford per session and how?

Let’s say that you hope to use your insurance. It can be helpful to find out the specific details you may need for your sessions to be covered. While you may find a provider that you like, it is possible that they may not be within network with your provider. If this happens, it can be helpful to discern what out of network options are available. Depending on your plan, you may be able to submit for reimbursements. Sometimes providers may be able to match your co-payment or refer you to colleague who accepts your insurance.

It is not uncommon for counseling to not be covered by insurance plans, or for individuals who forego using insurance altogether. Find out what your potential provider’s rates are and if that is within your budget. Some providers may offer scaling scale or reduced fee options. Affordability is a nationwide concern that often serves as an obstacle for individuals hoping to seek the help they need. Oftentimes universities with mental health training programs have short-term counseling available at a reduced cost. Contact your local mental health organization for leads on low-rate or free counseling.

When can I meet?

Counseling is a process, and it takes time. Even if you utilize a short-term approach, it is not likely that you will find success from a single appointment. Think about the longer time commitment and be honest with yourself when it comes to your schedule, responsibilities, and priorities. Can you set aside the time needed to commit to the journey? If so, when works best for you?  While flexibility is a perk, it’s not always an option in reality. Knowing in advance what your schedule is like will help you to be realistic with your provider prior to starting sessions.

Say for example that your weekdays are filled throughout the evening. You may recognize that while you can make accommodations here and there, it would be best to find a clinician with availability on the weekends to match your needs.  Another key aspect that affects scheduling is distance. Can you afford to tack on a commute for the right provider or is it more important to find a helper who is nearby and convenient?

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What are my preferences?

A strong therapeutic connection is helpful in the counseling process. Before you begin to sift through providers, it may be helpful to consider what qualities you prefer in a provider. In doing this, take a moment to reflect on whether your preferences are purposeful and necessary.

For example, you may think that finding a therapist who looks like you is the key to establishing a connection. However, from the combination of adequate training and ethical practice, a provider does not need to resemble you in order to establish rapport. It is indeed possible that you may find comfort in, and hence prefer, a client of a similar ethnicity or gender, therapists are trained to be able to empathize to others regardless of their differences.

Delving deeper than characteristics, you may have preferences for your providers approach to therapy. Say for example you reflect and realize that you learn best when you apply concepts in practice. Then perhaps you may benefit from seeking a helper who provides examples and tasks for you to complete between sessions.  Knowing what you may prefer from a provider can help you know what to look for choosing the right therapist for you.   

Check Psychology Today's directory of therapists for a professional near you.

This series is designed to help you to find the right provider for your healing journey. In this post, you were able to explore four questions to begin your process. The second part of the series will address resources to help you find a therapist, the third will share questions to ask a potential therapist, and the fourth will highlight qualities to look for in a good provider.