Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

7 Steps to Finding the Right Therapist for You

Finding the right therapist is easier than you think.

If you need help, you are not alone. With all that is going on in the world, many people are suffering from increased stress, anxiety, grief and depression. A Washington Post article (May 4, 2020) “The coronavirus pandemic is pushing America into a mental health crisis,” reports that almost half of Americans say the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health. For those experiencing mental health conditions for the first time, searching for the right therapist can seem daunting. Feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of finding a therapist and/or starting therapy is a completely normal reaction.

7 steps to finding a therapist who’s right for you

Finding the right therapist can be is easier than you may think. There are many steps between the decision to seek help and your first appointment, but finding the right therapist doesn’t have to be a difficult process.

Follow these 7 easy steps to get the help you deserve:

1. Determine what kind of support you need. Consider what prompted you to seek help. What do you struggle with? What kind of support are you looking for and what approach might you respond to best? This is a good time to research the many different approaches to therapy. Maybe a friend’s passing has sent you in search of a grief counselor. Or you would like to talk to a therapist specializing in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help your struggle with anxiety.

2. Compile a list of potential therapists. You can contact your healthcare provider for a referral; ask friends and acquaintances for recommendations; contact your insurance provider for referrals or search its website for a database of mental health professionals; or consult Psychology Today's directory of therapists. (If a provider is unable to work with you, ask him/her for a referral.)

If you don’t have insurance or are unable to cover the cost of copays, consider Federally Qualified Health Centers, community-based centers that offer mental health and substance abuse services, or a local clinic at a university or hospital that offers clinician-supervised sessions with therapists in training.

3. Narrow it down. Once you have a few therapists you’re interested in, search their names to find an online bio or a website discussing their specialties and approach to therapy. Make sure they are accredited by a reputable organization. You might be looking for a therapist who specializes in trauma or someone who has LGBTQ experience. Use this written information to guide you toward the therapist you want to work with.

4. Get in touch. Contact the therapists you’re considering with some quick questions about their work. Here are a few suggestions:

  • What is your availability?
  • What is your philosophy and treatment approach?
  • What is your area of expertise?
  • What should my expectations be for a typical session?
  • Can you explain the intervention and how it’s useful to my needs?
  • What is the payment process for a therapy session with you? (Some may charge on a sliding scale).

5. Contact your insurance provider. Many wonderful therapists do not accept insurance coverage; if you’ve settled on one that doesn’t, feel free to ignore this step. If your therapist does, you will need a clinical diagnosis from him or her before treatment is covered—this is usually provided in one-to-two sessions. You may receive a mild diagnosis if you are coping with general issues. When speaking with your insurance provider, talk to a representative who can answer questions about mental health benefits. Be sure to ask:

  • What kind of coverage do you provide?
  • Does coverage include remote video and phone sessions?
  • Will you partially or fully reimburse the session?
  • How much are copays? (Many providers are waiving copays at the moment due to COVID-19).
  • What is the process for reimbursement?

6. Prepare for your first session (for virtual/tele-health appointments). Once you’ve gotten your questions answered by your therapist and insurance provider, prep for your first meeting. If meeting virtually or over the phone, confirm which platform to use and how long sessions will be.

  • Pick an area with good phone or internet connection.
  • Choose a time when you are most likely to have privacy. If you have kids, this might be when your child is resting or busy doing schoolwork
  • Pick a private spot; this could be in the car, a closet, or a bathroom). Try to use the same location every time to maintain a level of consistency and encourage yourself to be in the right state of mind for therapy.
  • Get comfortable. Bring a pillow, blanket, tissues, water, headphones (in case the audio is lousy and you need privacy), and a calm pet (if you’d like to).
  • Turn off distractions in order to stay present
  • If using a video platform, place your computer on a flat surface, make your entire face visible, and close applications that might slow your computer’s processing power.

7. “Shop” around. Finding a therapist is a little like dating. Begin sessions with the expectation that it won't necessarily work out with the first person you meet. This should help ease feelings of discouragement. Think about how you feel when you’re in conversation with a specific therapist. Do you feel comfortable, safe, and secure? Do you feel that you can trust him/her? How well does the therapist’s traits align with what you’re looking for? It’s perfectly acceptable if, after a few visits, you don’t feel it is a good match. It is helpful for the provider to know why, but you should not feel guilty or uncomfortable for not wanting to continue with a specific provider.

Take the Leap

The process of finding a therapist is a personal one that must be customized to your particular needs and desires. Once you pinpoint what those are, follow these steps and you’ll soon be on your way. If therapy is something you’ve considered for a while, take the leap toward a happier and healthier you. You are worth it.

There Is A Way!®

Dr. Diane®

© 2020 Dr. Diane® Roberts Stoler, Ed.D.