How do I find the right therapist?


    Seeking therapy for the first time can be daunting, so we asked eight mental health professionals, including psychotherapists and psychologists, for their best tips on finding a therapist who's a good fit. From ensuring the therapist's approach aligns with yours to seeking compatibility and evidence-based treatment, these experts provide invaluable insights to guide your journey.

    • Ensure the Therapist's Approach Aligns with Yours
    • Consider Practical Factors and Therapy Type
    • Be Patient, Open, and Curious
    • Research and Consult Potential Therapists
    • Prioritize Connection and Competence
    • Trust Your Instincts in Therapist Selection
    • Follow a Comprehensive Guide
    • Seek Compatibility and Evidence-Based Treatment

    Ensure the Therapist's Approach Aligns with Yours

    Don't be afraid to ask the therapist questions about their approach. If they specialize in a certain modality, they should be able to clearly explain it in a way that will help your situation.

    Another thing I would add is knowing the clinician will let you come as you are and will not force or shame you for having a different worldview or political affiliation from theirs. If you feel the therapist is projecting or struggles with hearing you and your beliefs, find another one.

    Marcus LewisEMDR Clinical Director and Licensed Mental Health Clinician, Sun Point Wellness

    Consider Practical Factors and Therapy Type

    The first thing to accomplish when looking for a therapist is to contact your insurance company to find out who is in-network. Therapy can be expensive, so know before you schedule what your out-of-pocket expense is.

    Ask yourself what goals you have in going to therapy. That can indicate what type of therapy you want. Some therapies are best for trauma, like EMDR or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Ask about the therapist's training and, if possible, do a brief interview with the therapist. I recommend evidence-based therapies, which means they have tested the therapy to see if it improves problems like depression and anxiety.

    Last, trust your gut. It's okay to switch therapists if you don't feel that you are being heard or helped in therapy.

    Rita Smith, Licensed Clinical Social Worker - Supervisor, UT Southwestern Medical Center

    Be Patient, Open, and Curious

    My best tip for people who are new to therapy is to be patient, open, and curious! It's a brave move to decide to start therapy, and being open and honest will help you find your therapist. Don't be afraid to ask your therapist questions about their approaches and how they work with certain issues that you are struggling with.

    Notice how you physically feel in the therapist's presence. Sure, you are likely nervous and anxious, but can you see yourself opening up to them? Also, be patient with yourself; it may take a couple of sessions before you can truly determine fit, unless your intuition is telling you “Run!”

    Amanda Marks, Psychotherapist, Resilient Counseling

    Research and Consult Potential Therapists

    Do some research, and be open to talking to a few different therapists if you're unsure whom to choose. It can help to schedule a consultation call to get a feel for how therapists work with their clients. Have some questions ready for this call. What's important to you and what would make you feel like you're understood? How do you want to be helped? Ask about those things.

    Debra Cooke, Licensed Professional Counselor

    Prioritize Connection and Competence

    The process of finding a therapist can be daunting for someone who is new to therapy. Choosing a therapist involves two important considerations. One is that you connect with and genuinely like the therapist. It is important to feel comfortable with the professional with whom you will open up.

    While they need to be warm, empathetic, and likable, that alone is not enough. The therapist must also be skilled, experienced, and competent in the area of treatment you need.

    Terri DiMatteo, Licensed Professional Counselor, Open Door Therapy

    Trust Your Instincts in Therapist Selection

    In my experience, truly connecting with a therapist goes beyond their credentials and specialties. It's about the synergy with their patient.

    My best advice is to always trust your instincts. If, after the first session, something feels off, it's okay to explore other options. Because when you truly find a therapist where the connection feels just right and natural, then therapy becomes this transformative space where real and profound healing begins.

    Bayu Prihandito, Certified Psychology Expert, Life Coach, Founder, Life Architekture

    Follow a Comprehensive Guide

    What mental disorders are they interested in? Ensure they have expertise in treating the specific issues you're dealing with, especially for conditions like eating disorders or personality disorders, which require specialized approaches. Ask questions to clarify their expertise.

    Research the therapies they offer (e.g., CBT, DBT, ACT) and evaluate if they align with your needs and preferences.

    Instead of treating it like dating, engage in open conversations to gauge skills. How do they ensure change will happen? Will you have homework?

    After a conversation, trust your feelings. Did you feel heard? Understood? Comfortable? A therapeutic alliance is critical for success.

    Don't be swayed solely by a polished website. Therapists may not excel in technology. Prioritize content over aesthetics.

    Is the location, availability, and affordability suitable?

    Adam Horvath, Psychologist, Personal Psychology

    Seek Compatibility and Evidence-Based Treatment

    Finding a suitable professional is crucial. It's important to find someone with whom you and your family feel comfortable and safe, who can help meet your goals, is compatible with your family's schedule, and fits within your budget.

    Don't hesitate to ask questions—you deserve a good fit and may want to know how many years a clinician has been practicing, what their areas of specialty are, and, if this applies to you, their skills in working with people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, the deaf community, or other identities.

    The TRUE Center provides evidence-based trauma treatment for children and families. It's recommended to find a therapist who provides evidence-based treatment, which means that we know the therapy is effective and that it works more quickly than methods that are not evidence-based.

    If you're feeling like your therapist is not a good fit, let them know! They may be able to make adjustments or make a referral if needed. A good clinician will understand and will want to make sure the fit is a good one.

    Dr. Renee Deboard-Lucas, Executive Director, TRUE Center