Counseling 101: Finding a Therapist

The most frequently asked question I get from others is how to go about finding a therapist. There are many factors to consider - cost, availability, location, transportation, the theoretical orientation of the therapist, etc. And then, of course, once you sort out all of these details, it needs to be someone you actually trust and can build a relationship with.

I've heard story after story of folks sticking with therapists that they know aren’t the right fit for them, folks who are having trouble finding a therapist who is accepting of their identity, folks not being sure of what type of therapy will be most helpful, folks wondering if they even need therapy, and folks who have no idea how to get started. I have personally related to all of these at one point or another. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you can also relate.

I’m here to let you in on the ‘secret’ of finding the right therapist for you - because counseling is for everyone, it should be accessible, and there is no wrong time to care for yourself.


Step 1: Consider what type of individual you’d most benefit from working with

It could be someone older or younger, it could be someone who shares your gender or sexual identity, someone who shares your beliefs, or has experience working with the challenges you would like to address. It may be someone who is very structured and directive or it may be someone who you’d prefer to work with long term, on a more relational basis. There are no wrong answers to these questions and answering them for yourself can help you take large steps in narrowing down your search.


Step 2: Ask around

If you feel comfortable sharing that you’re looking for a therapist, ask friends and family for trusted recommendations. Be sure to ask them why they suggested each therapist and weigh their feedback with what you are looking for. If you’re not ready to share that you’re searching, that’s ok. You might consider asking online communities you are a part of, stating that you are looking for a friend, or posing these questions anonymously.


Step 3: Try a Therapist Finder tool

Many therapists are registered and verified through Psychology Today and/or similar websites that feature their profiles, specializations, etc. Psychology Today is usually the most popular site and has an excellent therapist finder tool. You can begin by searching in your area. You can then filter results based on what issues you would like to address, cost/insurance accepted, theoretical orientation/types of therapy, etc.


Step 4: Be picky

Really, I mean it. Don’t settle for someone who is not a good fit for you or who is not willing to understand/respect who you are. Therapy works best when you have a safe and trusting relationship with your therapist. Compile a list of your top five choices based on your searches and recommendations. Then, send emails or call each choice and ask questions that will allow you to assess what it would be like to work with this person. Feel free to ask about their level of training and experience, to ask how they tend to address certain issues, what a typical session might look like, etc. You might also consider asking if they offer free consultations so you can have a chance to connect more prior to scheduling an appointment.


Step 5: Feel it out

Sometimes, you’ll know in your first session that you’ve found the right person. Other times, you may not be sure. It is ok for you to continue sessions and to not be sure. Allow yourself to feel things out and to assess as you go along. If you’re sensing it isn’t the best fit for you, talk about it with your therapist. There may be things they can change or improve - and, if not, they should be willing to help you find a better fit. If you ever feel disrespected, oppressed, or that a therapist does not have healthy boundaries, feel empowered to leave immediately without explanation. When you find someone that you feel comfortable opening up to and building a therapeutic relationship with, challenge yourself to stick with it and to open up as you feel ready.


Your mental and emotional health matter. Congrats to you for taking these steps to prioritize them. If you’re still feeling unsure or have any questions, feel free to contact me at any time. I’d be happy to help you find the right fit.