If you’re working through short- or long-term difficulties in your life, whether they’re related to past trauma or current life experiences, a therapist can help.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), some reviews of studies show that talk therapy can benefit about 75% of people who do it.

Choosing the right therapist for you is essential.

Read on to learn about the eight red flags to look out for when searching for a mental health professional.

Share on Pinterest
Infographic by Bailey Mariner

Therapy benefits

One 2015 research review showed that long-term psychological stress may increase your chance of having chronic conditions, including artery hardening (atherosclerosis) and heart disease.

But therapy, or psychotherapy, can help resolve concerns and life stressors, like:

  • difficulties coping
  • relationship concerns
  • irrational fears
  • ways of thinking that may be self-defeating

A therapist can help you:

  • become aware of thinking patterns that can harm you or others
  • identify ways to cope with stress through problem-solving strategies
  • learn social and communication skills
  • develop and use mindfulness and relaxation techniques
  • explore troubling personal concerns and get emotional support for them
Was this helpful?

Whether your licensed therapy professional is a psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist, they all have one thing in common: A professional organization in your state has vetted them.

Being licensed and a part of a professional organization also means your therapist follows an established code of conduct and ethics.

It also means they regularly complete continuing education to renew their license. This ensures they can provide you with up-to-date, evidence-based care.

Have they worked with clients in similar situations as you or who have your condition? If not, they may be unable to address your unique needs.

The APA recommends asking your therapist if they’ve worked with clients in similar situations before and how many years of experience they have doing that.

Your comfort should be a priority — not an afterthought.

After a couple of sessions with a therapist, you may typically feel comfortable opening up and sharing your feelings, even if the feelings themselves are painful or uncomfortable.

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed with emotion while discussing personal concerns and feelings, but a therapist who’s a good fit for you can usually help you feel at ease talking with them.

If you don’t feel that trust even after a few sessions, it may be time to look for someone else.

The points of therapy are to:

  • reduce your symptoms
  • improve your experience performing daily activities
  • boost your quality of life

Your therapist can help get you there.

And setting goals early on is essential. Goals could include managing a fear that’s getting in the way of your day-to-day activities or overcoming a sense of hopelessness you’re feeling.

Some goals take longer than others to reach, and that’s OK. Your therapist can help you establish a sense of what to expect.

If you don’t have goals, you may lose focus.

Finding a licensed practitioner who can provide evidence-based therapy is crucial. It means they use therapy techniques backed by systematic research.

When first talking with a potential therapist, the APA recommends asking them if they work with evidence-based treatments.

If your therapist doesn’t involve you in decision making but tells you what to do or disagrees with your choices, consider finding someone else.

A keystone of evidence-based treatment is when the therapist invites the client to take an active role in deciding how to proceed with treatment.

Look for someone who presents you with available treatment options and their pros and cons and gives you their professional recommendations but ultimately allows you to make the final decisions about your treatment.

Do they work in a place you can get to easily? Do they offer therapy by phone or video chat? Would they be available to you if you needed them urgently?

If you have to wait for weeks between sessions with your therapist because they don’t have available appointments that suit your schedule, it may be time to find someone whose available hours align with yours.

If your only available times are evenings and weekends, find someone who holds sessions during those hours.

It can be a challenge to find a therapist who matches your personal needs and budget. If you can, find someone you can afford for as long as you need.

Here are a few budget-related red flags to consider:

  • Their fees are too high for you to book appointments regularly.
  • The insurance provider you have doesn’t cover their services.
  • There are limits to your insurance coverage, and you think you’ll need to go beyond them.

If you’ve chosen to start therapy, you’ve already taken an important step toward healing and improving your life.

Choosing the right therapist can take time, but once you find someone who’s a good fit, they can help you develop skills to benefit your mental health.