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If you’re considering therapy — whether it’s to restore a relationship, recover from a trauma, adjust to a new life phase, or improve your mental health — finding the right therapist is the first hurdle to cross.
Researchers have found that the bond between you and your therapist is likely to have a big impact on your growth. That’s why it’s important to do your research, ask questions, and pay attention to your own responses in your search for the therapist that’s right for you.
Here are some tried-and-true methods for finding a therapist to help you reach your therapeutic goals.
If you plan to pay for therapy through your insurance plan, your first step might be to look through your plan’s provider network.
It’s also a good idea to find out whether your plan limits the number of sessions you can attend each year and whether using an out-of-network therapist will affect your out-of-pocket costs.
Looking for ways to support your mental health and well-being? Try Healthline’s FindCare tool to connect with mental health professionals nearby or virtually so you can get the care you need.
A referral from a friend, colleague, or doctor you trust is another way to find a therapist who might be a good fit for you.
While a referral is a good place to start, it’s important to recognize that you may have different needs and goals with your therapy than the person giving you the recommendation.
So, a good match for one of you might not be as beneficial to the other.
A number of mental health organizations maintain up-to-date, searchable databases of licensed therapists.
Your search could start as simply as typing in your ZIP code to generate a list of counselors in your area. You may also be able to search for specialists, like marriage and family counselors or therapists who focus on drug and alcohol use.
Some of the most commonly used online search tools include:
Your community may also have resources to help you. If you’re a student, your school might provide access to a counseling center.
If you’re employed, your human resources team might offer a list of therapists available through a workplace wellness or employee assistance program.
If you need counseling related to domestic or sexual abuse, you might be able to find group or individual therapy through a local advocacy organization.
If you want your faith to inform your treatment, you might consider reaching out to your church, synagogue, mosque, or other worship center for a list of licensed therapists affiliated with your faith.
If you’re looking for a therapist to help with a specific mental health condition, you might find local therapists through a national association, network, or helpline.
Here are a few examples of organizations that offer search tools to help you find a specialized therapist near you:
- National Eating Disorders Association
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- National Center for PTSD
If your job is a source of stress and anxiety, you might find local therapists through a professional organization.
Many of these organizations and trade unions have resources to help you identify professionals who can assist with mental health needs. For example, the International Association of Firefighters offers help with mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use.
Resources for people of color
Access to culture-conscious therapists is important for your well-being. Here are some resources to consider when looking for a therapist:
- The Yellow Couch Collective, an online support group for Black women
- Therapy for Black Girls
- Black Mental Health Alliance
- The National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, a nonprofit dedicated to the mental health and well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
- WeRNative, which provides Native American youth with tools for holistic health and growth, including mental health resources.
- Nina Pop Mental Health Recovery Fund and Tony McDade Mental Health Recovery Fund, a group that offers therapy sessions to help Black transgender people
- Therapy for Latinx
What do you want to accomplish in therapy?
If you think some type of medication may help with your symptoms, you’ll want to find a psychiatrist or practitioner who can prescribe medications.
If you’ve heard that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy have been effective for others with your condition, you’ll want to look for a therapist with certifications or specialized training in those treatment approaches.
If you want to be part of a supportive network of people who understand your experiences, you may want to consider looking for a therapist who’s involved with support groups or group therapy sessions.
Your goals may change as you work with a therapist. It’s OK to talk with your therapist about changing the direction of your treatment plan as your needs evolve.
Some people find a digital therapy platform to be more convenient and more affordable than in-person therapy. Weekly sessions range from $35 to $80 for online therapy.
At least one
When you meet your therapist, whether it’s online, on the phone, or in person, it’s not uncommon to completely forget every question you wanted to ask.
To make sure you have the information you need to make a good decision, keep paper and a pen, or a notes app, handy for a few days before your meeting. Jot down questions as they come to you.
The American Psychological Association suggests a few questions for you to consider asking your therapist during your first session:
- Are you a licensed psychologist in this state?
- How many years have you been in practice?
- How much experience do you have working with people who are dealing with [the issue you’d like to resolve]?
- What do you consider to be your specialty or area of expertise?
- What kinds of treatments have you found effective in resolving [the issue you’d like to resolve]?
- What insurance do you accept?
- Will I need to pay you directly and then seek reimbursement from my insurance company, or do you bill the insurance company?
- Are you part of my insurance network?
- Do you accept Medicare or Medicaid?
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America adds questions like these:
- If I need medication, can you prescribe it or recommend someone who does?
- Do you provide access to telehealth services?
- How soon can I expect to start feeling better?
- What do we do if our treatment plan isn’t working?
Note: If you’ve ever been abused by someone in authority or affected by historic trauma or racism, you may want to ask questions that help you find out whether a potential therapist is culturally informed and sensitive to your experiences.
No matter how many professional accreditations your therapist has, your own feelings of trust and comfort should be your top priority. Will therapy be uncomfortable from time to time? Possibly. After all, you’ll likely be discussing difficult, personal topics.
But if you feel uncomfortable with your therapist for any other reason, it’s all right to look for someone else.
You don’t need a reason to switch therapists. It’s enough that you don’t feel comfortable.
Here are a few things to notice as you talk with your therapist:
- Does the therapist interrupt you, or do they listen carefully to what you’re saying?
- How does your body feel during a therapy session? Do you feel tense?
- Does the therapist respect your time by being prompt to appointments?
- Does the therapist brush off or invalidate your concerns?
- Do you feel seen, heard, and respected during your session?
Teletherapy, which is done remotely over the phone or via videoconferencing, makes it easy to explore therapy and its options. It’s convenient, and
Here are some options:
- BetterHelp: This option has over 12,000 licensed professionals in its network, including psychologists, clinical social workers, and marriage and family therapists. BetterHelp therapists can help people with anxiety, depression, addiction, grief, and other issues.
- Talkspace: With over 3,000 licensed therapists, Talkspace offers options for people with a wide range of needs, from depression to PTSD. They offer counseling for individuals, couples, and teens.
- Amwell: If you’re looking for physical and psychological health services, with doctor or therapist visits available 24/7, Amwell is a great user-friendly platform. Couple and individual therapy sessions are available for trauma, depression, life transitions, and more.
- Teen Counseling: This is a great resource for teens ages 13 to 19 and caregivers. The therapists in Teen Counseling specialize in issues affecting teens, such as stress and eating disorders. The platform offers live chats, phone calls, videoconferencing, and messaging with licensed therapists.
- Pride Counseling: This options offers safe and supportive mental health services for LGBTQ+ people. Pride Counseling matches you with a counselor who fits your therapy objectives and needs.
Therapists and psychiatrists aim to treat mental health conditions and improve emotional well-being. But there are key differences between the two professions.
Therapists are licensed mental health professionals, including psychologists, social workers, and counselors. They aim to help people manage their emotions, build healthier relationships, and understand themselves better.
Therapists use talk therapy and behavior modification techniques to help people make positive life changes. During therapy, they can assess, diagnose and treat mental health conditions.
Therapy typically suits people who want to learn more about themselves and make long-lasting changes in their lives. It may also help people with mild mental health conditions.
Most therapists have a master’s degree and may have a doctorate. All licensed therapists have to have at least a master’s degree.
Generally, therapists can’t prescribe medications. But in some states, psychologists with specialist pharmacology training can prescribe certain medications.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. Because they hold medical degrees, psychiatrists can prescribe medication.
Psychiatrists use a combination of talk therapy and medication to treat mental health conditions. Psychiatrist may be the better option for people who experience more severe symptoms and who need medication to help treat them.
How much does therapy cost?
The cost of therapy can depend on the type of therapy, the therapist’s experience, and whether you’re talking with a therapist in person or through teletherapy.
Therapists may charge between $100 and $200 per session for in-person appointments. But in bigger cities, therapy can cost more. Some therapists may offer sliding scale rates. If you have insurance, you may pay a portion of the fee depending on your coverage.
Teletherapy is generally less costly. The price per session starts at around $50. Some platforms offer unlimited therapy with a weekly or monthly subscription.
What types of therapy are there?
There are many different types of therapy, and the type you choose will depend on your needs and preferences. Some common types include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps you identify and change negative thinking patterns and behaviors.
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT): DBT combines elements of CBT with structured skill-building in mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.
- Psychodynamic therapy: This type of therapy focuses on your unconscious thoughts and emotions.
- Interpersonal therapy: The focus of interpersonal therapy is on your relationships with other people.
- Family therapy: This type of therapy helps families resolve conflict and improve communication.
- Group therapy: In this type of therapy, you meet with a group of people who share similar experiences.
- Art therapy: This type of therapy uses art to express emotions and help process trauma.
What are the benefits of therapy?
Therapy has several benefits, including improving mental health, resolving personal issues, and increasing self-awareness. Therapy can also help people learn new coping skills and manage stress.
Some people see therapy as a way to prevent mental health issues or as a way to address underlying causes of mental health conditions. Others use therapy to work through traumas or difficult life events.
Therapy is an effective treatment for many mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and eating disorders.
Whether you’re coping with grief, trauma, or relationship issues, or want treatment for a mental health condition, finding a helpful therapist can make a big difference in your journey.
To find a therapist who’s a good fit, start by considering practical matters like licensure, insurance coverage, location, and specialties.
You may find that friends, colleagues, and healthcare professionals are a good source of referrals. You may also find options by using search tools provided by organizations that address your specific concerns.
When you’ve narrowed down your choices, you may find it helpful to think about your goals and questions. This way you can be sure you and your therapist are well matched and aligned on your treatment plan.
Ultimately, finding the right therapist is a personal matter. Human connection is at the heart of effective therapy, and you can build that sense of connection whether you talk with your therapist in person, on the phone, or online.