Find out how to choose the right therapist for you.

Sometimes people get caught up on the wrong details when looking for a therapist: details like a therapist’s age, gender, sexuality, website, internet presence, social media accounts, education, and headshot quality are not the details that matter most. 

In fact, sometimes focussing on these details can get in the way of finding the right therapist for them.  

Therapy is deeply personal. Trusting a stranger with the intimate details of your life should not be taken lightly. I encourage people who reach out for support to talk to multiple therapists on the phone and ask questions to determine if it’s a good fit.

 

Here are the factors that I encourage you to consider when scheduling a session with a therapist:

1. How do I feel when I speak to the therapist on the phone?

This is the most important factor to consider. Finding a therapist with the most similar background to yours, the most elite education, and impressive website means absolutely nothing if you don’t feel comfortable talking to them.

You’re not looking for a friend or a teacher or a website designer — you need a trained therapist who you feel able to talk to and be honest with.  

It is important to reflect on how you feel when you talk to them on the phone — do you find yourself wanting to confide in them? 

Do they seem to understand you, connect with you? 

Do you feel heard, understood, validated? 

Most importantly, do you feel safe and comfortable?

There is no amount of training that can make up for your comfort and safety in working with a therapist.

 

2. can you afford to work with them? Is there a way to make therapy more affordable?  

Cost is sometimes an obstacle to quality therapy. Unfortunately, a lot of therapists (including myself) can not afford to work with insurance companies.  Therapy at a private practice can be expensive. 

Therapy is a process. If you can’t afford sessions at your therapist’s rate, they may not be a good fit.  

If you want to use someone in-network with insurance, start with a list from your insurance company. Making calls to therapists and asking if they work with your insurance can be disappointing and frustrating. Your insurance company can give you a list to make it easier on you. 

If you want to use insurance and you have a PPO, sometimes you can submit superbills to your insurance company and they may reimburse you for some portion of your therapy. If this is an important factor, make sure that the therapists you speak to are willing to provide superbills (most do, including myself and the therapists in my practice). 

Also, find out from your insurance company if they will reimburse for out-of-network mental health, how much they reimburse, and what deductible needs to be met before they will reimburse you.    

Finally, if a therapist’s fee is out of your budget, you can ask them if they have sliding scale slots available. Some therapists, including myself, have a certain number of lower fee slots in their schedule so they can work with people who can not afford their fee. 

You can also ask them if they have any associates who work under their supervision at a lower fee. In my practice, I have excellent therapists who consult with me weekly and charge a lower fee.  

If you need low-cost therapy, there are usually options available. When people calling me seeking low fee therapy, I will help them find it.  Cost may be an obstacle in finding a therapist but it’s not a roadblock. There are clinics and universities that offer quality therapy at exceptionally low fees I worked at a clinic like this when I finished my Masters program and was getting my hours toward licensure.  

There is nothing worse than starting therapy and being unable to continue because the financial stress is too much so really look at these factors prior to scheduling a session and make sure that you can afford it.

 

3. Do the Logistics work for me — does their availability and location meet my needs?

Find out if your therapist has availability that meets your needs. I recommend asking this early in the conversation. If your schedule does not align with a therapist’s schedule, it may not be possible for you to even see that therapist. It’s best to determine this early on so you don’t get excited about the prospect of working with a therapist only to discover that they can not see you at a time when you are available to see them.  

Is there office location workable for you? Do they offer telehealth if you are not able to make it to their office?  

Many years ago, before I was a therapist myself, I had a therapist who was located so far from me that sessions were virtually impossible to get to depending on the time of day. It was a nightmare and I had to discontinue my work with her because I just couldn’t get there without turning a fifteen mile drive into a ninety minute commute.  

Logistics matter.  If you can’t get there to see the therapist, what’s the point?

 

4. Are they a trained and licensed (or pre-licensed) professional?

There are lots of different kinds of therapists, but it’s important to make sure, when seeking therapy, that you are seeing someone who is actually fully licensed or on the path toward licensure.  

A Coach is not a Therapist and it is not a regulated profession.  When seeking a therapist, look for someone who has completed a Masters Program or Doctorate. 

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT), Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC), and Licensed Psychologists are all properly trained and educated. 

Associates are properly trained and educated clinicians who are working toward their hours toward licensure. Associates include Associate Marriage and Family Therapists (AMFT), Associate Clinical Social Workers (ACSW), and Associate Professional Counselors (APCC). 

Most licenses require 3000 clinical hours prior to licensure so don’t discount a therapist who is not yet licensed. They may have substantial experience and training despite not being fully licensed and there is the benefit that comes with the supervision that they receive — you will have two therapists reviewing your treatment.

 

5. Do they have experience or training working with the kinds of issues you want help with?

There are certain specialties that do require additional training. 

If you are seeking treatment for trauma, I highly encourage you to find someone who works with a modality that is effective in the treatment of trauma such as EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, or TRM. Trauma is a specialty of mine and I find that sometimes therapists don’t take it seriously enough.

Talking about trauma can re-traumatize so making sure that your therapist is comfortable treating trauma and has the toolbox to do so is important.

There are lots of specialties. For example, I refer out clients who have eating disorders because I know that I am not the right therapist for them. I lack that training and expertise.  

If there is something specific that you need help with, ask about it in consultation calls with therapists — do they have training or experience with it?  How do they address it?  These are valid questions worth asking.

 

Ultimately, what matters most is your comfort in working with a therapist.

The most critical component to finding the right therapist is your comfort and safety in talking to them. If you find yourself wanting to talk to a therapist more after your call with them, that’s a good sign.

If you feel like your therapist is not understanding you or getting you, that’s a sign that it’s not a good fit.

Before I was a therapist, I saw a therapist for a session and did not feel like they got me at all. I felt it strongly and I did not like talking to her. Twenty minutes into the session, I ended it. I paid for the full hour, explained that it was not a good fit, and left.

If it’s not a good fit, you owe it to yourself to move on.

If you do feel like it’s a good fit but there’s something the therapist says or does that you do not like, try talking to them about it. If you are able to talk to them about it and that helps you, that is an excellent sign.

The most critical component of effective therapy is the relationship between the therapist and the client. Keep this in mind when trying to find the right therapist for you.

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