Once you’ve decided to start therapy, the next step is to find a therapist who meets your needs. This part of the process is vital because your ability to connect with and trust your therapist dramatically affects your overall healing and emotional well-being. You want to feel safe and comfortable talking with your therapist, but you also want someone who will challenge you and ask the right questions. So, how do you find a good therapist?
Factors to Consider When Looking for a Therapist
As you’re looking for mental healthcare providers in your area, the list of options can seem daunting. With so many professionals to choose from, it may be challenging to narrow the list. You can look for specific factors to help you choose a good therapist.
Criteria to consider when choosing a therapist:
- Credentials. What certifications or degrees does this person have? What types of hands-on training and experience do they have? What are their professional credentials, accreditations, and licensing?
- Area of Expertise. Most therapists will list on their profiles what their specialties are. These include things like eating disorders, substance use disorders, grief, marriage counseling, and depression or anxiety. While many therapists will have a wide area of expertise, their specialty is their focus. It’s what they spent time training on and treating.
- Experience. How many years have they been practicing in your area? Have they worked in your area of concern for some time, or is it something they’re new to?
- Treatment Methods. What treatment types and modalities does the mental health professional use? At Integrative Life Center, we use a holistic approach to therapy, pulling together evidence-based, experiential, and adventure therapeutic approaches.
- Rationale/Evidence Base. You’ll want to ensure that your therapist uses evidence-based practices in their approach to treatment. Evidence-based practice is rooted in treatments that are rigorously studied and tested through medical trials or case studies.
- Inclusivity. Regardless of how you identify, what you look like, or your beliefs, you’ll want to be sure that your therapist has experience working with people like you. You may want to call and ask if they don’t include this information on their website or online profile.
- Session Format Options. Some mental health professionals offer virtual visits, while others require you to visit their office in person. Some practitioners use a hybrid approach. Make sure the therapist you’re considering offers the type of sessions you seek.
- Availability. Some therapists have immediate availability, while others may have a months-long waiting list. Many websites will let you filter results by those who are immediately accepting new patients.
- Cost and Fee Policies. Some therapists offer sliding scale payments, which are payments that adjust according to your income level. It may also be a good idea to ask about cancellation fees and policies.
- Insurance Partners. Not all mental health professionals accept insurance, and your insurance company likely doesn’t partner with all mental health care providers. You can ask your insurance provider for a list, or some websites will even let you search for therapists based on your insurance.
Sheena Miller, MA, LPC, MHSP, Clinical Manager at Integrative Life Center, said finding a therapist who you feel comfortable with that has the professional knowledge to treat your needs is most important.
“You want someone who you feel comfortable and safe with, who can meet you where you are and walk alongside you in learning how to alleviate symptoms and heal from within,” Sheena said. “You want a therapist who can help you understand what you’re experiencing and how it originated while giving you the tools you need for the future.”
How Do You Find a Good Therapist?
Now that you know some things to consider when looking for a therapist, how do you find a good one? Where do you even go to get a list of names for consideration? It can be challenging to know where to start in your search for mental health care. Luckily, you may already have some resources to help that you haven’t thought about. Also, you can find assistance online and learn a ton about your options through therapist directories.
“There are many qualified, helpful mental health professionals out there,” Sheena said. “A big part of your search is about finding the right fit for you.”
Find a therapist through:
- Primary Care Referrals. Asking a trusted healthcare professional, like your primary care physician, is a great place to start. Chances are strong that they have a list of mental health professionals they regularly refer patients to.
- Loved One Referral. If someone in your life has been to therapy and had a good experience, their therapist might also be a good fit for you. At the very least, they’ve gone through the process before and can share the resources they used to find the person they currently see.
- Insurance Lists. Your insurance provider may have a list of in-network providers published on their website. Or you can always call and ask to have one sent to you.
- Online Directories. Online directories, like the All Counseling therapist directory, are an excellent resource for searching for mental health professionals with the specialty you need in your area.
Deciding on the Best Therapist for You
Once you have multiple recommendations or a directory of hundreds of therapists in your area who serve your needs in front of you, how do you decide which helper to choose? It seems like a big decision, and a lot of the mental health professionals you’ve found may look a lot alike on paper. How do you narrow the list?
To choose a therapist:
- Narrow Your Results. Eliminate any mental health professionals from your list who don’t meet your needs exactly.
- Consider your Goals. What are your reasons for pursuing therapy? What do you want to get out of it? Which issues are most pressing, and do your potential therapists have experience treating them? What are your expectations for how long this should take? Eliminate any therapist from your list who can’t help you accomplish your specific goals.
- Consider Budget. How frequently would you like to see your therapist? Do you have it in your budget to pay their fee? Do they take your insurance? Remove any mental health professionals you can’t afford from consideration.
- Review and Reflect. Take time to review your goals and expectations as well as their qualifications and experience. It’s an important decision. Trust yourself and listen to your gut. Select the therapist you think is right for you.
- Make an Appointment. Make your initial appointment with your therapist. Attend the appointment armed with questions that will help you measure compatibility and prepare information to help them understand your goals.
- Expect Trial and Error. You may find a therapist that asks you the right questions and gets you on the first try, or you might have to try a few before you find the right one. Most importantly, stay patient and keep trying.
“A lot of people don’t get it right the first try. They think they’ve found the right fit in a mental health professional, but they just don’t click with the therapist,” Sheena said. “The most important thing is not to give up if this happens. You deserve the help you need. Don’t let one poor fit keep you from trying to find the right therapist for you.”
Getting Help at ILC
Deciding to start therapy is a big step. The decision on which mental health practitioner to choose for care can be nerve-wracking. Integrative Life Center has a team of mental health professionals ready to get you started on your journey back to wellness. Take a look at our mental health treatment programs or contact us to learn more about our services.