Deciding to see a therapist is a huge feat. It requires courage and strength.
For many people, this decision comes after weeks, months, even years of struggling alone or leaning on friends or family for support. By the time someone finally seeks therapy, they may be at their worst. It’s often hard to know where to begin.
The right therapist is out there—knowing what to look for is the key to finding a good fit. Here’s what to consider when starting the search:
First, think about logistics:
Insurance. Look for a therapist that accepts your health insurance so you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket. Therapists can check your eligibility; provide your insurance information so they can verify before scheduling your first appointment.
Location. Your therapist should be conveniently located—close to either home or work is ideal—so that you can easily and quickly get to regular appointments.
Session times. Check with the provider to see if he or she has session times available that work with your schedule. You’ll be more likely to go if it doesn’t throw off your everyday routine.
Next, think about what you need from a therapist.
- A psychiatrist offers medication management but not talk therapy.
- A psychologist, on the other hand, provides psychological testing and sometimes talk therapy, but not medication.
- More often, therapy is provided by a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW or LICSW), mental health counselor, professional counselor or marriage and family therapist. Most people see positive results when going this route first. If you are unsure which provider is right for you, start with therapy with one of these providers. The therapist you meet with will help guide you towards other treatment options if necessary.
Specialty. You’ll need to find a provider that can best address what you are dealing with. Many will list their specialties on their websites, but if not, ask that question when you call about logistics.
Rapport. It’s important that you “click” with your therapist—some people feel that in the first session, while for others it may take a few appointments. Either way, building rapport with your provider over time fosters cooperation, communication, and trust.
Therapeutic alliance. Feeling comfortable opening up to your therapist is key. This will allow you to establish a therapeutic alliance— together, you can then work towards positive change.
Just like in dating or friendship, you may not hit it off with the first therapist you meet. That’s okay and absolutely normal.
Many therapists offer free phone consultations to discuss your needs and give you an opportunity to learn more about their approach.
If you feel you’ve found a good connection, start with one session. You don’t have to go back or plan your next appointment. Focus on learning more and figuring out if this is going to work for you.
Rapport builds over time—so if you feel comfortable enough after your first session, give it a few more before deciding.
And remember—no matter how much time has passed, you can always switch therapists if you find they aren’t the right fit or someone else might be able to better help as your needs change. Therapists’ priority is finding you someone who can best help you, whether that’s them or someone else.
Therapist Search Checklist
- Convenient location
- Times that work with your schedule
- Strong therapeutic alliance
Renée Daley is a Mental Health Strategy Manager at Quartet. She is a licensed clinical social worker in New York and has a private practice in Brooklyn, NY. Renée has extensive experience in working with teens, adults, and families struggling with substance use and behavioral health concerns. She graduated with a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Miami University, Ohio. Renée joined Quartet due to her shared mission to ensure everyone has access to quality collaborative care.