How to find the right therapist,

By William Schroeder, MA, LPC, NCC

The question of how to find the right therapist comes up frequently from friends. In our group practice, we have clinicians who are part of our scheduling team, and they individually screen clients to ensure that we do everything possible to make sure clients get paired correctly. In general, I tell friends and clients alike that finding a good therapist can take a bit of shopping around. What goes into shopping for a therapist? I usually suggest people ask friends, their doctor, check Psychology Today, Yelp, Google reviews, and even ask therapists they know. This can help to get referrals with some trust authority behind them. Check out their website and see how they position themselves. Check out their practice social media and blog posts. Look at their photos and see if they seem relatable. All of this helps to give an understanding of what their true specialization is. 

I should also mention a bit of a disclaimer here… many experienced therapists are not super techy or social media savvy. It’s likely you will encounter some who do not have websites and others who have a website that looks like it was created in 1990 and when AOL was vogue. This says nothing about their level of quality but it may mean they don’t take insurance, credit cards, and it’s unlikely they will send appointment reminders. They also may be slower to respond to an online inquiry and are likely easiest to reach by phone.

Psychology Today can be very helpful in weeding out providers by area of town, specialization, insurance they take, etc. I would also suggest paying special attention to what they describe as their core specialization in their longer descriptions and see if it lines up with their website as well. All of that said, it doesn’t mean any of this guarantees you will like them. Most research seems to point out that people know within 30 seconds if they feel like it’s a fit. This is why I encourage people looking for counseling to try a couple of places and see what the person feels like. You have to know if you are comfortable or not with someone before you begin opening up to them, so this is an important evaluation process. It can be helpful to assess how at ease or safe you feel with this person — and sometimes this can take time. 

More Psychology Today Tips:

  • Pay attention to how therapists describe their specialization.

  • How long ago were they licensed? This helps to understand how experienced they are.

  • Does their profile have a million specialties listed or is it more narrowly focused? Often those early in their career or more broadly focused.

  • Do they take your insurance? This isn’t a deal breaker but it’s helpful to note.

  • What area of town is their practice?

  • Do they list special training in the area you are looking for support?

Pay attention to what feels right. I know one time I went to a therapist, and I liked them at first. Unfortunately, their style of therapy tended to be less relational and more structured. By this, I mean that as I began laying out what I was looking for support on, they flipped into teacher mode and broke out their whiteboard and starting writing out some psychological theories on the issue at hand and they talked a lot. At the time I was looking for support with grief counseling and this wasn’t a fit. I remember feeling the distance grow with every squeak of their marker.

Finding that right fit sometimes can take a couple of sessions. The initial session is often where the therapist tries to assess the situation, which can mean they are asking a lot of questions. Not every therapist is this way nor is every session this way but this can be helpful to know going into it. Also, I would suggest you think about what you would like to get out of therapy and state that going into it. This way the two of you can craft a plan to work towards those goals. When you are ready, you might find our post on how to prepare for your first counseling sessionhelpful. 



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