How to Choose a Therapist: 7 Simple Steps

The choice to seek professional help when you are struggling mentally and/or emotionally is one of the best decisions you can make. It means you are bravely seeking change for the better, change that might be hard for you but worthwhile. Once you’ve made the decision to seek help, you may feel not only hopeful and encouraged but also a bit afraid and overwhelmed: “How do I choose the right therapist for me?”

The best advice I could give is to keep it simple.Although it may seem like a daunting task to choose a therapist, it doesn’t have to be. Don’t let indecision keep you from acting and seeking help. Start somewhere, and if the first road you take doesn’t lead to where you’d like to go, that’s okay. You can easily make a turn, find a new therapist who is more fitting for you, and get closer to a healthier, happier you. So, remember, keep it simple.

Below are 7 simple guidelines worth following when seeking a therapist that can increase your chances of finding a professional that best suits you.

1. Check your health insurance.

It’s a good idea to check your health insurance coverage to see what options you have financially. There are a few ways to go about this, but one of the simplest is to call up the number on the back of your insurance card and speak with a representative from your insurance company. Ask the rep what is covered when it comes to mental health treatment and medications.

Depending on your plan, your insurance may only cover certain providers. If this is the case, learn which therapists are in your network. Your network is a good place to begin looking for a mental health professional.

If you do not have health insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover what you’d like, don’t worry. There are still other options that won’t break the bank. Look into nonprofits, health centers in your community, universities, and other organizations with goals to help people with mental health issues.

2. Review your needs.

As you begin looking for a counselor, think about what your needs are. Is it important to you to have a therapist whose office isn’t far from your home or work? Look at the office hours of each facility—are they open during hours of the day that work for you? Also think about if you prefer a certain gender. Would you feel more comfortable speaking with a male or a female?

Depending on your plan, your insurance may only cover certain providers. If this is the case, learn which therapists are in your network. Your network is a good place to begin looking for a mental health professional.

If you do not have health insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover what you’d like, don’t worry. There are still other options that won’t break the bank. Look into nonprofits, health centers in your community, universities, and other organizations with goals to help people with mental health issues.

3. Look up credentials and read reviews.

It’s important for the therapist you choose to be a licensed professional. Make a simple search of his/her name online. You may visit his/her own website or a website dedicated to reviewing mental and other health professionals. See if LCSW is next to the therapist’s name, which indicates he/she is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Other mental health professionals have other initialisms next to their names as well that mean they have had the appropriate training related to their fields and are certified to offer help. Such examples include LSW, LPC, LCP, PhD, PsyD, MDm, and so on.

Learn what each therapist’s area of expertise is. What experience has each had? Discover what types of treatments are used and if there is proof of success.

Today there are many ways to review a professional. Read reviews and testimonials of the therapists you’re considering. Although reviews and individual’s experiences can be subjective, it is best to seek counseling from people who do score higher when it comes to reviews. Five stars really do tend to lend a better provider than two stars.
Depending on your plan, your insurance may only cover certain providers. If this is the case, learn which therapists are in your network. Your network is a good place to begin looking for a mental health professional.

If you do not have health insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover what you’d like, don’t worry. There are still other options that won’t break the bank. Look into nonprofits, health centers in your community, universities, and other organizations with goals to help people with mental health issues.

4. Ask for references.

You may have friends, family, coworkers, and other associates who also see therapists. Ask about their experiences. While every individual is dealing with unique problems and will click and make connections with different people, suggestions and information offered by people you trust can be extremely helpful. Find out if anyone can refer you to a particular therapist or clinic.

5. Make a call.

Call up the therapist you are considering, and ask the office any questions you may have. If you weren’t able to get information online, you can ask what the therapist’s specialties and training are. You can ask where the therapist went to school, what experience he/she has had, and if he/she is licensed. Also, talk about payment options and availability. If you feel you have found a good match, schedule an initial consultation.

6. Go to your appointment.

Remember, meeting with someone one time doesn’t lock you into a life-long commitment. Go to your appointment, and see for yourself if the therapist is a good fit for you. Notice how you feel in the consultation room, while in the therapist’s presence. Just because something may feel out of your comfort zone, doesn’t mean it is wrong. Be open. Still, if you feel too uncomfortable, you may want to seek help elsewhere. It may take meeting with the professional more than once to really learn if he or she is a good match for you.

It is a good sign if you feel a sense of relief and/or hope after speaking with your counselor. Granted, you may feel a whole range of emotions while there. But hope is important if the therapist is going to be a good match for you. Also note if your therapist helps you establish clear goals for what you’d like to get out of your sessions with him or her—this, too, is a positive sign if goals are set.

Never settle. You can find a therapist who best suits you. Be sure not to ignore red flags—ethics or boundaries crossed that shouldn’t be or any inappropriate behavior. It’s okay to be selfish. The therapist is someone you hired, and you should feel like you are getting your money’s and time’s worth. Choose someone who will best help you succeed and find wholeness.

7. Reassess.

It is worth your while to take the time to reassess where you were, where you’ve been, and where you are headed when trying to decide if the therapist you’ve been seeing is a good match. So, after seeing a counselor for several sessions, look back. Has progress been made? If no change has occurred for the better of your mental health, it’s probably time to look for a new counselor. If positive change has taken place and you feel you are progressing toward a healthier, happier you, you probably have found a great fit!