How to Find a Therapist Who's Right for You · Parkinson's Resource Organization

How to Find a Therapist Who's Right for You

Category: Newsletter

Carmen Chai 
Medically Reviewed by Allison Young, MD / Excerpts from Full article in Everyday Health

Choosing the right therapist to help you with your mental and emotional health can be tough. What you’re seeking help for is, by definition, personal. And you have a lot of options when it comes to the type of mental health professional you choose.

“Your job is to find somebody who maps onto the concerns you have, somebody you feel comfortable with, and somebody who you believe will be helpful and supportive to you,” says Lynn Bufka, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and associate chief of practice transformation at the American Psychological Association (APA), where she works on healthcare policy issues and improving mental health care delivery.

You’re looking for someone with both the professional expertise to counsel you on whatever you’re coping with, as well as a personality that clicks with you. Plus, that provider needs to be accessible to you, accepting new patients or clients, and affordable.

Research suggests the relationship between an individual and their therapist matters in a big way. A strong sense of connection, relatability, and a willingness to collaborate are what helps patients get the most out of therapy, according to a meta-analysis of 295 studies that together included more than 30,000 patients.

Based on this research and other data, a task force of the American Psychological Association in 2019 concluded that several client-therapist relationship factors (such as agreeing on therapy goals, getting client feedback throughout the course of treatment, and repairing ruptures) are as important as getting the right type of therapy in the first place.

So, how do you find the provider that’s right for you?

  • Get a referral. Asking someone you trust (such as your doctor or a family member) is a good place to start.
  • Use a reliable online database. Several mental health organizations have up-to-date databases of licensed therapists searchable by geographical location.
  • Ask your insurance company for a mental health provider list.
  • NAMI provides a list of therapy resources for people who identify as Asian Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Indigenous Americans, and LGBTQ.

How to Decide Who to See

  • Check the provider’s credentials. Right off the bat, make sure the therapists on your shortlist are appropriately credentialed
  • Consider the provider’s areas of expertise. Are you looking for bereavement counseling after the death of a loved one, or do you need family therapy to cope with conflict in the household or substance abuse? See if the therapists on your short list focus on the things you want help with.
  • Consider what types of treatment a therapist uses. Therapists employ lots of different types of therapeutic approaches with clients
  • Google the provider. Many providers have their own website or an online bio where you can read more about them
  • Inquire about a screening call. Set up a 10-minute screening on the phone, so you can get to know who your mental health provider may be. Your goal is to decipher if you feel comfortable talking to the person on the other end of the line, if they can address the issues you’re hoping to work on, and if you both agree to the style of therapy he or she provides.
  • Costs – Can you afford the fees your therapist charges per session, and does he or she accept your insurance?
  • Availability – Are the therapists on your shortlist accepting new clients? 
  • Accessibility – If you know you’re leaning towards weekly Zoom sessions instead of commuting to your therapist’s office every week, zero in on providers who offer telemedicine.
  • Proximity – If you prefer in-person counseling or want the option to drop into your therapist’s office, you may decide to focus on providers who are in your neighborhood or practice somewhere you can commute to.


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Updated: August 16, 2017