How To Choose A Therapist That's Right For You

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia
Updated November 10, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

When selecting a therapist to work with, it can be helpful to investigate their specialties, credentials, affordability, and availability. You may find it helpful to ask family and friends for referrals. If you don’t “click” or connect with the first therapist you have a session with, please know that can be normal, and you can always switch to another therapist who may be a better fit. You may find a therapist who meets your needs in your local area or through an online therapy platform.

How To Know That It's Time To See A Therapist

There can be many different reasons why people see a therapist. According to Mental Health America, "An estimated 54 million Americans suffer from some form of mental disorder in a given year." This likely means there may be a lot of people who could use the help of a therapist.

Please note that you don't necessarily need to be diagnosed with a mental illness to benefit from seeing a therapist. Therapists can help people with daily life stressors. They can teach people improved communication skills that may benefit their relationships, as well as time management and organizational skills that can improve their career and work/life balance. In addition, sometimes it can be helpful to have a therapist to talk to when you have a big life decision to make or a situation you're trying to overcome.

Does Therapy Work?

Therapy usually works under the right circumstances. Research that looked at 27 different studies found that psychotherapy generally had high success rates. However, therapy can often only be as successful as the amount of effort that you're willing to put into it.

If you attend therapy sessions daily but choose not to listen or act on the advice that your therapist is giving you, it may not be as effective. On the other hand, if you are willing to listen and try the exercises they give you and complete the homework they assign, you may see a great improvement in your mental challenges.

Therapy is not always a quick fix. Some types of therapy can help you make a lot of progress in just a few sessions. Other mental health disorders may require you to see a therapist for a longer period to make the progress you need. Each person tends to be different, and each disorder can be different as well. 

It may take time for you to see the improvement that you're looking for. However, if you are participating in your sessions and doing the work that your therapist wants you to, you should usually see progress along the way. Some sessions might go better than others, but for the most part, if you stick with it, you’re likely to notice the changes that you're looking for.

How To Choose A Therapist

Choosing a therapist is not always as easy as looking through the phone book or searching for a local therapist online. While these are strategies that you can use, they may not be the most effective way to find a licensed mental health professional that's right for you. Here are some things that you should generally be looking for.

Understand Who The Therapist Serves

While licensed therapists may be educated in a wide range of areas, it doesn't always mean that they're experts at serving every one of them. If you have a specific challenge that you're experiencing, it can be best to find a therapist specializing in that area.

For example, it can be best to find a couple's counselor if you're experiencing relationship issues. Or, if you have been diagnosed with PTSD, it can be beneficial for you to find a licensed mental health professional experienced in treating patients with that disorder. When a therapist specializes in specific areas of mental health, they are usually continuing to learn and train in that specific area. This means you may be getting the most effective form of treatment for your specific challenge.

You can think of this as being similar to seeing a general practitioner for your physical health. While they can help you with most medical situations, there may be a time when they refer you to a specialist for certain issues. That specialist is normally specifically trained in certain areas, and that's why it can be beneficial to see them. The same concept can apply to mental health professionals.

Look At Credentials

Many people can call themselves therapists, and you could complete counseling with religious leaders, life coaches, psychiatrists, psychologists, and many other types of professionals. This is why it can be important to look into therapists’ credentials.

You may want to know if they are educated in the area that you need help in. It can also be helpful to see if they are licensed, so you may need to know how to check if a therapist is licensed. It can be worth doing some research and due diligence to ensure the therapist you're working with is experienced and educated.

Ask For Referrals

Word-of-mouth referrals can be helpful in any industry. This can also be true with mental health professionals. If you have family and friends who have been in counseling before, you can ask them if they liked the therapist they worked with. They may be able to give you a great referral to someone they liked.

However, you may need to remember that not all people have the same opinions. If they went to counseling for something completely different from you, their therapist might not be the right fit for you. Therefore, even if you receive word-of-mouth referrals, you may still want to look into the other areas listed here as well.

Consider Affordability

The cost of therapy can be all over the board across America, often ranging from $60 to $120 for a single session. Depending on your specific situation, you may want to have sessions once a month or a few times every week. These costs can add up quickly.

Recent changes to health insurance policies have made it more likely that companies will cover mental health expenses. However, there can be many limitations that come along with this coverage. You may not end up benefiting from the coverage as much as you think you might. Due to the complexity of being paid, many therapists are no longer accepting medical insurance. This can mean that you must pay out of pocket for your therapy sessions.

Some therapists try to help patients with affordability by offering rates on a sliding scale. This means that those who make less money may be required to pay less for each session. Another option to consider that can be more affordable than traditional in-person counseling is online therapy, which can have the added benefit of empowering you to get professional help from the comfort of your home.

As this study explains, online therapy and traditional in-office therapy generally have the same rates of efficacy. Either can be a valid option for those seeking professional help with their mental health.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh

Investigate Availability

Some of the best-rated therapists may have a long waitlist for appointments. While you may be getting to see someone with a lot of experience, you might have to wait longer than you're comfortable with. This can be a big deal, depending on what types of challenges you're facing. If you are deeply struggling, you may not want to wait for months to get in to see a therapist. As you interview therapists to find the one that's right for you, it can be helpful to ask about their availability.

Don't Give Up If The First One Isn't A Good Fit

The first therapist that you work with might not be the best fit for you. This does not necessarily mean that therapy does not work, and it doesn't necessarily mean that you need to quit altogether, either. It can be helpful to meet with a therapist more than once unless you feel truly uncomfortable with them. It can take time to develop a connection with them. Still, if you are so uncomfortable from the start that you can't trust a particular therapist or don’t feel like you’ll ever be able to open up to them, you may need to look for a different one.

To make the progress you're looking for, it’s often crucial to be comfortable with the therapist you're meeting with. You will likely be sharing personal details about your life with them, and these may be things that you haven't talked about with any other person. So, if the first therapist isn't a good fit, please don't hesitate to look for another.

Takeaway

If you’re in search of a good therapist, you might begin by asking family and friends for referrals. Next, you might look into each recommended therapist’s credentials, specialties, affordability, and availability to determine whether they might be the right choice for you. If you don’t feel like the therapist you’ve chosen is a good fit, you might consider seeking out a new therapist who may be able to better meet your needs. It can be possible to find a suitable therapist online or in person.

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