Finding the Right Therapist for You
5 min read
by Xenia Ellenbogen | July 14, 2022
Choosing the right therapist can feel like a leap of faith. After all, you’re trusting someone to share your most vulnerable information with. Even though finding the right therapist can seem overwhelming, rest assured, there are ways to narrow down the search and determine which therapist is the right match for you.
what’s important to you?
Before signing up for a session, figure out what’s important to you in a therapist. You might want someone with specific training, like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a trauma-informed therapist, or an addiction specialist.
For many, finding a therapist who understands, shares, or has expertise around your unique identity is essential. This could look like finding a therapist who is BIPOC, queer, sex-worker friendly, or kink-affirming.
Though the relationship between therapist and client is a primary component of therapy, the style of therapy offered can be important in the decision-making process. Typically, a therapist’s bio will state modalities they pull from, such as cognitive, behavioral, psychoanalytic, etc. Feel free to read up on these before narrowing your list. Sand therapy, anyone?
the difference between online and in-person therapy
The pandemic has changed how people access therapy and proven just how important it is to have a counselor to turn to during hard times. The pandemic also made teletherapy a reality for many.
Teletherapy has its perks and downfalls. One major bonus is that teletherapy broadens your options for available therapists. As long as the therapist is licensed in your state, they can offer teletherapy, regardless of your proximity. Teletherapy helps people with time constraints, people who can’t travel or find childcare while they go to a session, or people who have disabilities that make traveling to an office more challenging.
The drawback of teletherapy is that you miss out on the feeling of in-person connection. Some people feel that the screen takes away an element of humanness. For others, the screen might serve as a layer of protection, enabling them to share more freely.
Online therapy apps like Talkspace and BetterHelp can be convenient ways to find licensed therapists that provide online therapy. Online therapy apps are typically more affordable than traditional in-person sessions — but, as always, make sure to do your research to choose a route that works for you and your specific concerns, from privacy to consistency.
practical ways to get the search going
You’re ready to start the process, but now what? There are multiple ways to find a provider. If you have insurance, check your insurance directory. You can also ask for a referral from a doctor. Friend recommendations can help, too. Keep in mind though that therapists might not be able to see you if someone close to you is their patient, as this can be a conflict of interest.
If your insurance does not cover therapy, start by searching in or around your zip code. If you’re opting for teletherapy only, search for therapists in your state. Psychology Today provides a wide array of therapists that you can sort through with filters like distance or insurance.
Regarding price, you can check a therapy practice’s site or ask directly for sliding scale options. If you are uninsured or underinsured, it’s worth checking out nonprofits like Open Path Psychotherapy Collective and Therapy4thePeople that provide low-cost therapy. Some workplaces offer mental health services through their benefits packages, check with HR to find out!
Start with a cursory read of a therapist’s bio. Remember that you can gather so much from meeting someone, so a bio isn’t everything, but it’s a good starting point. Some therapists have extensive waitlists (everyone needs therapy, right?) For this reason, reach out to a few therapists who seem like they might be a good fit.
what to do during a consult
Some therapists offer a free phone consultation before you pay for a session to see if you are a good fit. On the call, it’s essential to remember that you’re interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you. You might consider asking the therapist about their background, their training, and how they will help support you in your therapeutic goals.
After a phone consult or first session, think about how you felt—did you feel tense or at ease? Did you feel comfortable enough to share, or could you see yourself doing so in the future? Did you feel seen and heard in your session? These are a few therapy green flags.
Good relationships take time to cultivate and build trust. So, you might try a few sessions and see how you feel afterward. You shouldn’t be settling when it comes to your healthcare (it’s your time and money, after all), whether it’s physical or mental. Practice patience, don’t be discouraged, and be proud of yourself for taking your wellbeing into your own hands.
Resources like LGBT Community Center, Therapy for Black Girls, Therapy for Black Men, Latinx Therapy, National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network, and Inclusive Therapists can help connect you with a therapist who shares (and celebrates!) your identity.
Have *you* found the perfect therapist? How did you find them? Did you find the process difficult? Share your experiences about searching for therapy in the comments.
Xenia Ellenbogen (she/they) is a freelance sex and mental health writer. She focuses on reproductive justice, LGBTQIA+ issues, menstrual equity, gender, and trauma. She holds a BA in writing from The New School.
by Xenia Ellenbogen