How to Choose the Right Therapist

Any psychotherapist you choose must be appropriately trained and certified in the problems areas you seek. However, it's equally important the relationship is a good fit, and you choose someone that you connect with and trust. Successfully therapy relies on this dynamic.
Finding the right therapist often requires trial and error. Consults serve as a meet-and-greet with potential therapists.

How Does Therapy Work?

The therapeutic relationship is an essential aspect of why therapy works, and relies heavily on a match between therapist and client. Psychotherapy is a process of growth and self-discovery. It involves a continuous exchange of thoughts, ideas, and feelings to develop a deeper understanding of yourself and your problems. Therapy should allow you to express yourself to ensure a transparent and clear relationship with your therapist. Psychotherapy is a way for you to find answers and gain an understanding of the problems you are facing. This understanding is instrumental in giving you a new perspective on the problem, which makes it more manageable.

Understanding yourself, why you react a certain way, what triggers specific responses from you, and what aspects of your life affect others helps you make new and better changes. It reduces symptoms and allows you to deal better with life’s challenges. From understanding comes new and innovative methods of coping. The critical aspect of treatment is self-reflection and gaining awareness of self. Through reflection, individuals can adequately analyze their thoughts and actions with the help of a trained psychologist and learn why they have specific reactions and how to overcome them.

How to choose the right therapist for you?

When choosing a therapist, there are several things to consider. First, is finding psychotherapists appropriately trained and certified in the problems that you are dealing with. Psychologists and psychotherapists undergo rigorous schooling, training, and internships to receive their degrees. Many are highly-trained and qualified professionals that undergo about eleven years of education to obtain their doctoral degree.

Illustration of an initial therapist meet and greet with a client.

However, finding the right therapist is not just a matter of schooling, but of personal preferences too. Therapy and therapists are not one-size-fits-all, and a good fit between therapist and client is very important. Frequently trial and error are needed to find the right therapist for you.

Step 1: Research

The first step to finding a psychotherapist is research. Whether this research is a google search, through personal connections, or both, is up to you. If you choose the former route, help narrow your search by selecting specific keywords. “Psychotherapist near me” or “psychotherapist in New York” narrows the type of therapist and location, creating a much shorter list of names and practices. Using a therapist directory like TherapyTribe can help simplify the process as you can search by location as well what the criteria you are looking for help with. The latter route involves asking your friends and family. This method is beneficial if you know anyone who has previously or is undergoing therapy. It also widens your reach as they can join you in the search. If neither yields the expected results, consider visiting your local mental health center or talking to your primary doctor for recommendations.

Step 2: Set a Budget

Take some time to explore the cost of therapy. Are you expecting to use insurance or self-pay? Setting a budget will inevitably help narrow your list of candidates. It’s important to set a price range or budget you can comfortably work with. Seeking help should not exceed your budget. That will only create more stress in your life.

Step 3: Schedule a Consultation

When you’ve successfully compiled a list of possible candidates, it’s time to reach out and set your first appointment. Consults will serve as a meet and greet for you and your potential therapist to see if the approach and general atmosphere of their office and personality are compatible with yours. Remember: just because you set an appointment does not mean that you are under any obligation to continue treatment. Your level of comfort, safety, and, eventually, trust is crucial to your growth. If you choose a therapist you don’t feel comfortable around, that limits your confidence in them, stifles the flow of dialogue, and ultimately affects your treatment.

Step 4: Be Open Minded

It’s essential to think outside of the box. Contrary to popular belief, not all therapists in private practice make you recline in a chaise lounge and talk about your childhood. Although it may be important to reflect on your past, many misconceptions about therapists may unknowingly narrow the scope of your search. There are many different formats and types of therapy. Many practicing psychologists work in institutions like primary schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, medical centers, or rehabilitation clinics. Also, online therapy has become a go-to option for many therapist and can expand the reach of experts available to you.

When it comes time to finally make a selection, here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

  • What are my main goals for therapy? What do I want to accomplish?
  • Is it covered by my health insurance or work benefits?
  • If not, how much can I spend?
  • How far am I willing to commute? Am I comfortable with online therapy?
  • Should I attend sessions with my spouse, significant other, or family?

It is also helpful to compile a list of questions for your therapist as well:

  • First and foremost: are they accepting new clients?
  • Are they licensed in your state?
  • What is their approach to assessment, diagnosis, and treatment?
  • How many years of experience do they have?
  • What are their areas of expertise?
  • Do they have the ability to prescribe medication? Do they work with a psychiatrist who can?
  • Do they have any experience dealing with patients with similar symptoms or mental illness?
  • What are their sessions like?
  • What policies do they have?

When to Consider Therapy?

It is important to note that going to therapy does not mean you are weak or that you are giving up. It takes a lot of courage and strength to realize that you need to seek professional help to cope with your struggles. Therapy provides you with the tools and skills you need to deal with whatever problem you are facing. Problems like depression, anxiety, phobias, anger, etc., will be better managed and dealt with while in the care of a professional.

Unfortunately, many misconceptions and stigmas are still associated with seeking professional help. The reality is that people who suffer are not alone and should never have to face their problems alone—seeing a therapist will allow you to express yourself in a safe space, letting emotions that would otherwise fester be expressed in a helpful and meaningful way. Therapy sessions alone can be beneficial because they encourage you to open up about problems you might not have been dealing with that are showing up in your life. The first step to achieving progress, however, is connecting with someone that can help. Though first, you must dig deep and realize that you need help.

Here are some signs that you should seek out for help:

  • You suffer from prolonged feelings of overwhelming anger, sadness, fear, emotional pain, or hopelessness. Regardless of what you do, these feelings are persistent and often mentally and physically debilitating.
  • Despite the continuous effort from you and friends and family, these issues are never resolved or diminished. Progress seems impossible.
  • Your mental and emotional state often renders you physically incapacitated, diminishes your appetite, and affects your mood.
  • You have an uncontrollable sense of worry and anxiety.
  • You contemplate either harming yourself or others.
  • Your mood strongly and negatively affects your day-to-day life and limits your productivity.


American Psychological Association. (2023, December 12). Understanding psychotherapy and how it works.

Jonathan Shedler, Ph.D. (2016). How to Choose a Therapist. Retrieved on April 22, 2019 from:

Jeremy Divinity (2019). Never Be Ashamed Of Seeking Help. Retrieved on April 17, 2019, from:

John M. Grohol, Psy.D. (2018). How to Choose a Therapist and Other Questions about Psychotherapy. Retrieved on April 22, 2019, from: