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How to Pick a Therapist

Finding a therapist can be an overwhelming task. How can you know a therapist is right for you?

Find a potential therapist.

First, research the different certifications a mental health professional can have. Would you want to work with a licensed social worker, a psychologist, or a professional counselor? Decide what type of therapist would be best for your needs.

Then, ask your physician or another health professional for a referral, or contact your health insurance provider for a list of in-network providers. You can also contact community mental health centers or use an online database like Psychology Today.

If you’re looking for a therapist to help you with a specific mental health issue like PTSD or grief, searching in the database of a national association, network, or helpline could be beneficial.

You found a potential therapist; what questions do you ask?

Ask questions in your initial meeting to help you decide if they’ll be the right fit for you. Here are a few of the questions you should ask first:

  1. What are your areas of expertise?

    1. You want a therapist who has a background working with clients with similar concerns as your own.

  2. What kinds of treatments do you use? Can you explain them to me?

    1. Again, depending on your needs, some treatments may not be the best option. You should feel empowered to ask the therapist about how they conduct sessions.

  3. What types of insurance do you accept? What are your fees? Do you have a sliding-scale fee policy?

    1. You want to ensure that you can afford sessions with this provider.

  4. How do you collaborate with psychiatrists and primary care providers?

    1. Knowing this in advance will improve the quality of care. Your therapist should work efficiently with your other providers if they give you therapeutic medication.

  5. Do you offer evening and weekend hours, and what is the recommended frequency of sessions? Are there telehealth appointments?

    1. Many therapists offer flexible options, including varied hours and telehealth platforms. Ask this question to see if attending sessions with this provider fits into your lifestyle.

After you have gotten through these logistic questions, focus on discussing your goals for attending therapy.

Do you feel comfortable talking to this person? What are your goals and endpoints for therapy? Remember, there’s no such thing as silly questions! The more questions you ask, the better you can establish fit. Therapy is a collaborative process, so get comfortable working with your therapist about your treatment.

Additional Resources

Access to culturally competent therapists is essential for your well-being, especially if you come from a minoritized community. Here are a few organizations that could help you find a specialized professional:

  • Psychology Today

  • American Psychological Association

  • American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

  • National Eating Disorders Association

  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America

  • National Center for PTSD

  • Association of LGBTQ+ Psychiatrists

  • Black Mental Health Alliance

  • The National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association

  • WeRNative (for Indigenous Americans)

  • Therapy for Latinx

  • The Yellow Couch Collective (for Black women)

  • Nina Pop Mental Health Recovery Fund and Tony McDade Mental Health Recovery Fund (for Black transgender people)

  • Therapy for Black Girls

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