How to Find the Right Therapist for You


How to Find a Therapist

And the right one for you.

If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, relationship problems or any other psychological condition that’s affecting your daily life, it might be time to see a therapist. Deciding you need therapy is half the battle, but once you’re on board with the idea, how do you find the right therapist?  

We get asked this question a lot. As much as it may seem that all therapists have this giant network spanning the country of all different types of specialties, that isn’t necessarily the case. We don’t have a wealth of referrals at the ready to recommend. Frankly, that would make us experts at providing referrals, not therapy, and honestly, the bottom line is we don’t really know what goes on behind closed doors in another therapist’s sessions.

So in short, there is no magic answer. What we can tell you are some basics that you should know before you begin your search that, hopefully, will make the whole process a lot easier.

Just as patients have varying needs to be addressed, therapists have a wide range of practice styles, personalities, and treatment models too.  There are just so many possible options out there that we usually recommend individuals conduct their own initial research—unless they have a direct referral to someone by a trusted friend or relative.

We often say that finding the right therapist is a lot like trying on shoes:  You may need to try on a lot of pairs to find the fit that is most comfortable for you.  The ideal therapist will understand where you’re coming from and take on your overall objective as their own. Let’s take a deeper dive into some of the key starting points for your research:

Gender.  A gender preference can obviously pare down your list dramatically.  We’ve found that most people just want someone effective, regardless of gender, but it can be a great sorting mechanism for, say, a woman who has experienced sexual trauma by a man and specifically wants a female therapist.

Style.  There are different styles of therapy—from extremely nurturing to more probing.  Ask yourself what you’re looking for and what will best serve your needs: someone who is wholly supportive, acting more as a sounding board than a critic, or someone who is more direct, questioning and solution-focused?  

Personality.  Therapists’ individual personalities may also influence your decision.  You can often get a sense of a therapist’s style by reviewing their website bio or LinkedIn profile.  For example, we like to inject ours with a little bit of whimsy that can help tell you a thing or two about our therapists’ sense of humor and character.  While many therapists are intentionally not active on social media to protect their privacy, you may be able to learn a thing or two about them simply by Googling them.

Education.  Here’s an area where it really can get tricky—the alphabet soup of professional designations.  There is the doctoral Psy.D degree, which focuses primarily on counseling; the Ph.D., which is more research-oriented; and the Ed.D., which is focused more on the field of education.  Then there are master’s level designations: Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs). Of these, LPCs have more general counseling backgrounds, while MFTs focus primarily on relationships and LCSWs focus on referrals to available support resources.

Therapy Model.  Here’s another area where things can get complicated.  Most therapists follow a particular treatment model, such as cognitive behavior, psychodynamic, family systems, dialectical behavior and existential.  It’s a good idea to ask potential therapists about their specific areas of training, certification, and proficiency, as they can vary widely. Learn enough about your options to be able to ask pointed questions and avoid those who offer vague or overly general responses.

Cost.  Many practices, including our own, do not accept outside insurance, quite simply because they can fill up their schedules without dealing with the hassles of insurance.  Think about what you can afford and how reliant you will be on insurance coverage, then use this information as a screening tool. It may take a bit more research, but you should be able to find therapists that fit your criteria and also accept major types of insurance.  In our practice, although we don’t accept insurance, we do have lower-cost interns available who are excellent, albeit less experienced.

Sad to say, there is no magic formula for finding the perfect therapist for you.  But there are plenty of competent therapists out there that can still help you!  Don’t feel uncomfortable if you meet with one or more candidates and don’t quite hit it off with them.  That is normal and it means you need to continue your search. When you find the right one, you will feel like they really “get” you and will be eager to get started.

If you are looking for Individual Therapy, DBT Group Therapy, Adolescent and Family Services, or Couples and Marriage Counseling PSYCHe has professional staff available in the Nashville and Boston areas.  We include bios of each of our therapists that gives information on their education, specialties, and personalities so the process of picking a therapist is a little easier.

We hope this article gave you some insight on how to start your search. Best of luck to you!