What to Look For in a Therapist (According to Mental Health Professionals)

Are you considering therapy but don’t know where to start?

Finding the right therapist that you feel comfortable with can be a daunting process. After all, you’re entrusting someone with your mental health and emotional well-being, so it’s essential to find someone who feels the right fit for you.

But how exactly do you go about doing that? With so much at stake, knowing what questions to ask and what qualities to look for is important.

So, to ensure that you find the best possible match, we spoke with experts on what qualities and key traits one should look for when selecting a therapist.

Dr. Alexander Alvarado, Psy.D.

Alexander Alvarado

Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Thriving Center of Psychology

Ask yourself why you’d like to seek therapy

The first step I recommend is asking yourself why you’d like to seek therapy. 

Even more so, why are you seeking therapy right now? Whether it’s depression, anxiety, relationship issues, peak performance, or fear of public speaking, there are several reasons people seek outside help at a particular time. 

Related: How to Know if You Need to See a Therapist

Write all of these down, and be sure any therapist you find has experience or specialized training in these areas. 

Consider who you would feel most comfortable speaking with

After figuring out what specialties to look for, the next stage is to consider who you would feel most comfortable speaking with. Rapport, which refers to good communication and understanding, is an integral part of therapy. 

Along with rapport, some prefer therapists who identify in a certain way. 

When looking for a therapist, consider some attributes of who you would want to speak to, such as: 

  • Gender Part of the LGBTQ+ community 
  • BIPOC Community
  • Professional Experience
  • Native language

Theoretical orientation / Type of therapy practiced 

The type of therapy that a therapist is trained in is also something that is worth considering, as there are many theories practiced in psychology. All types of therapy are supported by various levels of research. 

For this reason, I always look for the most evidence-based theories backed by research treatments and defined by the American Psychological Association

Some of the most common evidence-based treatments include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) 

For a full list of researched treatments for psychological diagnoses, check out Division 12 of the American Psychological Association’s website on empirically supported treatments. 

Where to look for a therapist?

Now that you know some of the criteria you’ll be looking for, you can begin your search for a therapist.

Therapist Referral 

One way you can find a therapist is through a referral from a friend or doctor. Sources of referral can include your primary care physician, community health center, and workplace Employee Assistance Program (EAP). 

A close friend or family member may also recommend their own therapist if they have been through a similar experience. 

Online search 

Like anything nowadays, many people turn to the vast web to find a therapist. While online searches are a great resource and will yield a lot of information, the challenge is to sift through the results to find what fits you best.


Try Googling a therapist in your area using search terms such as “Therapist in New York City (or wherever your local city is),” “Best Therapist in Soho,” or “Therapist near me.” 

Read through the therapist’s reviews and see if there are any patterns in client responses. Take the time to look through the therapist’s website and see if there is anything that resonates with you. 

Often, a therapist’s website will also mention if they have areas of specialty or focus—look for ones that align with your specific goals for therapy. 

If using Google is too overwhelming, there are other options you can consider. 

Therapist listing sites

Listing sites are another good way to connect with a therapist. Depending on where you live, there are different therapist listing sites active in your community. These are directories that list therapists, mental health counselors, mental health professionals, and treatment centers in the US. 

One well-known example would be Psychology Today

Once you find a listing site, simply type in your zip or city, and then you can search through available practicing therapists in your area. 

To help save you time filtering out results, you can usually set preferences for age, gender, price, specialty, faith, sexuality, and language. The therapists on these listings have their own profile that usually includes a personal message and areas of concern that they treat.

Determine how much you can invest 

Working with a therapist is an investment. As you start searching for a therapist, you need to determine if and how much you may be able to invest in your therapy. 

Most therapists in major cities do not take insurance. However, I always caution people who prioritize cheaper costs over proficiency, expertise, and practical knowledge. 

It’s very possible that going the cheapest route will cost you more money in the long run, as you may end up seeing multiple therapists who are not qualified or not a good fit. 

If you find a therapist that is perfect for you but is out of your price range, see if they supervise any post-doctoral trainees or resident trainees. 

Post-doctoral trainees are well-trained therapists who have finished their doctorate and are acquiring hours under a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. This is an amazing way to receive expertise from two doctors at a very reasonable price. 

If you have insurance, the first step is to call your insurance company and ask a representative if you have any out-of-network insurance coverage. Out-of-network coverage means that your insurance provider will reimburse you for a percentage, and sometimes 100%, of the fees from a provider outside of your network. 

If you do have out-of-network coverage, the next question to ask is how much out-of-network coverage you have

We find that most people who have out-of-network coverage have little knowledge about their benefits and that their insurance covers a good portion of their bills. 

Asking your insurance provider these key questions will help you determine exactly how much therapy will cost you. If you do not have any out-of-network coverage and want to stay in-network, your insurance company’s website should have a list of all the in-network providers that are in your area. 

Consult with a therapist before hiring

What questions to ask a therapist during your first call?

Online searches will only get you so far. Although you will know about your potential therapist’s qualifications and specialty, you also need to speak to them on the phone. 

Start by narrowing down two to three potential therapists and book a 15-minute consultation with each of them. 

It’s important to remember that this conversation isn’t a therapy session; it’s to find out if you and your potential therapist will be able to work together and develop a strong therapeutic relationship. 

Here are some useful questions to ask a therapist during your first call: 

  • “What is your specialty?” 
  • “What is your experience treating my concern?”
  • “How much time do you have available?” 
  • “How do you approach treating my situation?” 
  • “How much do you charge?” 
  • “What do your credentials mean?” 

Although you’re looking for someone qualified to help you, don’t ignore your instinct. 

Ask yourself: Do you connect well and feel listened to? Did you feel comfortable speaking to them, and how did you feel after the conversation? These are all important parts of finding the best fit. 

After speaking with a therapist, you will generally have an idea of how the conversation went. If you felt comfortable and felt that the therapist was easy to talk to, you should ask for the next steps. 

Overall, the right therapist for you is a delicate balance of qualifications, experience, fit, and cost.

Finding a good fit with a therapist 

Finding a therapist is such a personal decision. Even as a psychologist, I know how hard it is to find the right match. 

Available therapists have many different credentials, experiences, and treatment practices to navigate. By knowing where to start and what questions to ask, you can begin to narrow down your search and find the best person for you. 

Whether you have a referral, use a therapist matching service, or find a therapist online, it’s critical that you feel comfortable speaking to your therapist and feel confident that they can help you. 

This is a big decision because working with the right mental health professional can have a huge impact on your well-being. When you are ready, take those first steps toward finding a therapist who can help you address your concerns and reclaim your life.

Shahar Lawrence, LCSW

Shahar Lawrence

Director and Founder, Holistic Counseling PLLC

The number one recommendation for everyone is to get a vibe check

Call/email the clinician and ask if you can schedule a free 5-15 minute consultation to ask a few questions. Most good clinicians will agree with this.

That’s the first thing you want to look for. If the clinicians don’t have time to schedule a quick phone call, then there’s a good chance they already have too many clients on their plate.

During the phone call, I always recommend asking the following questions:

What population do they prefer to work with?

This will help you gauge if you’re in the age range that they prefer to work with. It also helps you have an idea of who they specialize in working with.

What do they specialize in working in?

Do they specialize in working in trauma, depression, anxiety, disordered eating, etc.? Don’t guide the conversation by specifying what you want therapy for.

You’re looking to see if they specialize in your specific situation or something close to it. That way, you know that they are trained and genuinely know how to help you work through your situation.

Ask them what modalities they use

There are many modalities of therapy. If you’re looking to do a certain type of therapy— equine therapy, EMDR, IFS, DBT, this is where you’re looking for them to list it off.

Now you want to tell them a little bit about yourself, what you’re looking for in a therapist, what’s bringing you to search for a therapist, and what modalities you’re looking to use.

I often invite individuals to ask the therapist how they see themselves helping them work through this situation and what therapy would look like for them.

Verify payment methods

  • Do they accept your insurance?
  • What are their cash pay rates?
  • Do they have a sliding scale?
  • Do they provide superbills to submit to insurance?

Keep in mind that therapy is expensive. And usually, the clinicians who specialize tend only to accept cash payments which can range from $50-$250 per session. This is not because we want to make it a financial strain for individuals to access therapy.

We have had to invest a lot of money and time in training, education, and continual learning to be able to specialize and be good at what we do. We know the value of what we’re providing, and we want you to value and invest in your healing and growth as well.

As a clinician who has gone to a cash-pay specialized therapist, yes, it was expensive, and it was absolutely worth it.

Will sessions be in person or via telehealth?

This is a more common question now that many clinicians have moved to do telehealth therapy only.

Remember to respect the clinicians’ time. It is valuable, so try to keep the call between 5-15 minutes. By asking these questions, you’ll be able to see if they feel like a good fit for you.

You want a therapist who specializes in what you want out of therapy. Many clinicians will say they can treat every situation. And there’s a good chance that they can!

But, you have a better chance of finding something that works for you faster if you work with a clinician who specializes in your situation.

Because they have spent so much time in training, personally, and/or with clients to find what does and doesn’t work for that situation and can help you reach that healing and growth much faster.

Gauge the clinician’s personality during the phone call

A good clinician will keep their biases out of therapy because you want therapy to be focused on you and your situation, not what the therapist would do for their own personal life since their situation would be different.

However, we still have our own personalities. And you want to see if you get along with that therapist’s personality.

Once you’ve started working with a therapist, you want to make sure that they are focused on what you want.

Remember, this is your therapy. Make sure you’re getting what you want out of it. Make sure that the therapist is goal oriented and focused on helping you reach the goals that you have for yourself.

You also want a therapist who is open to hearing feedback from you. If something’s not working for you, don’t be afraid to vocalize that.

Therapists are trained, educated, and licensed, yes— but we are not you, and contrary to popular belief, we can’t read your mind! So, if something doesn’t fit right for you, it’s absolutely okay to say something to the therapist about it.

And any good therapist will not take it personally (as long as they aren’t actually doing something wrong) and will be happy to assess the situation and game plan what’s the best next steps for you.

There are many incredible therapists out there and narrowing it down to find the best therapist for you is exhausting, intimidating, and hard. Especially when you’re going through a difficult time, be patient with the process.

Therapy is also hard. And it will often get harder before you start feeling the healing and growth. Don’t give up! It is worth the pain.

Because once you get through it, you don’t have to worry about suppressing it for the rest of your life or having the patterns repeat themselves. You can start your new, healed, and happy chapter.

Miriam Geiger, LMFT, LPCC

Miriam Geiger

Licensed Psychotherapist

When looking for a therapist, the most important factor to consider is their relational skill.

Research shows that the quality of therapeutic relationships is the number one predictor of a successful outcome for the client. This skill is what will allow them to connect with you and help you work through your issues.

I know from my own clients who have had negative experiences with other therapists lacking relational skills. I know what it’s like to feel frustrated and hurt by a therapist, and I would never want anyone else to experience that pain and frustration.

I’ve met dozens of skilled and well-meaning therapists in my career. However, I would never refer my friends or family to someone who had a great résumé but poor relational skills.

So, how do you find a therapist with good relational skills? There are several things to look for:

The therapist should be a good listener

While this may seem like a given, not all therapists have this skill. They should be attentive and make you feel heard. They should take the time to reflect back to you what they are hearing and then be open to corrections and new information.

Some signs that a therapist is listening are:

  • They spend more listening than talking.

    This a sign that they are really interested in listening closely to what you are saying, without assuming that they already have answers for you. They are showing that they see you as a unique individual, not just another patient.
  • You don’t have to explain things multiple times.

    If you find that your therapist quickly grasps the concepts or ideas that you are sharing with them, they are likely listening attentively and tracking what you are sharing.

Related: 50+ Reasons Why Listening Is Important

The therapist should be able to give you feedback in a way that makes you feel understood

A good therapist will be able to give you feedback that is supportive and constructive. They should be able to help you look at your situation from different perspectives and give you guidance without judgment.

Some signs that a therapist is giving good feedback include:

  • They don’t make you feel ashamed or like your problems are your fault.

    It can be common to feel a little defensive or uncomfortable receiving feedback, but a therapist should never shame or blame you for your problems.
  • They give feedback at the right time.

    A great therapist will not give feedback before you have finished sharing your full story with them or when you just need some time to vent. If they do, this is often a sign that they struggle to say present with you through challenging feelings; therefore, they can help you with yours.

You should feel like you can be yourself around them

If you feel judged, anxious, or uncomfortable around your therapist, it can make it difficult for you to open up and be honest.

Therapy is a place to be your full self, even if that means sharing things like your deepest fears or insecurities and even the parts of yourself you are less proud of, like feelings of jealousy or anger.

Some signs that you can be yourself in your sessions are:

  • When you take a risk and share something personal, you don’t feel judged.

    If you are worried something is “weird” or “bad,” your therapist should reflect back that they understand and accept your feelings and actions. A great therapist will check in about how it felt to share that vulnerable information.
  • Your therapist asks you open-ended questions.

    This type of questioning allows you to explore your feelings and thoughts in more depth rather than follow a prescribed path. Therapists who don’t do this are often nervous about the darker aspects of the human experience and don’t feel comfortable exploring them.

They have good boundaries

One important characteristic of a good therapist is their ability to maintain healthy boundaries. A therapist should be able to set clear limits on what they are and are not able to do for their patients and stick to those limits.

They should also have good boundaries with their own personal life, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and not engage in relationships with their patients outside of therapy.

Because many people struggle with boundaries in their personal lives, having a therapist with good boundaries helps model this in a healthy and caring way.

Some signs that your therapist has good boundaries might be:

  • They know what issues are in their scope of practice and what aren’t.

    They refer you to other professionals when appropriate. They don’t claim to be an expert at everything. When a therapist is calmed that they can help everyone, it’s often more about the therapist’s ego than it is about helping people reach their goals.
  • They have office policies regarding attendance and fees and follow them consistently.

    Even though it can be frustrating to be charged a cancelation fee or have to end a session at a secluded time when you have more to say, this is actually a good sign.

    It shows that the therapist values their time and yours and isn’t overly anxious about people pleasing, and can keep a sustainable practice running.

There are many effective therapeutic modalities out there, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Psychodynamic Therapy. At the end of the day, it’s the therapist’s relational skill that will allow them to connect with you and help you work through your issues.

Whether you are looking for help with a specific issue or to work through some deeper personal struggles, the right therapist can be a powerful tool in your journey toward healing and growth.

So don’t be afraid to take the time to find a therapist who you feel comfortable with and who will truly support you on your path.

Ellie Borden, BA, RP, CPP

Ellie Borden

CEO, Clinical Director, and Clinical Supervisor/Supervising Psychotherapist (CRPO), Mind by Design

Finding the right therapist is vital in any therapeutic process. Which therapist you select can be just as important as what kind of therapy they practice.

The connection you form with your therapist is a necessary precursor to effective treatment. This is known as the therapeutic alliance.

Here are some things you should ask yourself when it comes time to choose the therapist who offers you the most excellent odds of forming the strongest therapeutic alliance.

Ask yourself, “do I feel like I can talk to this person?”

While it may seem obvious, therapy is a dialogical process and requires you to open up and be honest with your therapist. Transparency and vulnerability are significant elements that influence progress, healing, and authentic transformation.

If you feel it is challenging to be honest with a particular therapist, they may not be the one for you.

For the therapeutic alliance to be strong, therapists must demonstrate an unbiased and non-judgemental approach and ensure they do their part to make clients feel as comfortable as possible to talk to them.

Do they make you feel heard and understood?

In any relationship, listening to others is vital. Therapists must listen proactively and attentively to their clients. As a therapist, genuinely making your client feel heard means that you understand their needs.

Is your therapist asking the right questions in this regard? To understand you better, they need to know what has worked and what hasn’t.

Also, what are you genuinely seeking? Do they understand what your goal is with therapy? Do they hit it on the nose when describing what you need and what you truly seek?

If you get that “you get me” feeling, they may be the one!

Are they patient?

You may seek a therapist because you feel anxious, upset, angry, or exhausted.

Does the therapist react with impatience or discomfort when you cannot keep things together? Do you feel like you can be free to express yourself truly? or do you fear your therapist will not give you the room to express the full range of emotions you may be feeling?

If you feel that your therapist is harsh or unreasonable when you are not always able to maintain your strong front, they may not be the one to lean on, especially during times of crisis.

Patience is a virtue, but like any virtue, it is not universal.

As with any profession, some therapists are better for you than others, and finding the right one is a responsibility you must take seriously.

The above tips will help you pick the right therapist to have the most success in therapy. The below tips will help you avoid one that can be detrimental to your health and wellness.

Although we have regulatory bodies to ensure we are maintaining our professional standards and ethics, not every therapist is built the same. Also, some less apparent signs or concerns may go unnoticed by the regulatory bodies, especially if misconduct hasn’t been reported.

Be mindful of the following red flags when selecting a therapist:

  • Do you feel the therapist crosses boundaries or is unprofessional when interacting with you?

    If they don’t have someone else booking their appointments, you can identify an early red flag by how they address you during your consultation or when booking your first appointment, the time of the day they contact you, and if they get pushy about booking your appointment.
  • Be careful with therapists who overshare about their own life.

    An example that may be brought up to help you understand and relate to your therapist is not alarming; however, if your issues are repeatedly compared to what the therapist did in their own life, career, marriage, parenting, etc., this is a huge red flag that this is not the right therapist for you.

    This shows the possible bias that can creep into therapy in damaging ways.
  • Be attuned to facial expressions or statements that make you feel judged.

    Although we can all take things the wrong way at some point, repetitive statements of judgment may not be your own sensitivity. Therapy must be a safe and non-judgmental space where you can feel comfortable being transparent and vulnerable. This is the space you will make the most growth in.

Avoid therapists that repeatedly tell you what to do vs. exploring options with you so that you can not only make a decision on your own but also learn how to problem-solve effectively in the future.

Our goal as therapists is for you not to need us! Be careful of therapists that create a codependent dynamic or don’t address it if you are creating one.

Natasha Deen, LCPC, NCC

Natasha Deen

Certified Brainspotting Therapist | Owner, Operator, Psychotherapist, Golden Hour Counseling

Can they help you with your concerns and mesh well with your personality?

How would the therapist help you with your concerns?

As stated above, it’s important to understand how your therapist would be able to help you with your unique concerns specifically, and that will mesh well with your personality.

What are the therapist’s qualifications, specialties, process, style, and approach to therapy?

  • Qualifications: These can include education, licenses, and certifications.
  • Specialties: Just like you would see a cardiologist for a heart problem rather than your primary care doctor, you want to see a therapist who specializes in the problems you’re seeking help for.
  • Process: Logistics, order of therapy (i.e., intake session, treatment planning, etc.).
  • Style: Structured, client-led, etc.
  • Approach: The therapist’s theoretical orientation. Learn more about the different theoretical orientations here.

All of the above are more specific ways that the therapist’s work will impact your treatment.

Do they have what you need and want in a therapist?

Of course, perfection is impossible, but are they close enough? Are they clear of any red flags? I suggest making a list of the things you need and want from your therapist.

Some examples may include a shared identity like race or religion, someone who has the training to treat a problem you’re coming in for, like trauma.

Remember, you’re also gauging if you’re a good fit personality-wise too.

Also, ask yourself things like:

  • Do they incorporate humor?
  • Are they energetic and give you the push you need?
  • Are they gentle and softer-spoken if that’s more of what you need?

Keep this list with you while you vet your therapist to make sure they check off most of the boxes.

Has your therapist “done their work”?

While you don’t need to know the details of your therapist’s personal life, it can be helpful to know if they are or have been in therapy and put in time outside of sessions to better themselves.

As therapists, doing our own work helps us be more understanding from a client’s perspective and be the best version of ourselves to provide the best care possible for you.

What does a session typically look like?

This can be important to ask to find out if your therapist’s style will match your needs.

Does your therapist let you take the lead in sessions? Do they have a more structured setup? Do they give homework? Do you talk about whatever is on your mind each session, or do you have a set topic?

Trust your gut

You can tell a lot about how you feel with someone (aka vibes), even from short conversations.

Do you feel safe and welcome? Do you feel like you can be yourself? Are there any red flags, such as misaligned beliefs, microaggressions, poor communication, misunderstandings, etc.?

You can ask your therapist if they think you’re a good fit

Your therapist will, of course, have some perspectives that you may not always see.

It can be helpful to hear theirs to see if they believe that you would be a good fit and if they have the skills necessary to help you with what you need.

This can and should be something that you and your therapist are continuously evaluating throughout your work together because you may not have the answer to this right away.

Ask any and all questions you have

Remember, this is a service you’re paying for. Would you make any other big, non-refundable purchase without determining if it actually is right for you?

Waitlists can be long, and there is a shortage of therapists, but choosing a therapist is a huge investment in yourself, so it’s important to take the time to find someone who is right for you.

Research shows that the therapeutic relationship is the most significant factor to change in therapy.

We have to trust, feel comfortable with, and like our therapists for therapy to be effective and long-lasting.

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC

Shlomo Slatkin

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor | Certified Imago Relationship Therapist | Co-founder, The Marriage Restoration Project

Find someone who is trained in working and is experienced

Just as with any service, you’ll want to do your research. Anyone can claim to be a marriage counselor, but it does not necessarily mean they are a licensed therapist or even trained in working with couples. 

Make sure you find someone who is trained in working with couples and has experience saving relationships. I have seen more damage done by unskilled professionals and laymen who try to work with couples. 

This is an imperative step for finding a good marriage counselor. 

Someone who did a residency in medical school took many courses in different topics, but all because they took a course doesn’t mean you will want them to treat you for a specialty issue. 

If you needed open heart surgery, you wouldn’t ask a doctor who took a course in cardiac health once upon a time when they were in medical school. 

Working with a couple is drastically different than working with an individual. Some therapists actually shy away from couples’ work because they have no clue how to do it. 

A successful marriage counselor is one who can remain neutral and not get sucked into the conflict. 

They will facilitate the relationship between both spouses as opposed to merely dispensing advice and allowing them to talk about each other. Safety is key, and it is important to have a structure that assures sessions won’t turn into a shouting match.

A good marriage counselor will help you gain the tools to understand each other better, get to the root cause of your conflict, and help you connect.

You’ll want to make sure your counselor is pro-marriage. Some couples walk away from marriage counseling being encouraged to divorce. If your goal is to save your marriage, you’ll want a counselor who has the same objectives.

Related: How to Fix a Broken Marriage

What we recommend that you do when looking for a marriage counselor is also to consider these very important factors:

  • Make sure they are licensed.
  • Make sure they have training and experience working with couples (you would be surprised how many psychologists and therapists do not have experience working together with a married couple that is considering separation!
  • Do they come recommended by friends and family? Clergy? Personal referral? Has someone that you know already been to them and been successful? Do they have testimonials and third-party references that you can ask for?
  • Does the therapist have some sort of specialty certification in couples’ work? Like in Imago therapy or in another modality of couples therapy?
  • Are they currently involved in their field in terms of continuing education?

For example, are they a member of professional organizations where they need to meet yearly Continuing Education Credits? It’s one thing to have gotten trained 20 years ago, but if they aren’t current in their field, they are not continually improving on their skills.

For example, I’ve seen therapists who I knew took the initial clinical training and had originally gotten certified in Imago Therapy but have neglected to keep their certification current. Yet, they still “advertise” themselves as Imago practitioners. 

If you are looking for a “brand” of couples counseling, you want to make sure that the practitioner that you find is actually practicing that form of therapy. 

Professional organizations set up standards to make sure that there is some uniformity among the therapy that their members practice. Going off and doing your own thing is not adhering to these standards.

Yes, you can find a marriage counselor that participates in your insurance plan, but more often than not, they may not be the best in the field. 

One of my colleagues told me that although he does accept insurance for individual therapy, for couples therapy, he does not because he has invested much time and money to gain his expertise, and it is not worth it for him to accept insurance. 

Couples counseling is a very skilled and sensitive field and requires a tremendous amount of specialized training. It is costly to pursue this advanced training and keep up certifications in professional memberships! 

Those therapists who are committed to achieving clinical excellence in the field are often going to cost more money. (That’s not to say that there are not wonderful therapists that may offer a sliding fee scale or do accept insurance.)

Our best recommendation is to keep looking for the most specialized marriage counseling professional that can help your situation. 

After reading the case studies and testimonials of struggling couples that have turned their own marriages around and have been successful, you’ll know more about the marriage counselor and get a sense of if they can help you.

Dr. Pamela M. Peterson, PhD, LP

Pamela M. Peterson

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Use L.I.K.E when looking for a therapist

What does a therapist suggest that you should look for when exploring to find a new therapist? From the therapist’s perspective.

Here is an acronym to remember these characteristics: L.I.K.E.

L = LISTENS with the intent to understand.
I = INTERESTED in getting to the heart of the concern.
K = KNOWLEDGABLE with a unique skill set.


Your therapist listens with the intent of understanding. 

Have you ever gone to a therapist who doesn’t give you a chance to talk? Maybe you have, and you wondered who the therapist was in the room. And how about the opposite experience? 

The therapist only repeats back the words that you share with them. Both situations sound painful, literally. 

You are baring your soul, through words, with a total stranger, and yes, you need some direction or formatting to know how the session will go, but you don’t want to be “talked over” or feel like you are “talking to a computer.” 

You want to feel like the person you are sharing time with cares that you are present. Yes, the words that this person shares or exchanges with you tell a lot about their skills and their preference for being a good listener. 


Your therapist is willing to go the extra step to dig into the issue.

I think I would want you to pick a therapist who shows a genuine interest in your situation.

Not only do I want that person to see the big picture of what is happening in your life, but I want them to show interest in learning about the nuances that make you who you are. 

I think it would be cool if your potential therapist took the time to research something they want to learn more about, something you have shared with them. 

I once worked with a patient who had been in Vietnam. I told him I didn’t know much about it, but I would learn. He said ok. It was going an extra step, learning about their history so that I could take them down the path of healing. He trusted me. 


The therapist has a skill set that is unique and achieved.

I would want a potential patient to pick their therapist, not by what their profile picture looks like but by how the professional (licensed psychologist in my case) is trained, what type of education level they have achieved, and who or what type of professional board endorses and credentials them. 

Just as in becoming a professional pilot, one needs to take a professional or national exam like the EPPP or their Check-Ride like my father did as a commercial airline pilot. 

Education isn’t a one-time achievement, it’s a process of learning over time. 

A healthy, well-versed therapist is also someone who continues to take seminars and new topics and even seeks out supervision in areas where they feel like they may be a little rusty or they are learning a new technique. 

Earning an advanced degree also shows persistence and a determination to reach a difficult goal. Something you want your therapist to do with you is set goals and push you to achieve them.

Empathetic and energizing

The therapist connects with you and brings new energy that you can apply to your daily life.

How do you feel when you first set up an initial conversation or interview? Do you feel renewed and reenergized? As though a weight has been lifted. Or do you feel confused and slightly more depressed? 

As a clinical psychologist, I would love it if you told me you felt relieved that I could be your therapist! But I want you to be honest with me. 

I want you to find a therapist who not only connects with you but one that introduces new energy to you and lifts you up. 

A therapist wants to bring a patient joy and determination to set start out on a new path each day! Each day can be somewhat unpredictable, but you can be pleasantly surprised with new behaviors and jumping over a small hurdle. 

I ran track in high school, and after a race, the coach gave me the baton to keep.  I didn’t understand the meaning of that action initially, but after a couple of years, it dawned on me that he was “acknowledging an accomplishment.” 

He could have easily saved that baton and put it in his awards cabinet, as his team had finished first in their race! 

I use that baton now when I am working with someone who needs to build their confidence and see themselves accomplishing a new, somewhat difficult goal.  The hand-off of the baton with a sense of calm transfers with them into the real world with confidence and determination. 

Christopher May, MPsy, LPC

Christopher May

Licensed Professional Counselor | Owner, Deep Growth Counseling

Fit is the most important factor to consider when looking for a therapist

Fit is probably the most important factor to consider when looking for a therapist. This means both in their therapeutic orientation and their fit as a person. 

Research has shown that the therapeutic relationship is the most important aspect of effective therapy, no matter the orientation. This means finding a therapist you think you can build rapport with, articulate shared goals, and talk about how therapy is going for you is of the utmost importance. 

That being said, you can also be too rigid about who you’re willing to give a try. Sometimes the experience and skill of a therapist can make up for what you might at first perceive as a lack of fit (especially if you’re just going off the picture!)

Fit also depends on your current therapeutic needs and what you imagine will be helpful for you. 

Is your main therapeutic goal to process past trauma? You might want to look for someone who primarily works with trauma and/or has trauma-related certifications — EMDR, IFS, sensorimotor psychotherapy, etc. 

Do you imagine that an exploratory, insight-oriented treatment is what you’re needing? You might want to look for a psychodynamic or Jungian therapist. 

There are many different effective orientations out there, and it would be a good idea to research a couple of them to see what you feel would work for you in terms of fit. 

Experience and licensure are something to consider 

Experience (length and the kind of experience) is something to consider but is not everything. 

Scrolling through Psychology Today or your insurance list, you’re likely to see many different kinds of licenses that indicate various levels of experience. Here’s what they mean:

  • LPC-A (Licensed Professional Counselor Associate) – Master’s level clinician who is within their first two years after graduating and working on getting their 3,000 hours for full licensure. LPC-A’s are required to have a supervisor who oversees their clinical work.
  • LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) – Master’s level clinician who is fully licensed. 
  • LMSW (Licensed Masters Social Worker) – Master’s level clinician who is within their first two years after graduating and working on getting their 3,000 hours for full licensure. LMSWs are required to have a supervisor who oversees their clinical work.
  • LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) – Master’s level clinician who is fully licensed.  
  • LMFT (Marriage and Family Therapist) – A clinician with a Master’s in marriage and family therapy.
  • PhD (Psychologist) – A clinician that has a doctorate in psychology. Program experience will have included both research and clinical work.
  • Psyd (Psychologist) – A clinician that has a doctorate in psychology. Program experience will have included mostly clinical work.
  • MD (psychiatrist) – Psychiatrists are medical doctors able to prescribe medication. Some psychiatrists provide therapy, but it is more common for them to prescribe medication primarily.

Again, licensure is not everything. I would propose that there could be a particular LPC-A out there that would be a better therapist for you than a particular psychologist. Or, an LCSW might have more expertise in your presenting problem than a doctorate-level therapist. It all comes down to fit.   

Consider the cost of seeking therapy

Cost can be a barrier for many people in seeking therapy. Generally, the more experience and demand there is for a clinician (or the nicer their office space), the more their rate will be.

If cost is an important factor for you, don’t be deterred. If you have insurance, first check with your insurance company to see what your copay or co-insurance would be, and have them provide a list of clinicians that take your insurance.

If you don’t have insurance, there are many clinicians and local community organizations that offer sliding-scale services based on income. 

For the lowest cost of services, I would start with community organizations. If you can, try and find somewhere without a max number of sessions. However, anything is better than nothing.

You can find effective therapy anywhere; there are just tradeoffs. Just because the cost is low does not mean you won’t receive good therapy. 

I’ve worked at a community organization with excellent therapists and 15+ years of experience. I’ve also worked at a community organization where most of the therapists were still working on their hours for full licensure. I witnessed remarkable changes in patients in both settings.

Sharon P. Fisher, PMHNP-BC, PMH-C

Sharon Fisher

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner | Founder, Nurtured Well | Co-author, “Beyond the Egg Timer

Find the one who gets you

The short answer is: One who gets you. That may sound a bit vague. It also may be confusing when sorting through the alphabet soup that follows our names.

Let’s start with understanding who a therapist is.

Types of therapists

This is a highly abridged explanation of who can do therapy. In general, it is more about a good match than their degree, assuming they are an actual therapist.

Therapists may be:

  • Social Workers
  • Licensed Professional Counselors
  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists
  • Marriage and Family Counselors

Life coaches, clergy, and hairdressers are not therapists.

I have intentionally left out how the credentials will look after their name because outside of psychiatrists (MD), it can vary from state to state.

What about certifications?

You may have noticed therapists advertising themselves as “certified in XYZ.” This means that they have additional training in a specific area and have passed an exam (above their licensure exams) given by a non-academic institution or training program.

For example, I am certified in perinatal mental health by Postpartum Support International. Certification in a specialty shows a level of expertise and commitment to their practice.

However, it does not necessarily mean that they are any better than a therapist that does not pursue certification.

These exams can be expensive, or there may be other reasons the therapist did not pursue taking it. All clinicians are required to take continuing education credits in order to maintain their licenses.

Therefore, it is best to ask your potential therapist what types of continuing education they take versus looking for a particular certification.

Also, ask them about their experience working with people who have issues similar to your own.

How do I choose?

I would not become overly concerned with what specific degree or certification the therapist has. As mentioned above, one can have all the expert experience and continuing education in a specific niche but never sit for that certification exam.

Likewise, One can have a Ph.D. vs. a Masters in social work but not necessarily be a better fit for you.

Start with looking for someone who works with people like you. Read their profile. How do you feel after you read it? Warm and fuzzy? Then move forward. Make sure their availability matches yours. If they do not take insurance, realistically estimate how much you can spend on treatment.

In session

You will know you have found the right therapist if you feel seen, heard, and accepted.

Therapists have different styles. One modality or personality is not superior to another, but you need to find what works for you.

It is also important to note that you will not always feel good after a therapy session. However, over time you should feel the change. If it feels simply like talking to a friend, then it is time to evaluate how helpful the therapist is.

Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S

Louis Laves-Webb

Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor | Licensed Clinical Social Worker Supervisor

Being a truly skilled therapist can require the focus of a surgeon, the improvisational skills of an actor, and the mindfulness of a monk. As in any profession, there are some who master this art in more profound ways than others. 

Here are some key elements of any truly gifted therapist:

The capacity to care about another and to understand another’s point of view

Obviously, one of the most important elements of being a good therapist is having the capacity to care about another and to understand another’s point of view. 

This may seem initially obvious, but empathy is actually a skill set that is enhanced, developed, and cultivated in skilled therapists. 

Conversely, there can be some personality types, judgmental biases, or other emotional barriers within some therapists that may make empathy more challenging and ultimately can interfere with the therapeutic bond.

They are curious about their clients

Gifted therapists are sincerely curious about their clients. They remain engaged and seek to understand the various nuances that exist within their clients truly. 

Additionally, they embrace this same curious mindset in relation to further study, research, or additional educational ideas. A good therapist truly embraces their role and remains a lifetime learner.

A good therapist is skilled

The path to becoming a therapist literally takes years of education, internships, and supervised experience. 

A good therapist has taken full advantage of this time and has embodied a far-reaching and genuine effort to enhance themselves clinically truly. 

Additionally, they have equally participated in plenty of their own psychological work, combining a breadth of book knowledge, experiential learning, and personal development. 

They are able not just to hear but truly listen

Therapists tend to hear things differently than the average person. A good therapist will know how to listen to you truly. They are gifted at listening to emotions, content, patterns, and subtlety all at the same time. 

They also utilize effective listening techniques such as: 

  • Reflective listening
  • Paraphrasing
  • Validation

A wonderful therapist can offer a true mirror to their clients’ innermost being by almost effortlessly listening in a truly extraordinary and unique way.

Be open to some measure of influence from you

A great therapist can also be vulnerable. They are human beings and, on some level, will bring their humanity to the room. Because of this, they, too, can be touched and impacted by the clients they work with. 

True benefits contain mutuality, and a confident, skilled, and gifted professional is open to this exchange.

They listen, they focus on you, and they refrain from “preaching”

The primary premise of a therapeutic relationship is that your therapist will listen to your concerns, encourage your voice, and attempt to assist you in solving your own problems. 

Strong therapists rarely, if ever, speak about themselves and refrain from preaching in any way, shape, or form about what your path “should” or “shouldn’t” be. 

Additionally, they are laser-focused on their clients and are highly skilled at keeping the conversation client-driven, and are gifted at their own emotional regulation and attuning to their clients.  

They know when to soothe and when to challenge gently

Therapists artfully balance offering support to help soothe and regulate difficult emotions while simultaneously gently probing, discussing difficult or sensitive areas, and offering gentle challenges in the spirit of growth and forward momentum. 

A truly skilled therapist combines these effortlessly, and the client experiences soothing, and care combined with stimulation and movement and ultimately feels comforted, healed, and encouraged. 

Odile Mckenzie, LCSW

Odile Mckenzie

Holistic Psychotherapist and Life Coach | CEO and Clinical Director, Odile Psychotherapy Service, PLLC

Look for a therapist who has expertise working with clients with your specific issue

Therapy requires vulnerability and the readiness to change. Deciding to seek a therapist can be very scary, affecting your judgment about what you are looking for.

If we are not ready to make changes, we may have a million reasons why the therapist is not good or why we can’t find a “good therapist.”

Much like dating, we will never know with 100% certainty whether someone is the right fit for us until we start the relationship. That said, you can make sure your values match up.

Research shows that the choice of treatment modality plays a less important role in the outcome than the therapeutic alliance. As a consequence, it is best to find someone whom you feel safe with and trust enough to be vulnerable.

Needless to say, you want someone who is credentialed to provide services in your state. Still, it is crucial to combine expertise with a therapeutic modality that will create a warm and nurturing space where you feel comfortable sharing.

You can assess whether the therapist can sit with your vulnerability by asking whether they have gone to therapy and have done their own work.

If a therapist lacks self-awareness and does not have access to their own feelings, they will avoid yours as well in the session.

I also recommend looking for a therapist who has expertise working with clients with your specific issue. All therapists have a niche; in my experience, therapists do their best work when clients fall within their niche.

If your racial or other identities are important to you, look for a therapist who shares that identity. There are many directories, such as Therapy For Black Girls, The Asian Mental Health Collective, or Inclusive Therapist, that can help you with that.

Find a therapist whom you can afford

The price of your session does not always indicate how ‘good’ the therapist is. Look for a therapist who is in your insurance network and fits with your budget.

You may also be able to be reimbursed by your insurance company if you have out-of-network benefits.

Financial considerations are important because you will not be able to meet with a therapist whom you cannot afford over a long stretch.

Most therapists offer a sliding scale; ask about that during your consultation. Many therapists have slots for clients who cannot afford their full rate and often partner with Open Path.

Open Path allows clients to access individual therapy for no more than $60. Some practices have interns who are supervised and can provide therapy at a lower rate.

You can also search for organizations such as Loveland Foundation, which provides scholarships to Black-identifying women who cannot afford services.

If you get past the consultation and begin services, remind yourself that you have entered a relationship and that you may experience hurt as in any other relationship.

Use the therapeutic space to talk about what’s coming up for you and to practice repairing relationships in a safe way. A ‘good’ therapist will want to repair the ruptures in your relationship rather than being ghosted.

A therapeutic relationship will mirror your other relationships, so why not practice your skills in a safe and supportive space?

Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW

Iris Waichler

Licensed Clinical Social Worker | Writer, Choosing Therapy

Choosing the right therapist can have a huge impact on how successful your treatment is. Here are things to consider:

Look for a therapist whose area of expertise matches your symptoms

Find a therapist whose area of expertise matches your symptoms and the designated reason you have chosen to go to therapy. For example, if you are struggling with grief, find a therapist who has expertise in grief and loss.

You want to make sure there is a personality fit with your therapist

You need to feel comfortable with your therapist because if you don’t, you won’t feel comfortable sharing information that is vital to help you with your issues. Your therapist’s style of communication must be something you will respond to and match your style of communication.

You need to ask your therapist about their philosophy of treatment

  • What are their goals as a therapist?
  • How often will you meet?
  • How long do they think treatment will be needed based on your reason for seeking therapy?
  • What will they expect from you?

If a therapist doesn’t respond to these questions, you may want to look elsewhere. You need to make sure you are seeing someone who has treatment goals that match your needs and expectations.

Licensing, certification, and education

You need to check your insurance coverage and see what type of licensure is covered.

For example, some health insurance may only pay for therapists that are licensed, like a psychologist or social workers. You want to make sure you get the maximum coverage from your health insurance and also get a therapist who has the right certification and training needed to help you.

If you anticipate that you will need medication, you will need to see a psychiatrist because they are the only mental health professionals that can write prescriptions for medications.

You need to think about what your priorities are in terms of your therapist. Some people may feel more comfortable working with a man or a woman.

Also, some people may feel more comfortable working with a mental health practitioner who shares their ethnic background and culture. For example, an African-American patient may want a therapist who is African-American.

You need to talk to a potential therapist about scheduling and availability

In today’s world, many mental health practitioners practice therapy online.

You need to decide if you want to see somebody in person or if you are comfortable working with someone online. Also, how does their availability match your schedule?

Heather Wilson, LCSW, LCADC, CCTP

Heather Wilson

Executive Director, Epiphany Wellness

A person’s relationship with their therapist is unique compared to others they have in their life.

In therapy, you are often more open and vulnerable than you would allow yourself to be in front of other people. Yet, at the same time, your relationship with your therapist is a professional one.

Because you are placing so much trust in a therapist, you must find one that you like and trust.

Here’s what you should be looking for:

They make you feel comfortable

One of the essential qualities of a therapist is someone who makes you feel comfortable. This includes feeling safe to open up to them and being able to relax around them.

It will be difficult to be open and honest if you don’t feel comfortable with your therapist.

They make it feel like a collaboration

For therapy to be effective, it is crucial that you feel like you are working together with your therapist as a team. You shouldn’t feel like a bug being observed and judged under a microscope. Therapy is something you do with your therapist and not something they do to you.

They help you identify your problems

A therapist is not only there to listen and write things down on a clipboard, but they actually have to help you find solutions to your problems that lead you to seek help.

To achieve this, they have to be able to help you identify what problems exist so you can deal with them properly.

They have experience in the area you need help with

Not all therapists are experts in every field. Therefore, it is important to find one with experience in the areas where you need help.

For example, if you are struggling with a specific personality disorder, you want to make sure your therapist has extensive experience in that area.

The treatment plan they come up with suits your needs

Every therapy plan is different because every person’s needs are different. Therefore, you should feel like your therapist’s program is tailored to your specific needs.

If you feel like the plan is not suitable for you, it may not solve your problems effectively.

Claire Karakey, LPC-S

Claire Karakey

Therapist | Owner and Founder, Claibourne Counseling

The most important factor is you click well with the therapist

No matter the practice you choose, there are a few things to consider when choosing a therapist:

  • Age
  • Gender preference
  • BIPOC preference
  • LGBTQIA+ preference
  • Religious preference
  • Cultural background
  • Parenting skills
  • Sense of humor
  • In-person or telehealth availability
  • Experience/Certifications (certain modalities require certifications to practice)
  • Modality preference (some therapists are more experienced with a certain modality than others — like EMDR, CBT, or trauma-focused)
  • Insurance vs. private practice (we’ll talk about this more in a bit)
  • Your own intuition (enough cannot be said for your own intuition!)

Is there a connection between you and the therapist?

Commonly referred to as the “therapeutic alliance,” and perhaps the most important factor of what to look for in a therapist is simply…

  • Do you like them? 
  • Do you click well with the particular therapist? 
  • Do you feel that connection? 

This is something that only you will be able to determine. But it will be key to your success in your mental health journey and therapy treatment. 

If your therapist is not a good match, the likelihood of you feeling comfortable and opening up are slim.

Trauma-informed care

When searching for a therapist, make sure you search for one with specific training in trauma-informed care. The modalities they practice will tell you how they conceptualize their practice. 

It is important to have training in cognitive-based modalities for forward-thinking care. 

But, your therapist’s understanding of the complexities of trauma in order to dislodge those unconscious thoughts and “stuff” that may be blocking you from moving forward is crucial for your success in therapy. 

These modalities include but are not limited to EMDR, A.R.T., parts work, and TF-CBT. 

What to do if your therapist is not a good fit?

Remember, your counselor is a person, too, and no one is perfect. People sometimes just aren’t a good fit. It does not mean anything is wrong with you or with them. 

Even if it feels a bit awkward for you, they have likely already picked up on the ill-fitting vibe between the two of you. They’ve had this conversation with others before. 

They are professionals, and you won’t hurt their feelings by having a conversation about finding a different therapist. You owe it to yourself to find the best therapist for your needs.

Practical considerations for choosing a therapist

Outside of your mental health and other personal preferences for a therapist, some of the more practical things to consider when looking for a therapist are location, availability, and insurance.

Becca Smith, LPC

Becca Smith

Licensed Professional Counselor | Chief Clinical Officer, Basepoint Academy

Therapy can be a vulnerable and intimate process. Finding a therapist who is the right fit for you will significantly enhance the progress and success of your therapy experience. 

Hence, consider a therapist’s style, theoretical orientation, experience, and specialization when selecting a therapist. 

Here are three practical tips for finding the right therapist:

Choose a licensed and trained professional

Work with someone with the necessary education, qualifications, and experience to address your concerns.

 A therapist with specialized focus and training in your specific issue can better guide you through treatment. They also have a better understanding of the latest research and techniques in that area. 

For example, if your child is struggling with anxiety, look for a therapist who has experience and training in child and adolescent therapy, as well as experience treating anxiety disorders.

Find a good fit for your personality and communication style

It’s important to feel comfortable with your therapist and be able to communicate with them openly. 

  • Do you prefer a more active, directive approach or a more passive, non-directive approach? 
  • Are you looking for someone who challenges you or offers more support?
  • And do they have a similar cultural background and values as you, or do they have enough experience and training in working with diverse populations? 

Most parts of therapy involve deep introspection and discussing sensitive topics, so finding someone with whom you feel safe and understood is crucial.

Find a therapist who uses evidence-based approaches

While there are many different types of therapy, some methods have been more extensively researched and shown to be effective in treating certain issues. 

Ask your therapist about the specific techniques they use and how they integrate evidence-based practices into their approach. This ensures that you are receiving the most effective treatment possible for your concerns.

Bottom line: Finding the right therapist can make a huge difference in your therapy experience. 

Therapy is a partnership, so finding someone who both meets your needs and with whom you feel comfortable discussing personal matters will enhance the progress and success of therapy.

Don’t be afraid to interview potential therapists or try out a few before finding the best fit. 

And if you feel like the therapy process is not working for you at any point, it’s okay to switch therapists. Your mental health and well-being are worth the effort in finding the right fit for you.

Hazel Navarro, LICSW

Hazel Navarro

Licensed Psychotherapist and Relationship Wellness Coach | Owner, Human Heart Connection LLC

Find a therapist who speaks to your soul

Many therapists nowadays have a professional online presence.

Take the time to get a sense of whether they are aligned with your needs, values, and communication style. Visit their web pages, read their blogs, and check out their professional media links.

This will give you a sense of the therapist’s personality and approach to treatment. It will also let you know if they have experience helping others with similar symptoms, circumstances, and pain points.

If the therapist offers a free consultation, schedule one and use it to ask them about their experience, treatment approach, and success with treating symptoms like the ones you are experiencing.

Here are other things to consider when speaking with a potential therapist:

When speaking with the therapist, do you feel welcome and safe? Pay attention to your gut and other physiological responses.

Do they communicate in a supportive and nonjudgmental manner? Or are you being triggered by them? Sometimes, certain voices, attitudes, and behaviors will trigger you, and not in a good way.

Some people just don’t click. This is ok. It is better to know this now before you engage in therapy. Do they treat you with dignity and respect?


  • “What is your experience treating clients with similar symptoms as mine?”
  • “Are you licensed to practice in my state?”
  • “Do you see clients in person or online?”

In most cases, the therapist must be licensed in the state where you (the client) are physically present during the time of the therapy session.

In other words, if the therapist is licensed in one state and you go on vacation to another state, you will not be able to schedule a video session with your therapist unless the therapist is also licensed in the state where you are vacationing.


  • “What availability do you have on your schedule?”
  • “How will I know that therapy is working?”
  • “Will there be a treatment plan?”
  • “How will we measure progress?”
  • “What skills will I learn in therapy?”
  • “How do you address termination from therapy?”

It’s important to start with the end in mind so that you know what you hope to gain from therapy.

In the end, the most important part of therapy is the relationship between the client and the therapist. If it is built on trust and respect, healing will happen.

Debra Jordan, LMHC

Debra Jordan

Licensed Mental Health Provider | Clinical Director, Tampa Bay Recovery Center

Being in therapy creates vulnerability.

With conditions such as depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, and others, it’s important to find a therapist that not only specializes in your area of need but matches your treatment style, individual goals, and personality.

I always tell my clients to use the acronym TRUST when looking for a therapist.

What to look for in a therapist using ‘TRUST’


The type of therapy you partake in is crucial to your healing.

Are you looking to be psychoanalyzed and want to work on the mental health aspects of your life that may have stemmed from childhood? Or maybe you’re looking for more of a solution-based approach and could benefit from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Talking through the different types of therapy approaches with a potential therapist can help you understand what will fit your needs.


Be realistic about your therapy needs.

Does the therapist take your insurance, or are you comfortable paying out of pocket? Is the therapist’s office accessible? Do they have an opening that works for your schedule?

Therapy is an investment. Be realistic about the time and money it will take.


Being open and vulnerable with your therapist requires mutual trust and understanding. If this does not exist, not much work can be done.

If your therapist doesn’t seem open or willing to listen actively, it may be wise to find another person.


Talking about our challenges and trauma can be uncomfortable. We can find ourselves in dissociation, and if we don’t feel safe, we can end up in a crisis.

It’s important as time goes on, you feel safe confiding in this person.


What are your therapist’s credentials? Are they licensed in your state? Are they currently under supervision? What are they specially trained in?

If your therapist is trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, but you’re looking to heal from trauma, you may want to consider looking at another option.

Simone Koger, LMFTA, CGP

Simone Koger

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Associate and Grief Counselor | Owner, Koger Counseling, PLLC

Ask yourself first what factors you are considering 

  • What is your monthly budget? 

Therapists come in all price ranges for a variety of different reasons. Paying for therapy is a constant, so it is better to find someone in your budget so it doesn’t accidentally become an additional stressor.

  • Do they accept HSA or your insurance?

 Many therapists are moving away from insurance due to their exploitation of clients. If you have an HSA/FSA, you may want to call the company to see if they allow you to see this therapist and utilize your health savings.

  • Do they offer sessions when you are available? 

Again, many therapists have different hours of operation. Double-check when their availability is and if it coincides with when you are hoping to have therapy sessions.

  • Tele-therapy or in-person? 

Tele-therapy is becoming increasingly popular as we step into a less “intensive” stage of the pandemic. 

People who may usually commute may be able to have more flexible scheduling by utilizing teletherapy. Or may like having the comfort of their own home to talk about therapy-related topics. 

Whereas in-person sessions keep therapy separate from your home life and are a specific space you go to for sessions.

  • Do you want a therapist with certain demographics? 

Sometimes we have to reflect on who we would feel most comfortable stepping into therapy services with. 

Do you prefer a specific gendered therapist? Someone who may have more knowledge of the same cultural background as you? Maybe a similar or different age than you? 

Sometimes people don’t have a preference or find it along the way— if you change your mind after meeting with a therapist, check in and see if they can offer referrals.

  • Is this therapist knowledgeable in the topics you want to address in therapy?

 If you find therapists on PsychologyTodayTherapyDenLatinx Therapists, or GoodTherapy, you can search via topics to see who provides services in the areas you are hoping for.

In the end, it takes time to form a genuine relationship with a therapist. The biggest step is trying, and the second biggest step is developing a trusting relationship with the professional you choose. 

Jessica Frick, LPC, NCC

Jessica Frick

Licensed Professional Counselor | Owner, Metamorphosis Counseling

The right therapist will listen without judgment

You should be able to feel comfortable sharing pretty much anything with your therapist. The right therapist will listen without judgment.

You should never have to worry about your therapist thinking less of you or feeling uncomfortable talking about something going on in your life. Listen to your gut here — if you feel uncomfortable, bring it up with your therapist.

A good therapist will address your concerns and brainstorm a solution with you — even if it means they might not be the best therapist for you.

Will help in a way that feels authentic and makes sense for you

The right therapist for you will help in a way that feels authentic and makes sense for you.

Ask questions about their style — how would their clients describe them?

How would they describe their style in a few sentences? Ask them for resources, or do some research about their modality — modalities are the researched ways that a therapist helps clients, like CBT.

If your therapist’s way of doing things doesn’t click with you — let them know. Think about how you’d prefer your therapist approach things and share it with them — they may know just the person for you!

Know your needs that must be attended

Know what you need to make sure you can attend therapy consistently.

  • What times would an appointment need to happen?
  • Do you need to find someone who is in-network with your insurance or provides options for low-income individuals?
  • Do you need someone who specializes in a particular issue?

Review a therapist’s website to get a feel for how they can accommodate you.

If going to therapy is too much stress for you, it’s easy to convince yourself to stop — and that won’t be good!

You and your therapist should fit together on a personal level

The therapeutic relationship is one of, if not the biggest, factors for success in therapy. You and your therapist should fit together on a personal level.

If your values clash with your therapist, it will be harder to feel comfortable and make progress. If you feel like the two of you click right away, you may have found a great therapist for you, especially if the other factors I’ve mentioned fit as well!

If you don’t think you and your therapist’s personalities match, let them know — a good therapist won’t take it personally and will help you figure out what personality might better suit you.

Megan Roy, LCMHC

Megan Roy

Owner and Founder, Radical Wellness Therapy

Your therapist needs to be likable, trustworthy, and knowledgeable

Hear me out: Therapists are moving on from the stuffy, overly professional, mysterious persona that came from the days of Freud when we were supposed to be a blank slate. 

It’s taken some time to break down the expectation that therapists need to be emotionally neutral and have it all together. A lot of that is thanks to social media, and the work therapists are doing there. 

It used to be: look at credentials, years of experience, and what institution one emerged from. While those can be factored in, that’s really not it anymore. 

Here’s what to look for in a therapist:

Do they seem like someone you’d want to sit in a room with (or online) for an hour a week? That’s likeability. 

You need to feel like you can get along with this person, that they have a good personality, and that you’d want to spend that time with them. The therapist is trustworthy. This can be assessed in the first call with them. 

A trustworthy therapist will be transparent about their work, training, what they can offer and if they can help. If this feels off, you might be sensing that your needs are out of their scope. 

A good therapist will be very clear on what they are good at. After all that training and specialization, it should be easy to share their knowledge about your particular issue. 

It might even be that the therapist has specialized in your issue because they have healed or learned to manage that particular thing themselves! 

If you want to know if a therapist can help you, do your homework. Look at their website, their social or their LinkedIn to learn about their specialty. If what you hear resonates with you, or they can talk about your issue in a way that hits, then you’ll likely get the help you need.

A good therapist must first take an interest in the client

The therapist’s position must be fundamentally one of curiosity about the client’s full life experience. 

This curiosity supersedes the judgment so readily found in the outside world and replaces it with a tolerance for all aspects of the client, including those behaviors typically deemed provocative and maladaptive. 

This conveys to the patient that the therapist is willing to accept them as they are and that the therapist has the ability to work with the whole person rather than only carefully scripted and revealed parts

This creates a real sense of security and safety in the therapeutic dyad from which effective work may begin.

A good therapist must know how to use this interest to engage in deep listening

This is the act of listening not simply to the words spoken by a client (as important as they are) but to what may lie beneath those words. 

To arrive at this, a therapist can factor in the client’s history as revealed so far and also the feelings that occur in their work together. 

  • What might a given feeling, once carefully considered, reveal about the inner world of the client? 
  • What might this feeling suggest about how the client interacts, constructively or otherwise, with others in the larger world? 
  • What, in other words, might the client induce in others?
  • And what might this feeling reveal about what’s not being said in the session?

Once enough rapport has been built between therapist and client, the therapist may use this information to help guide the client closer to the unspoken material, which is where profound therapeutic insight, healing, and development can occur. 

Benslyne Avril

Benslyne Avril

Registered Psychotherapist | Owner, Therapy with Empathy

Look for a therapist that offers free consultation

Therapists are not one size fits all. We have different specialties, different treatment approaches, and different personalities, which is why it’s important to think of your needs prior to booking your first session.

A consultation is a perfect opportunity to have a feel for the person you’ll be opening up to, to ask questions, and to think of what you’d like to get out of therapy.

Look for a therapist that’ll best fit your needs

Are you looking for a lot of feedback, coping strategies, someone who’s able to tell you like it is, or simply a listening ear? Those are simple yet important questions that could set the tone for your therapeutic relationship.

A good rapport is one of the most important factors for success in therapy. As such, you want to make sure that you’re comfortable with the person with that you’ll be sharing important details of your life.

Look for a therapist that challenges you while taking your feedback into consideration

Ideally, your therapist will notice patterns of behaviors that may have been disruptive to you; they may bring them up in sessions and challenge you to adjust them to see if people’s responses to you would change.

It’s important to take those inputs into consideration, as they’re coming from an objective point of view. At the same time, you want to be able to provide feedback to your therapist for the process to be as beneficial to you as possible.

If we’re suggesting something and you feel like it’s not working, it’s important and okay to tell us. This allows us to adjust by taking into consideration your perspective and providing insight that best reflects your current situation.

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT

Jessica Small

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Premarital Counselor | Parenting Coach, Growing Self Counseling and Coaching

In order to find a therapist that is a good fit, there are several things to consider and questions to ask both yourself and your potential therapist.

Make sure the therapist specializes in what you need help with

For example, If you are seeking couples counseling, look for someone that has specific training in couples and family therapy. Ask your therapist what their experience is with your specific needs.

Make sure you have overlapping availability

No matter how great your therapist is, it’s a moot point if you never can find a time to meet with them that works with your schedule. Ask when they see clients and make sure it matches with your work/life.

If it doesn’t, ask for a referral with a better availability match.

Consider what is important to you in terms of style and approach

Therapists range in terms of their approach and style to therapy.

Some therapists hold a safe space for their clients to talk through their experiences and process their emotions, while others are more action-oriented, skills-focused, and directive.

Consider what you are looking for and be clear with your therapist to ensure that you are on the same page.

Use the first three sessions as a barometer to see if it is a good match

If, after three sessions, you don’t feel like you’re clicking, think about why that is. If it’s something specific that could change, broach what isn’t working with your therapist or if it is a style difference, consider looking for someone else that better first what you are desiring.

Sheri-Ann Best, LCSW-R

Sheri-Ann Best

Psychotherapist | Owner, Broadhollow Psychotherapy PLLC

There are many things to consider when seeking a new therapist. Here are my top three things you should consider when seeking a therapist:

Seek out a licensed professional who has extensive experience in the help you are seeking

It’s not enough for someone to have “some experience” or someone who “kinda deals with __.”

Real experience is necessary, and there are professionals who fit the bill. A therapist who is unwilling to share their education and experience is a red flag.

As a Trauma therapist, I work with a variety of modalities, ranging from talk therapy to body-based interventions, to accommodate a variety of clients’ needs, preferences, and abilities.

I can’t speak for all states, but in New York, where I practice, licenses can be looked up online.

Know that help is within your financial reach

You can find a therapist within your budget. There are many qualified therapists who accept insurance and/or have sliding scale fees.

I see a lot of memes that say things like “shopping is cheaper than therapy” or things like that.

I think memes like these encourage a false perception of the accessibility of therapy and can discourage people from seeking help. Therapy can be as affordable as a copayment, but you’ve got to do your research.

Personality and modality are important

Find a therapist who works with your personality and your needs. I can’t tell you many times I’ve heard a new client say, “My last therapist just sat there and didn’t say anything.” That may be a sign of a mismatch.

Therapists and the treatment modalities they use can be more or less active.

Kira Yakubov, LMFT

Kira Yakubov

Founder and Lead Therapist, Heal Your Roots Wellness

It’s important that you feel comfortable with your therapist

This means finding someone with whom you feel safe sharing personal details and experiences.

Find a therapist that is similar to you

It may also be helpful to find a therapist with similar experiences, backgrounds, or identities to your own.

This is not always necessary, but it helps to feel like there is a level of reliability and understanding. This can help decrease the time spent on explaining basic information about your culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender.

Your therapist should have the necessary expertise to address your specific needs

Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that your therapist has the necessary expertise to address your specific needs. Consider what they specialize in, their years of experience, and the type of license they may have.

Look for someone who is supportive but honest

Your therapist should be someone you can rely on for support, but they shouldn’t sugarcoat things or tell you what they think you want to hear. They should be honest with you about your situation and how they see it progressing.

Always take advantage of the consultation call offered by most therapists

This is a great opportunity to get a feel for their personality and approach before committing to anything long-term. This is also the time to ask any questions about their experience, approach, scheduling availability, and fees.

By keeping these things in mind, you’re sure to find the right psychotherapist for you.

Daniel Ford

Daniel Ford

Founder and Principal Psychologist, The Better Sleep Clinic

There are two things I think are really important that clients look for in a therapist — because these are the primary determinants of treatment effectiveness, and I want my clients to get the best results/ achieve their therapy goals (and it doesn’t have to be with me).

Your therapist should provide evidence-based treatment

There is plenty of advice online about treatments for different conditions, and there are plenty of treatments. But only a few treatments are backed by high-quality scientific evidence. 

This will differ by disorder treated, but this is what a patient should seek if they want the best chance of success. 

The American Psychological Association (APA) has a resource that details evidence-based treatments according to diagnoses.   

Your therapist should be a good fit for you

Another major factor in treatment success is actually that you like your therapist, trust them, and they are a good fit for you. This is called the therapeutic alliance, and scientific evidence shows that this has a major impact on treatment success.

I always tell my clients this means I’ll try my best not to be a douchebag, but I acknowledge that I can’t guarantee they won’t find me to be a douchebag. 

Because I want them to get the best results, my job is to be as helpful as possible, and if that means helping them to find someone who is a better fit for them, then I’m totally okay with that.  

Lindsey Konchar, MSW, LGSW

Lindsey Konchar

Licensed Graduate Social Worker and Owner, Coping with Lindsey | Author, “I Got 99 Coping Skills and Being a B*tch Ain’t One

People need to ask themselves these questions

“When I envision myself in therapy, who do I feel most comfortable talking to?”

Close your eyes and envision who you feel most comfortable sitting in a room and sharing a fragile conversation with. If you’re not able to open up to the person sitting across the room, then really, what’s the point anyway?

“What do I want to accomplish while working with a therapist?”

Start with the end in mind. What is it that you want out of this new, important journey?

Educate yourself

There are more than 100 different types of therapy out there. Educate yourself on common therapy practices. This will help narrow down which type of therapy might be best for you and your goals.

Do the research

There are many tools available. Most importantly, read the therapist’s bio. Is their form of practice and specialty aligned with what you’re looking for? Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Starting therapy is no small feat, and you should be proud to take the first steps in the right direction.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I prepare for my first therapy session?

Your first therapy session can be nerve-wracking, but there are things you can do to prepare yourself:

Write down your goals: Think about what you want to accomplish in therapy and write down your goals. This will help you communicate your needs and expectations to your therapist.

Take notes: During the session, take notes on important points and insights you have gained. This will help you remember what you discussed and think about it later.

Be open and honest: Therapy is a safe place where you can share your thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. Be open and honest with your therapist so he or she can give you the best support and advice possible.

Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the therapy process and your therapist’s approach. Knowing what to expect can help reduce anxiety and improve your experience.

Is it okay to switch therapists if I’m not happy with my current one?

Yes, changing therapists is okay if you’re unhappy with your current one. Therapy is a personal process, and it’s important to find a therapist that is a good fit for you.

If you’re considering changing therapists, it’s a good idea to discuss your concerns with your current therapist first. They may be able to address your concerns or refer you to another therapist.

Remember that therapy is a journey, and it’s important to find the support and guidance that works best for you.

Is it normal to feel anxious or uncomfortable before a therapy session?

It’s normal to feel anxious or uncomfortable before a therapy session, especially if you’re new to therapy or want to discuss sensitive topics. However, therapy should provide a safe and supportive environment to address these feelings.

If you’re feeling anxious, it may be helpful to practice self-care before your session. This can include deep breathing, meditation, or activities that make you feel calm and relaxed.

It’s also important to communicate your feelings with your therapist. They can provide guidance and support to help ease your anxiety and make you feel better.

How long does therapy usually take?

The length of therapy depends on the person and the issues being treated. Some people may only need a few sessions to work through a particular problem, while others may benefit from longer-term therapy.

Typically, therapy sessions last 45-60 minutes and occur weekly or bi-weekly. However, the length and frequency of sessions can be adjusted to meet your individual needs and preferences.

Ultimately, the length of therapy depends on your goals and progress. Your therapist can work with you to determine which treatment plan is best for you.

What if I feel like my therapist isn’t helping me?

If you feel that your therapist isn’t helping you, it’s important that you discuss your concerns with them. Communication is key in therapy; your therapist can only help you if they know what isn’t working.

Try to be specific about what’s not working and what you’d like to improve. Perhaps your therapist can adjust their approach or provide you with additional resources to better support you.

If you’ve discussed your concerns with your therapist and still don’t feel like you’re making progress, it’s okay to find a new therapist. Remember that therapy is a personal process, and it’s important to find a therapist who is a good fit for you.

Is it normal to cry during therapy sessions?

Yes, it’s normal to cry during therapy sessions. Therapy can bring up a range of emotions, and crying can be a healthy way to release and process those emotions.

Your therapist will support you through this process and can show you coping strategies and techniques for dealing with your emotions.

If you’re uncomfortable crying or feel that you cry too much during sessions, it’s okay to share your concerns with your therapist. They can provide support and guidance to help you feel more comfortable.

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