How do you find a therapist that is right for you?

19 September 2015

If you’ve ever had to find a therapist you can attest to how difficult it can be to wade through the pages of therapists listed in common therapist listings such as Psychology Today. Or maybe you live in an area in which there were only one or two therapists to choose from and neither look that appealing.  Either way, choosing a therapist can be a daunting task.  After all, you’re choosing someone who you’ll be sharing some pretty personal stuff with so it is a lot more pressure to find someone who will “get you” 

Ideally of course you’d be able to share with family and friends that you looking for a therapist and they would give you some great recommendations.  Other professionals can also be a good referral source. Doctors, Nurses, School counselors, Attorneys, even Realtors, are often connected with local therapists. But many times you aren’t able to get a referral that will work for you or you may not be comfortable sharing that you are looking for a therapist so you are left to your own devices. This often means starting with a search on Google.  

The truth is there is no simple formula for finding a good therapist.  We’ve all had the experience of dealing with a professional who was abrupt or off-putting but then shrugged it off by telling ourselves that they were great at their job so their poor communication style didn’t matter. How many times have you called someone a “great Doctor” because they spent extra time with you at the appointment and really listened to you.  Or that you love your dentist because they take extra time to help ease your anxiety before getting dental work done.  In both cases, it is not the skill or the years of experience that made them great but that they made you feel heard and understood and even cared about. In therapy, your therapist can have all the technical skills in the world but if you don’t feel that connection, support, and trust, you are not likely to get far in your treatment.    

So how do you find that perfect therapist when you have a list of names and websites to look through?

  1. Before you even start looking you have to determine how you’re going to pay for therapy. If you wish to use your insurance then you’ll already have your search narrowed to therapists who are in network with your insurance. If you are going to pay privately or use out of network benefits then you’ll have more therapists to choose from.
  1. Where the therapist is located. Think about whether you need to find a therapist close to home, school or work.  Do you think you’ll try and make appointments during your lunch break at work?  Or will you want a therapist close to home so you can go on your day off?  There are some areas that are saturated with therapists, meaning that you will find plenty to choose from while others will have fewer to choose from so you may want to consider that it could be worth the time to make the longer drive if the local ones aren’t a good fit.
  1. Read through their qualifications and specialties. While most therapists have experience with a range of populations and issues, many will specify which populations and issues they work with. There are also some populations that are more specialized than others, such as children and couples.  Not all therapists work well with children, and not all therapists will see couples.  This is because additional skills and experience are helpful in working with these populations so you want to look for a therapist that possesses these whenever possible.  
  1. Look at their picture. Most therapists will have at least one picture of themselves on their website or directory listing.  I’ll let you in on a secret. Therapists know that potential clients want to see pictures of them so they can get a sense of whether this is a person they could connect with so they try and post a picture that will reflect this. You may be drawn to one therapist over another, based simply on their picture and that is ok.  You may also have a preference for a therapist of a particular gender.
  1. Visit their website. If you’re looking at therapists on a directory such as look to see if they have a link to their website.  Directories often only let therapists post the cliff notes version of what they do.  You will be able to gather a lot more information from their website. Their website should also have information on specific fees, insurances, and how to contact them to schedule an appointment.   Most websites will have an “About” page and this is where you’ll usually be able to learn more about the therapist.  When you’re reading through this think to yourself whether the therapist’s message speaks to you and fits what you’re hoping to gain in therapy. 
  1. Take advantage of the phone consultation. Some therapists offer a free phone consultation. This is usually brief and in no way meant to be a therapy session. But during this time, you will be able to ask any questions you have and get a good sense of whether the therapist is someone who is going to be a good fit.  Even if the therapist doesn’t offer a phone consultation pay attention to how the initial phone call goes. While there is no real therapy happening during the phone call, if you are treated rudely or feel like your questions aren’t being answered that could be a red flag.
  1. Remember, it is never too late. Even if you make it to the initial session and then start to see a therapist, you always have the option of speaking up if you feel that you aren’t connecting with your therapist or that you aren’t a good fit.  If you’re concerned about not being a good fit, your therapist would much rather you speak up and either change their approach or refer you to a colleague who may be a better fit. A good therapist will want you to find the therapist that is right for you, even if it isn’t them.

Bina Bird, MA is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist serving Haslet and the surrounding DFW areas.  Learn more about me at or call 817.676.8858 for a free phone consultation.  I work with individuals, children/adolescents, couples and families. My specialties include couples, preteens/adolescents, and women's issues-infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy loss, postpartum and other life transitions.  

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