Finding the Right Therapist
Updated: Jan 17
Congratulations! You’ve decided to take that first step in getting help by finding a therapist. This is an incredibly challenging step – it takes courage to be vulnerable with someone about your feelings.
Where and How to Look
But finding the right therapist can be tricky. Knowing where and how to begin your search is important. Below are some short tips on where to start:
Ask your friends and community – If you feel comfortable, ask your friends if they have seen a therapist that they would recommend. Or, you can ask other members of local groups in which you belong, including Facebook. Here in the NYC area, Park Slope Parents is a great resource to ask for recommendations. You can even ask your question anonymously!
Ask your primary care provider or psychiatrist (or your child’s pediatrician) – Your doctor is also a good resource and can likely provide you with the names of several therapists in the area.
Look online – Depending on what you would like to address in therapy, you can use professional association membership listings to find a great therapist near you. Here are some of my favorite associations:
Research and Interview
Once you have a short-list of potential therapists, you will want to think about what factors are important to you. Most therapists will offer a free phone consultation where you can ask questions and tell them about what you are looking for in a therapist and in your treatment.
In addition to questions about location, cost, and availability, other questions to consider in your search may include:
What is their degree and educational background?
There are many types of mental health professionals in this field – psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors, marriage and family therapists, etc. No one type is better than the other, though different types of mental health professionals may emphasize different processes in their treatment. Be wary of anyone who claims to be a therapist but who has not completed the proper training and licensure. However, some therapists are still in training to complete their degree – these therapists work under close supervision of a licensed professional.
Do you want to be seen in person or virtually?
Research has found that telehealth is as effective as in-person therapy for many disorders. Depending on your concerns, virtual sessions may be a viable option for you.
Does the therapist have specialized training in what you are struggling with? While a good therapeutic alliance and rapport can be helpful, in some cases specialized training is needed to adequately address certain issues (such as substance abuse, OCD, or borderline personality disorder). You may also want to consider how much experience the therapist has in working with clients like you or in the issues that you want to resolve.
What treatments do they offer?
Some issues respond better to specific treatment approaches, such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) for anxiety and depression, DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) for borderline personality disorder and self-harm, E/RP (Exposure and Response Prevention) for OCD, and PCIT (Parent-Child Interaction Therapy) for disruptive behavior issues in children.
If you are looking for a therapist for your child, does the therapist include parents in the treatment?
Parents are an important part of their children’s mental health recovery plan! It is essential to feel as though you are working as a team with your child’s therapist so that you can best support your child in their treatment. Frequent check-ins and even family sessions can help with skills generalization, improved communication, and creating a supportive environment at home.
How long will treatment last?
While it is impossible to predict exactly how many sessions someone may need to get relief in therapy, many evidence-based treatments are designed to be short-term.
Rapport and Relationship
Because of the personal and emotional nature of this journey, you likely want to find a therapist who you feel connected with. You deserve to feel heard, validated, and comfortable being vulnerable without fear of judgment. However, don’t expect a perfect fit right away. Building a relationship can take a few sessions. If you don’t think you are a good match after a few sessions, you can always end therapy and ask for a referral.
When you have a good relationship with your therapist, it is easier to be honest, to accept feedback, and to work on the difficult issues that brought you to them in the first place. Once you have found the right therapist for you, you can work together on your treatment plan and get to making changes that will help you live a life in line with your values.