Call or text us at +1 877-641-1155

How to find the right therapist for you
How to find the right therapist for you

How to find the right therapist for you

To get the most out of therapy, you need a good fit. Here’s how to find it.

Do you want to find a therapist, but feel unsure where to look? Have you scrolled through pages of therapist directories online that leave you feeling overwhelmed and uncertain?

The prospect of finding a therapist might seem so daunting that you give up without trying or settle for someone who doesn’t work well for you. These steps will help you find a therapist who fits your needs.

Illustration of person trying to find the right therapist
Illustrated by Joseph Moore
1. Determine your budget

How will you pay for therapy? Will you use health insurance or personal funds?

There are benefits and drawbacks to both. Finding a therapist who accepts your health insurance can be more challenging (see tips later in this article) but costs you less and assures certain protections for you. All therapists accepted by insurance panels must hold an active license to practice and abide by some basic standards of care.

Private pay therapy can be expensive, generally ranging from about $100-$200 per session, but it gives you access to a larger pool of therapists. The exact amount depends on where you live and factors related to the therapist, such as their training, years of experience and how in-demand they are in the community. In general, doctorate-level therapists (PhD or PsyD) will charge more for their services than master’s-level therapists (LPC, LMFT, LCSW, etc.).

Some therapists may offer a sliding scale, allowing clients to pay a reduced rate based on their income. Therapists don’t always advertise this, so make sure to ask them, especially if money is an important factor in your decision.

If you choose private pay therapy, make sure to check the therapist’s credentials. What is their degree? What training have they received? Are they licensed to practice therapy? See more about licensure below.

2. Figure out your therapy goals

Determining what you want to address in therapy will help you pick a therapist with the training, expertise, and therapy approach that will fit your goals.

  • Do you have specific issues that you want to work on?
  • Do you want a supportive listener to help you manage daily stressors?
  • Do you have a mental health diagnosis (or suspect you have one) and need a therapist to help you manage your symptoms and work toward recovery?

If you’re dealing with serious mental health issues and/or issues related to trauma, you’ll need a therapist who has specialized training in mental health disorders. Look for someone with a PhD, PsyD or LCSW degree who is licensed to practice and has expertise in the issues you’re struggling with.

3. Learn about therapy types

Different therapy approaches may fit your needs better than others. For example, if you want highly structured therapy that helps you address specific issues, cognitive-behavioral therapy might work well for you. If you want to take a deep dive into repressed emotions and unconscious influences affecting your current behavior, seek psychodynamic therapy.

You can learn more about therapy types here.

4. Ask your network

Getting referrals from people you trust is a great way to find a therapist. Make a list of possible therapists as you gather recommendations from different sources.

  • Friends or family. People who know you well may be able to judge whether a therapist they know would suit you. However, you probably want to avoid using the same therapist that a close friend or family member currently uses.
  • Doctors or other professionals. They might have therapists in their professional network that they would recommend.
  • Your college. If you’re in college, ask your student counseling center or student health center.
  • Your community. If you belong to a place of worship or other organization that promotes personal well-being, ask people within that community for recommendations.
  • Your employer. The human resources department at your workplace might be able to provide you with useful information. Larger employers might even offer an Employee Assistance Program for free short-term counseling and referrals.
5. Find therapists who take your insurance

One of the simplest ways to do this is to log into your insurer’s online portal. The portal will probably include a directory of in-network therapists with filters for location and specialty.

You may find that many of those therapists aren’t taking new patients because their schedules are full. If you’re not having success with the list, call your insurance carrier and ask them to help you find an available provider.

If you’re looking for therapists in Tennessee, Athena Care clinics take all major insurance and the website allows you to easily verify your insurance coverage. Here’s a listing of Athena Care providers.

6. Research therapists on your list

Most therapists publish online profiles that provide information about their services. Search online for their name and location if you don’t already have a web address for them. See more online resources below.

  • Make sure they’re licensed or actively working toward a license. If they’re working toward a license, ask for their status and the name of their supervisor. A license ensures the therapist has completed extensive training and education and applies to all fields within mental health, including school counseling and pastoral counseling. You wouldn’t go to a physician who wasn’t licensed, so don’t go to an unlicensed therapist either.
  • Look at their background, interests and areas of expertise.
  • Examine their cultural competence. Do they specialize in or welcome clients from your cultural or racial background? For example, if you’re part of the LGBTQIA+ community, you might feel more comfortable working with a therapist who advertises as LGBTQIA+ friendly.
  • Look at the types of therapy they offer.
  • Notice the payment information they advertise.
7. Contact a therapist and ask questions

Once you’ve selected one or more therapists, contact them directly.

  • Give them a brief summary of why you’re seeking therapy and what you’re looking for in a therapist.
  • Ask them questions about their therapy approach and whether they have experience working with people in similar situations.
  • Ask them questions about their cultural competence if you’re concerned that might be an issue. Have they worked with people from your community before? Do they have any specific training to work with clients like you?
8. If one doesn’t work, try another

Finding a good match may require some trial and error. If you don’t click with a therapist, go to the next one on your list. It’s normal for people to try a few before finding the right one.

While this process can feel tedious or stressful, it pays off in the end. Finding a therapist who supports you and your goals can be incredibly beneficial to you long-term, so don’t give up!

9. Red flags to watch out for

Here are some signs that a therapist might not be a good fit.

  • You don’t feel good around them. You should feel comfortable and supported by your therapist. While they may challenge you to process difficult emotions and unsettling truths, they should do so in a respectful manner. They should never judge you or lay personal opinions on you.
  • They claim to specialize in everything. This may indicate that they’re worried about attracting enough clients or that they’re not judging their strengths accurately. To truly gain expertise in a specialty requires lots of time and energy, and it’s usually not possible to excel at everything. As the saying goes, “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
  • They have inappropriate boundaries. It’s important that a therapist keeps their relationship with you professional. They shouldn’t try to be your good friend or ask to meet up with you outside of therapy. They should avoid oversharing their own experiences or the experiences of their other clients. The focus of therapy should be on you and not them.
10. Online resources to find a therapist

These databases include listings of mental health professionals.

Next Steps

If you’re struggling with stress, trauma, grief, depression, or other issues, a good therapist can help you cope and work toward recovery.

If you or someone you love is looking for a therapist in Tennessee, contact Athena Care.

One of our Care Coordinators will help you get the care you need.

Photo of Rachel Swan
Rachel Swan, MS

Rachel has a Masters of Science in Clinical Psychology from Vanderbilt University, where she spent 16 years as a Research Analyst in the Psychology and Human Development Department.