How Do You Find a Therapist? 5 Ways to Start Your Search

With these tips, you can find a therapist that meets your needs (and budget).

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Starting therapy may be intimidating, so you want to find a mental health professional you can trust. If you have never seen a therapist before, you might not have any idea about how to start your search. Here are some tips on how to find a therapist who will be a good fit for you and your budget.

What to Consider When Searching

It’s important to know that not every therapist is the same. For starters, they are humans with unique personalities, and you may “click” with some more than others. What’s more, therapists may specialize in treating particular issues (personality disorders, eating disorders, depression, trauma, etc.), as well as different therapy styles (family therapy, psychoanalysis, etc.).

No matter how you find a therapist, always check that they are:

  • Licensed to practice in your state
  • Accepting new patients
  • Located near you, or you have a convenient way to travel there
  • Able to accept your health insurance or offer payment on a sliding scale (meaning they adjust their fees based on your income)

Once you’ve got all that information, you can focus on finding someone that works for you.

Tips to Find a Therapist

1. Ask the people you know

Does an internet search overwhelm you? Ask around. If your friends and family like their therapist, you might, too. Just keep in mind that you may have different needs or a different budget than your loved one, so don’t force it if it’s not a good fit.

2. Ask your primary care doctor for a referral

No luck with your contacts? Ask your doctor for a referral. Physicians often have connections to other health professionals, including mental health professionals. Plus, they know your health needs better than anyone else. This means they may have good insight into which therapist can best help you address your mental health needs.

3. Check with your health insurance website

If you want to browse the internet to find your options, your health insurance website is a great place to start. Your health insurance may offer a search engine that shows only the health professionals who take your insurance. This way, you won’t have to waste your time double checking that a therapist who looks promising on paper actually accepts your insurance.

On most insurance websites, you can also filter your search by gender, areas of expertise, or even distance from your home. This way, you’ll be more likely to find a therapist who’s a good fit for you.

4. Try search engines like Psychology Today or the APA Psychologist Locator

If you don’t have health insurance or you just want to broaden your search, try search engines like Psychology Today or the APA Psychologist Locator. These are search engines from trusted mental health organizations. Many therapists keep updated profiles on these popular sites. These will also let you filter the results based on your needs, similar to health insurance searches.

FYI, there are also search engines specifically for finding Black or Latinx therapists.

5. Research your work or school resources

Many schools offer on-campus therapy. If you’re a student, this is not only a convenient option, but it may also be more affordable. Already working? See if your company offers mental health benefits. Some companies offer a certain number of free mental health consultations to employees who want them. After that, the consultant may help you find a therapist you can work with long term.

Reaching Out to a Potential Therapist

Once you find suitable options, make a top three. Then, try to set up a few initial phone consults to find a therapist who has openings and is the right fit for you. It’s not unusual for a therapist to not have any openings at a given time, so don’t be discouraged: Just dial the next number on your list.

That said, if you’re having a mental health crisis, you don’t need to wait to talk to someone. Call 9-1-1 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.