How to Choose a Therapist

What factors to consider when choosing a therapist and how to make the decision that’s best for you
Medically Reviewed by
Dr Hamilton
A woman's hands type on a laptop as she searches for the right therapist
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So you’ve decided to start therapy — that’s excellent! Don’t let your forward momentum be stalled by your uncertainty of how to choose a therapist.

Making the choice to care for your mental health is a huge first step, and it’s important to find the right therapist to help you on this journey. But with so many therapy services and so many types of therapy and providers out there, the options can feel overwhelming. 

Choosing a therapist is, in some ways, like a combination of job-hunting and dating: you want to find a good fit, someone who challenges you but also makes you feel comfortable and safe. Credentials might matter more to some people (especially if you need medication or a diagnosis), while other factors like a shared background matter more to others. It’s all about identifying your unique needs and seeking someone who fits them.

Ironically, it would be helpful to have a therapist to guide you as you figure this stuff out, but since that’s a bit of a catch-22, we’re here to help with some general advice.

Youper’s providers are all experts on anxiety and depression

A man on a sofa reads reviews of therapists
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Getting started with your search

This first part requires the least internal work (figuring out what might work best for you) but is also the most overwhelming in terms of sheer numbers. Some ways to narrow the search from the get-go include:

  • Ask around for referrals. If you’re comfortable sharing your search with friends and family or other people whose opinions you trust, you might be able to get a few personal referrals, which can be a great way to start your list.
  • Find online lists. Professional organizations like the American Psychological Association frequently have lists of licensed providers, and your local mental health centers should also have provider lists. You can also start with your insurance company’s website, if you have coverage, or search for terms like ‘therapists in [your city]’ or ‘top therapists in [specialty]’ (we’ll talk about specialties below, too).
  • Read online reviews. Websites like Yelp and Healthgrades have consumer reviews of all kinds of healthcare providers, and that includes mental health professionals. While it’s important to remember that each review is just one person’s opinion, reading them can give you a sense of which providers might be a good fit for you.

Licensing and specialty

If you already know what kind of provider you want to work with or which type of therapy you’re interested in, you’re ahead of the game — you can limit your search specifically to psychologists or marriage and family therapists or behavioral coaches, or search for specialists in psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). 

But if you’re not sure which kind of treatment plan would be best for you, or even what any of those terms mean, you’ll probably want to do a little more research to narrow your list. Some questions to consider as you learn more about your options:

  • Are you interested in exploring your past experiences and the ways they might be affecting your present life (in which case you may want to look into psychotherapy), or are you more interested in making immediate changes to your thought patterns and behaviors (in which case CBT is likely a good place to start)?
  • Do you think you might need medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment alongside your therapy? If so, consider seeking out someone who can partner with a psychiatrist or your family doctor so the option for prescribing medication is on the table.
  • Are you looking to build a long-term relationship with your potential therapist or do you just want someone who’ll focus on helping you get results faster?
  • How important is it that your provider is licensed, and how much does their level of education and experience matter to you? 

Logistical and financial considerations

Therapy sessions are usually regular and fairly frequent, often weekly, so fitting them in can be a challenge — especially if you work a demanding job. And then there’s the matter of cost, which, especially if you don’t have insurance, can be a serious barrier to entry.

If scheduling during standard office hours is going to be an issue, it might be worth looking into online therapy or seeing if you can find a provider who does Saturday sessions.

If your budget is tight, don’t give up — there are ways to make therapy affordable even on a limited income.

Personality and demographic fit

Last but far from least is the emotional fit — the vibe, if you will. 

Some of this can be assumed based on your comfort level with certain demographic characteristics, such as whether the therapist is a man or a woman (or nonbinary) or what kind of ethnic background they come from. Remember that therapy is an incredibly vulnerable process, so don’t ignore any instincts that pop up about providers you might not feel quite as safe with.

Other elements of the fit will be easier to gauge during a brief conversation with each of your prospective therapists. Most good therapists will offer an initial phone conversation to see if you’re a good fit for each other, during which you can ask any questions you might have about how their process and personality will work for you.

The process of choosing a therapist takes time and effort, but it’ll be worth it when you start working with someone who really understands you and is equipped to help you take control of your mental health.

At Youper, all of our providers are caring, active listeners who are dedicated to helping their patients improve their lives. Plus, our 24/7 chat is available to support you anytime, anywhere.

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