How to Find a Therapist, 5 Simple Steps

So you’ve made the decision that you’re ready to try therapy.  Now the hard part…how to find a therapist!  There are so many different mental health care providers out there.  And it can feel overwhelming and confusing to know where to look!  So today, I’m sharing the inside scoop on five super, simple ways to get started and find a therapist.

1.Check out Psychology Today’s directory.  Once you’re on the homepage, click on the “find a therapist” tab.  From there, you can enter your zip code, and voila, a list of therapists in your area will pop up. 

You can filter results by all sorts of criteria, including gender, area of expertise, and insurance accepted.  In addition, can also filter for therapists in your area or state that offer online therapy.  You can also read provider bios, check out photos, and learn more about their approach to therapy.  

Quick sidenote, therapists have to pay to be included in this directory, so you won’t see every provider in your area.  You’ll only see the therapists that pay the small monthly fee to be included in this list.  Nonetheless, lots of providers are listed here.  So if you’re wondering how to find a therapist, this is an awesome place to start.

2.Check with your health insurance provider.  If you have health insurance and are planning to use it to help cover the cost of therapy, contact your health insurance provider.  Ask for them for a list of in-network mental health care providers.  This is typically insurance slang for “people we’ll pay for you to see.”  This list is likely to be long and somewhat overwhelming, so just consider it a starting point.  Then you can compare this list with online profiles and reviews.

A quick note about online reviews, therapists aren’t allowed to solicit online reviews from clients.  It’s against our ethics code.  Mental health professionals put a huge value on the therapeutic relationship, so we never want to do anything that would jeopardize this.  We never want our clients to feel pressured to leave a public or positive review. 

In addition, there’s still somewhat of a stigma around seeking mental health treatment.  This means that many people don’t want to leave a public review about therapy.  So, don’t be surprised if you don’t see a lot of online reviews for a therapist you want to see.

3.Ask friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers.  This tip might sound like a no brainer, but a lot of people forget this step!  These are the people in your circle, and they’re people you know well.  You probably have a good idea about their judgement, style, and taste, so their recommendations will carry more weight. 

When we moved to the Chicago area nearly nine years ago, I had to find all new service and healthcare providers.  A new hair stylist, a new dermatologist, a new dentist, a new primary care doctor, a new dry cleaner…you get the picture.  

And you know how I found all of those people?  I asked the people I worked with and lived near.  Sure, asking about a dry cleaner is less personal than asking about a therapist, but it’s the same process. Sometimes, it can feel a little scary to ask people for a referral.  Perhaps you don’t want anyone to know you’re going to therapy.  So, if you have to pull the whole “my friend is trying to find a therapist” card, that’s okay too.  

Sometimes, it can feel a little scary to ask people for a referral.

4.Call your nearest college counseling center.  Think college counseling centers are just for students?  Well, in truth, they mostly are.  However, college counseling centers usually keep tailored and up to date lists of therapists in the area.  So Google the closest college or university to you, followed by the word “counseling.” 

Once you have a result, call their office and say something like this. “Hi, my name is Allison, and I live in the area.  I’m trying to find a therapist, and I know college counseling centers often keep a list of local providers.  Could you please pass along some names of local providers?  I would really appreciate it.”  While they aren’t guaranteed or obligated to help, most centers will be happy to help point you in the right direction.

5.If you know an acquaintance in the mental health field, ask them if they know anyone in your area.  Even if you mental health professional friend doesn’t live in your area, they will likely know providers in various parts of the country.  Most of us have gone to school and done additional training for several years, and we’ve met and trained with lots of people along the way.  Many of us have gone in different directions, spreading all across the world, so there’s a chance we know someone in your area!

And, if you’re concerned about stigma, you can rest assured, we won’t judge.  We spent a lot of time and money investing into our field, and most of us have spent time as clients in therapy, so we believe in it!

Recognizing you need help is the first step.

Finding a mental health provider can be tricky, but like the cliché says, recognizing you need help is the first step.  Hopefully, the second step, finding a provider, now feels a little bit more manageable!

PS: Wondering what to expect at your first therapy appointment?  Here’s an idea of what you can expect.

10 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing the advice that one of the first things you should do when looking for a therapist is to see if they are covered by your health insurance provider. My sister is struggling with depression and she wants to find a therapist who is affordable, so I will tell her to get a list of therapists in her network and work from that list. Also, I think it would be great for my sister to visit with potential therapists and find out if they specialize in helping patients with depression because they will have the experience to help my sister.

  2. My sister has been struggling with her mental health recently, and I suggested she start visiting a therapist or psychiatrist to help her with this. Your article had some great tips for choosing someone like this, and I liked how you said to consider a list of in network providers as a starting point, and to then to compare this list with online reviews, biographies, distance, or any other important variables. Thanks; I’ll share this with my sister to help her choose a therapist that can help with mental health issues.

  3. I feel like my mental health has been declining ever since going to college, so I want to find a counselor. Thanks for the great tips to ask the insurance provider for counselor referrals. These tips could really help me improve my mental health, so thanks for sharing them.

  4. My sister has been having some trouble interacting with her son, and I suggested she start taking him to a child psychiatrist. Your article had some great tips my sister could use for choosing someone like this, and I liked how you said to consider contacting an insurance provider that will give a list of “in-network” therapist that my sister can use as a starting point. From here, she can research potential options online, and I’ll share this with her to help her choosing a therapist or psychiatrist for her son.

  5. Thanks for the tip to ask family and friends about where you could find counseling. My wife could use some counseling to help her get through a hard time she is currently facing. I will be sure to start asking friends about counseling services in the area.

  6. I like how the article explains that you should check with your health insurance provider to find a therapist because going to a therapist that is in your insurances network can help to cover the cost of going to therapy. My whole life I have suffered from anxiety and depression and I am wanting to talk to a therapist about it finally but I don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars to talk to someone. Going through my insurance will help me to afford to go to a therapist.

  7. It’s really good to know that therapists aren’t allowed to solicit online reviews because they don’t want their clients to feel pressured. Personally, I think this shows that the reviews that you do see are accurate and trustworthy. I’ll have to look further into mental health therapy.

  8. Mental health isn’t something that should be taken lightly. I’m pretty sure that one or more of my family members is suffering from some sort of ailment. As you said, it would be a good idea to ask friends and family members to see if they have used any counseling service before, and to see how they were. I’ll for sure have to do that for my family members.

  9. I didn’t know that your health insurance provider can give you a list of mental health care providers that are available to you. My wife is interested in going to therapy but she isn’t sure where to start when it comes to finding a therapist, the whole situation is making her more anxious. I will let her know that we can narrow down her potential options by calling our health insurance company.

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