Comments on
10 Ways to Find a Good Therapist

By Elvira G. Aletta, Ph.D.

When we want to improve our bodies we pretty much know where to find help. This time of year the gyms are full and the meeting rooms at Weight Watchers are packed. But what do we do when we want to improve our inner selves, …

27 Comments to
10 Ways to Find a Good Therapist

Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines. The comments below begin with the oldest comments first. Click on the last comments page to jump to the most recent comments.

  1. That is very true. But You can get always get a full medical coverage at the lowest price from http://bit.ly/68ShhE if you do your home work you can
    find the best plan.

  2. As a therapist and clinical social worker many of the therapists I refer clients to are therapists whom I’ve met at conferences and whom I’ve had the privilege of hearing speak. Therefore I know that they’re qualified. Conversely, the therapists whom I’ve had the best personal success with as a client have published writings. The benefit of this was that I was able to get a feeling for the work they do before starting with them.

    Over half of the work I currently do with clients is being done over the telephone. (Visit my blog at: http://www.effectivefamilycommunication.com for more information about this). But regardless of whether it’s in person or over the telephone and regardless of where the referal is coming from, the most important thing to remember (which this article neglected to state) is:
    TRUST YOUR INTUITION!!!

  3. The problem with trusting our intuition is that sometimes our intuition leads us to what is familiar rather than to what will be helpful. As a trauma survivor, I was repeatedly drawn to therapists with poor boundaries because that’s what felt “right” and normal to me. What I needed to do, and this took many years of mistakes and disastrous treatment before I learned it, was to work with a therapist whose style felt uncomfortable and distant to me. That has been enormously helpful in teaching me that poor boundaries don’t equate with true caring and concern, and that good interpersonal boundaries do not mean that the person is uncaring and cold. Discovering this through years of hard work with a therapist committed to sticking with me despite my sometimes harrowing difficulties in respecting his boundaries has taught me more about myself and my patterns in relationships than I ever thought possible. It gave me the tools I needed to break free from a lifetime pattern of trusting a faulty intuition that repeatedly led me to develop relationships with other people who had poor boundaries like myself.

    • Wow, I have not thought of boundaries (or lack there-of) in this manner. I currently have poor boundaries myself and look upon strict boundaries as lacking trust or care. I am giving this some significant thought and reconsidering the way I build relationships. As such, I am reconsidering the way I will approach my therapy. Thank you for your insight!

    • Such an important point, Bonnie. I have had a similar experience with my own long-term therapist; I initially believed I needed someone ‘warmer’. I know now that her good boundaries felt frightening to me, because I didn’t know how to read her/manage my own anxiety regarding her being a separate person.

  4. Plus, if you live in Australia, getting a referral from the GP means that you will get a rebate off the therapy sessions price.

  5. Why not look for a therapist on craiglist? I post there all the time. It’s free. It reaches my target market of young adults. I link to my webpage with pages of information about my approach. I also have a listing on PT, which costs more than every other marketing source I use combined and generates very few leads and seems to be used mainly by older people, outside of my target market who don’t know how to use the internet to find things very well. I have an MA in Counselling Psychology, years of experience, and try to reach my clients where I am likely to find them. If you don’t like craigslist, don’t use it, but don’t slam those of us who do.

  6. Also, when promoting the PT website, you might want to mention that the PT site is the source of the therapist listing on PsychCentral, so that people know that you are recommending the directory that is used by the site you work for. I think PT is a bad resource for therapists with their own website–there are dozens and dozens of therapist listed for my city. And it can be overwhelming for clients to have to try to sort out whom to contact, especially with the tiny 200-words of informatino therpists are allowed to provide. PT is a good way of finding out which therapists have read one of the dozens of How To Write a PT Listing that Attracts Clients, and gives little useful information about a therapst and has nothing to do with how effective a therapist is.

    Again, not surprisng you list the directory used by your employers are PsychCentral as the best source.

  7. Good and varied suggestions for finding a therapist, Dr. Aletta. I especially appreciated your suggestion of Google as a search engine or go to Yahoo.com and type in the name your are researching. The internet is clearly a thumbprint for learning and doing some research about anyone.

    I would also consider a compassionate listener for a therapist, one who can hold our pain because he or she has identified his or her own personal agonies. I am of the belief that a therapist cannot take us beyond where he or she is emotionally – not even in the abstract.

    I would also consider a therapist who holds a spiritual belief system and works within a frame work of appreciating that we are all brothers and sisters and when one of us in the earthly web is in pain we all feel the suffering.

    Lastly, I think finding an encouraging, hopeful therapist vital because sometimes we don’t think we will make it and we need someone to tell us that we will.

    Kind regards,
    Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S., CGP

  8. For those fortunate to have insurance and are in a market with many treatment options: May I suggest my approach to at least narrowing down which therapists to consider: On y our insurance website, Print out a hard copy of ALL therapists within a certain radius of your zip code- 100, 200 of them is a good size – alphabetical is the best format. Then print out a “preferred list” and compare the two…I used bios printed out from PT.
    The PT list great for first, finding therapists with the wrong specialties and crossing them off! From there – I had several dozen bios of those interested in my needs. Cross check to see who is on your inrurance list. Remember that insurance lists can be incomplete, so if you really like someone – call then first and ask them directly, (Same goes for double checking the insurance thing with all other therps you contact.) Anyway, you will wind up with a decent-sized list of interesting therapists who also take your insurance plan. Then dedice on an order to contact them – closest first? MSWs first?
    Then, the most important work: call to see who has openings, do the initial phone screening – and whenever you can, initial visit. And ask beforehand to get the initial visit FREE because you are interviewing THEM as the customer, too. And if it is not a match, ask for the names of “2 or 3″ colleagues – a little appreciation went a long way for me in one therapist digging deep on my behalf. And don’t give up.

  9. Thanks so much for all your comments. Just to be clear, I only meant this article to be about collecting a few names of potential therapists, the first step in the process. The next steps are about narrowing down the field, making the initial appointment and finally, assessing whether or not the they are a good fit for you going forward.

    All additions to finding a good therapist are greatly appreciated. Everyone makes good points.

    Bo, I did mention that Psychology Today in used by PsychCentral, although not explicitly. I said “this website.” I appreciate what you say about craigslist. My caveat has to do with many unqualified people advertising services there which may be difficult for a lot of people to navigate.

    Cross referencing, not just using one source, as suggested by several commenters is a very good idea.

  10. Another excellent way of finding a good therapist:

    If you have found a book to be particularly helpful, such a a book on marriage or self-esteem. The book may have mentioned a type or style of therapy used by or recommended by the author, such as cognitive therapy or emotionally focused couple therapy or imago therapy.

    You can look these up on the inter-net and often find a link to therapists in the area who use these methods.

    Or

    You can simply type the name of the author or book and he or she may have a website with links for therapists that have studied their treatment style.

  11. Go through your list such as from your EAP provider or insurance. Start making phone calls. If you find a some relatively hard to make an appointment with such as 6,8 weeks out make an appointment with one of them. However, if you find they can see you next week or 2 or 3 weeks, then you might avoid those!

  12. For those without insurance, try calling your local community mental health agency. Local crisis centers can provide leads for people. Word-of-mouth advertising is reliable. Asking other personally known professionals (dentist, family doctor) or a priest, rabbi or minister can be helpful. If the counselor can provide the initial assessment free-of-charge, it can be at that time when the decision to continue or not is made.

  13. My first choice in finding a good therapist/psychologist would be to ask which ones work well with my psychiatrist. Since it is important to build a “team” for your support system, finding professionals that work well together is a key factor. After getting some names, I would check to see that they were covered by insurance and then make an appointment with one of them… and continue down the list until I found one that I could work well with.

  14. a good therapist must be unbiased and with no religious affiliation–prefer an athiest or agnostic person and be very logical in thinking.

    I’m totally unbiased and freethinking and gay. Also a male therapist who’s gay would be more understanding.

    a female therapist is too maternalistic in thinking. A gay male point of view is helpful.

    Thankyou,

    Fastrabbit

  15. It’s a shame but we tend to put more thought into finding the right car to buy than finding the right therapist to go to.
    Finding a good therapist is often done by word of mouth or through ones Primary Care Physician. Then you have to interview them and decide if you might be able to work with the therapist. If you don’t feel it is a good fit, leave and don’t look back. You don’t have to stay, your not obligated. Shop around. Phone Books and the Internet are ways to advertise but it doesn’t mean you know what (who) you are getting. Be careful of the therapist who is an expert in everything.

    There are many types of therapists and therapies.
    Some Psychiatrists only prescribe medications (medication management)and only spend about 15 – 20 minutes with you after your initial consultation. They may or may not take insurance and can be very expensive.
    Some Psychiatrists provide both medication management and therapy. They offer both an expertise in medicine and mental health but may not take insurance and can be very expensive and are not necessarily any better than other therapists. You don’t always get what you pay for no matter what Freud said
    Some Mental Health Psychiatric Nurse work with Psychiatrist and only provide medication management but many also combine both strong medical and mental health knowledge to provide both medication management and therapy. They usually accept insurance.
    Psychologists, PsyD’s, Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Licensed Certified Counselors have a stong background in Mental health. They provide therapy but with the exception of a few Psychologist, they do not have the medial knowledge and are not licensed to prescribe medicatioin. They will refer you to another provider for medication management. Most of these therapist accept insurance.
    Credentials are important but so is experience. No matter who you choose to see for therapy, it is imperative that you feel comfortable enough with the person to develop a strong therapeutic alliance /relationship. It is in that alliance /relationship that you can begin to heal. You must be able to trust and feel safe with your therapist. Bottom line is your mental health. If you don’t feel you are getting better with your therapist….don’t wait 2 or 3 years to change. Move on.
    Hope this is helpful in some way.

  16. Psychology Today has some “therapist” listed who are not licensed in their state but are “pastoral or spiritual counselors”. They often say they are licensed because they join a pseudo-professional group that calls their membership a “license”. This is not state licensure and is and to make them look legitimate. While most of psychology today appear to be properly licensed, there are some who are not trained and practicing illegally.

  17. For those seeking Group Therapy, a great resource to check is FindGroupTherapy.Com (www.findgrouptherapy.com) – a large directory site of therapy groups nationwide. Mental Health Professionals are encouraged to add their group listings.

  18. Great article. Thanks for addressing this issue with such care. I think it’s critical that you meet with several (at least 3) clinicians before you plant yourself in the treatment. Also a very interesting point made by Bonnie B. in response to your article– the issue of “trusting your intuition” is a complicated one, clinically speaking. Certainly, you want to be sure you feel safe with the therapist you decide to work with, but sometimes, therapists that make you a little uncomfortable (in the right way) are doing the deeper work– that work that makes you have to stretch and grow. Sometimes, you might even have to feel worse in order to
    feel better.

  19. Thank you for the very thoughtful and helpful article on finding a good therapist. Your inclusion of the Skype/phone option was a wise one, especially for patients in rural areas or living abroad. As a clinical psychologist in Pasadena, CA, I’ve tried to help a few patients find therapy referrals for family members living in small cities. It’s been very difficult to find good clinicians for those people who are living outside of large cities– Skype/phone tx is a wonderful alternative in those cases.

    Another thought when looking for a good therapist– for those with a limited budget needing a more intensive type of psychotherapy, contact a local psychoanalytic institute (if you live in a big city). Many institutes offer lower fee “psychodynamic” or “psychoanalytic” style therapy with skilled and often very seasoned clinicians. For those who have grown suspicious of long-term and intensive psychotherapy, there is a great article that details all the empirical (research) evidence supporting the benefits of psychodynamic psychotherapy. In fact, several studies suggest that this type of therapy has longer-lasting positive effects than cognitive behavioral therapy. Unfortunately, the research highlighting the benefits of psychodynamic treatment is not very widely disseminated, and there is a definite push towards shorter-term treatments by the insurance companies, even though certain conditions (chronic anxiety & depressions complicated by personality disorders) respond more positively to the psychodynamic approach to treatment. Here’s a link to this study: http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/amp-65-2-shedler.pdf

  20. Good thoughts, Dr. Aletta. I’ve been advertising with Psychology Today since its inception. It is a good resource for sure– one of the first out there to offer profiles for the public’s perusal of various therapist and psychologists. Only problem i have with them is that they were “overly-inclusive”– there are so many names in their directory now that there that it no longer serves as a referral source for me. Just not the best value from an advertiser’s point of view, but still good for the consumer, since there are so many profiles to review.

  21. Ask your accountant? Are you for real? WTF would an accountant know and why would I want to ask them that. It would be totally awkward.

    I think a big issue you forgot to mention is the approach a therapist takes and how that meets your needs. I don’t know about the US, but here in Australia there are associations for different branches os psychotherapy.

  22. So far the best advice comes from Ben Klempner, MSW, check to see who has published. That way at least you know you’ve found someone passionate enough to write for purposes of change for the better. Or you found another egotist who thinks they can save the world one patient on their couch at a time.

    Personally, I have had a terrible time finding someone. Psychologists are not rated, not required to be rated. We need them to be. We need a numeric scale for this too often ambiguous trade. 1 being least helpful in a disease or category and 5 would be most helpful. e.g. Locality 3. Child psychology 2. Trauma recovery 3. Adults 4. Bipolar 3. Abuse 5. Menopause 2. Women specialty 4. Men 3. Sexuality 2. Seniors 5. and so forth.

    Of course the arrogance and narcissism within psychology means this will never get done. It allows patients make judgments about who they are based on the numbers they currently hold, and “not my long developed methodology that makes me different from my peers!”

  23. Many people like the convenience of online therapy and it is certainly a good choice if you are living abroad or if you cannot leave home. I have helped many clients recover from agoraphobia and chronic anxiety via Skype.

  24. As a trauma victim, I will never trust another therapist EVER. I’d say to be very careful in telling them how you feel, which is what I thought you went to them for. As a rape/hostage/assault victim, once released from the hospital and while in the hospital hooked up to a heart monitor, my therapist sent me an email to dismiss himself as my therapist. I am left with no doctor, medicine, therapist and no not calling 911 or some local crisis center and having to start my trauma all over again. Through with therapist as this one only wanted the money, 2-3 times a week, I drove 2 hrs. to see him for 5 months, the night of the hospital I was having he said flashbacks from the truama, don’t remember anything of that night and even while in the hospital or after hardly which he had said was part of the the PTSD. Well if so, then where is he Don’t Therapist have certain professional code of ethics to have to be accountable for. I was left in a crisis, past opened up and it had taken me 30 years to find someone to open up to and I have to say although just a LPC, he had made me feel safe enough to open up to, not angry, just hurt as a patient and left very depressed and I will never ever be able to find peace ever in my life because the trauma from this experience has left me in a deep depression and I didn’t even have depression before he betrayed me and ran away during my darkest time in dealing with this. He had said, I will be right there with you, I can handle this, I won’t quit, I won’t let you quit, you can tell me anything…etc. etc NEVER AGAIN. God will be the only therapist I will ever trust. I’d say to be sure you check reviews, ask at your church, ask friends, look at their training, don’t just go to a LPC…although he was easy to talk to, etc. I think he just didn’t know how to react in a crisis situation and it has given me no hope to ever find the peace. He knows the rapist lives in my town and I can’t go to anyone here. NOTHING that could happen to me now can top the trauma he has caused me. I trusted him and to be honest it just hurts. I encourage Rape victims to see help when it first happens, in my day, you didn’t do that, you just didn’t.. I lived with this for 30 years and I only wanted a little bit of peace.. just peace.

  25. Whenever you are selecting a therapist make sure that you feel comfortable talking to him or her and that their approach feels right for you. Also, think about Online Therapy – it has a lot of advantages over older styles of therapy, especially if using Skype.

  26. These are very sound suggestions for what is a difficult task. Right fit is required on so many levels. I would add that specific training in the area of concern is absolutely essential. Sure many therapists will claim to treat everything from A to Z, but even if there is some truth, you really don’t want to be treated by a Jack-of-all-trades. For example, an addiction counselor should have CASAC or something similar, and for couples, training/certification, e.g., Imago, EFT or Gottman, makes a huge difference. Never be afraid to ask for specific qualifications – they are essential!

Join the Conversation!

Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines.

Post a Comment:


(Required, will be published)

(Required, but will not be published)

(Optional)

Recent Comments
  • Jolene Smith: I was in a mental hospital once and I can say that there is zero coffee, weak or otherwise. Also, it...
  • Kevin: Great article, thank you, it’s so easy to lose your creativity at times when you’re constantly...
  • Laura: Love this article!! So true!
  • Gays4Gals: Successful integration of one’s gay individuality directly into ones feeling involving self applied...
  • Bianca S: Awesome suggestions! Thank you for sharing these with your readers. I think most people say they want to go...
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter


Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code



Users Online: 8029
Join Us Now!