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Chapter 8: Sources of Possible Therapists

Now that you have some idea of what you’re looking for, it’s time to start considering your choices. There are more therapists practicing than ever before, but they can be tough to find.

Most therapists don’t advertise their services. Instead, they rely on word-of-mouth and referrals from other professionals. Finding a good therapist can take some digging, but it’s well worth the effort.

At this stage, just pick up as many names as possible. You’ll work to whittle this list down later, but it’s best to start with as many options as possible.


Many people who experience psychological or mental health problems seek help from their primary care physician first. Doctors prescribe medications for some people, and refer others on to specialists. For this reason, your doctor probably knows about some of the local mental health professionals and should be willing to pass along a few

Because of professional courtesy and liability concerns, most doctors will not share any negative information about a potential therapist. Keep in mind that many doctors have a short list of “go to” therapists that they recommend for a majority of their patients, so you’re probably not going to get an exhaustive list of every available therapist.

Friends and Family

Be sensitive about who you approach for this kind of information. For some people, therapy is such an intensely personal and confidential experience that they don’t talk about it outside the office. Others feel a stigma attached to mental heath issues and would prefer to keep their treatment a secret.

Friends and family members who are willing to share are a great resource because they’re usually not shy about sharing their opinions. They can pass along information and impressions about therapists that you won’t get from professional sources.


Members of the clergy help people with difficult personal problems all the time. Most refer to a counseling professional when the issues are more psychological than spiritual in nature.

The clergy are especially attuned to therapists’ attitudes toward religion and spirituality, so they can be a good source if you’re looking for a religious counselor or a secular therapist who understands your beliefs and can work with them respectfully.

Like doctors and other professionals, members of the clergy usually rely on a few trusted therapists for most of their referrals, so don’t expect a complete list of local providers.

Health care Professionals

Friends or acquaintances who work in health care may also be willing to share information about therapists they’ve worked with or heard about. Those who work in mental health settings will be especially well-connected to the local providers.

While speaking with health care professionals, keep in mind that their impressions can be influenced by issues that have nothing to do with the quality of the therapist’s work. A medical receptionist, for example, may hold a negative opinion of a therapist who is difficult to work with from an administrative standpoint.

Insurance Company/Managed Care

If you have medical insurance or belong to a managed care organization, you should have access to the organization’s provider directory.

In some cases, this will be a paper-based directory that is sent to your home on a periodic basis. You can find a lot of good information here, including names, contact information, profession, specialties, and whether or not the provider is accepting new clients.

Most organizations also provide this information to members on the Internet. Online listings will contain all the information available in the directory, along with the provider’s email or website address if available.

A powerful feature of the online directory is the ability to search for just those providers that meet your specific needs.For example, you may be able to search for marriage andfamily therapists who offer evening appointments within a 20-mile radius of your home.

To access the online directory, find your insurance or managed care organization’s website—usually listed on your membership card—and look for a link that says Find a Provider, or Member Services.

You can also call the customer/member service line for your organization and ask to speak with a representative who can help you find providers. The operator will have access to the most recent listings and updates, but you may not get all the information that you would from a directory or a website.

Online Listings

There are several good online directories not associated with any insurance company or managed care organization. You can access a current list of verified directories at

Phone Books

As you read earlier in the book, choosing a therapist based solely on an advertisement is never a good idea, but the phone book can be an excellent source of names, addresses, and phone numbers. In some cases, professions and specialties are listed as well.

Agency Directories

If you’re seeking services through an agency or a community counseling center, the organization may provide you with a list of available therapists. The amount of detail available varies widely from
organization to organization.

Activity 8

On a separate piece of paper, write Contact List. Then write down names, contact information, and notes about every therapist you’re considering.

Chapter 8: Sources of Possible Therapists

Ben Butina

Ben Butina is a therapist and trainer. He is the executive director of Westmoreland Marriage, Inc. and lives with his wife and two children in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. This book is reproduced here with permission and is copyrighted © Ben Butina. All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Butina, B. (2009). Chapter 8: Sources of Possible Therapists. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 7 Jul 2009
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 Jul 2009
Published on All rights reserved.