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Getting a Referral for Psychotherapy

In times past, people generally received referrals to mental health professionals from one of two places — their family doctor or the yellow pages. A few people might have felt comfortable enough asking a friend or family member about their therapist, if they knew their friend had one.

But because of the stigma and the lack of information about mental health conditions, individuals were afraid to discuss these kinds of concerns with others.

Today, things are very different. There are a dozen places you can go online to find a therapist — including Psych Central’s therapist directory — and people talk more freely about their own therapists and being in therapy. For many, it’s a sign of the times. In some groups of friends, if you’re not in therapy, you might be looked as the odd person out.

It’s also been helpful that health insurance companies have much larger networks of qualified and experienced professionals (although the number who are available to take on new patients may not always be sufficient). We went from the dark ages of referrals to an enlightened age, where an individual has almost too many choices.

Referrals from people you know and trust will tend to be more meaningful to an individual. So talking to a friend or family member about their therapist might help you better understand whether or not that person would be helpful to you. Your family physician might also know local mental health professionals they respect and trust in the community. Since a lot of people’s healthcare choices will be decided based upon whether that professional is a part of their healthcare plan or not, check with your insurance or healthcare provider to get a list of approved professionals.

Online databases are also a valuable resource to research, as they will often provide a little more information than your local yellow pages. These therapist directories allow the professional to enhance their listing with additional information, such as experience, educational degrees, and ways they prefer to work. This can be helpful to people looking for professionals who have specific backgrounds or experience with specific kinds of issues or disorders.

Online therapy may also be an option, for a person who may be new to therapy or can’t really make time available in their busy schedule for a traditional face-to-face session. Check out Psych Central’s Therapist Directory to get started, offering both local therapists in your community as well as online therapists available to talk with you right now.

Keep in mind that throughout this process, it’s best to keep an open mind and not to necessarily go with the first professional you see. Choosing a professional that’s going to be helpful to you and your needs is often much like a job interview process — you need to find one that’s going to work with you and for you, and that you feel most comfortable with.

Getting a Referral for Psychotherapy

This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on May 11, 2014.

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2019). Getting a Referral for Psychotherapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 18 Jul 2019 (Originally: 17 May 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 18 Jul 2019
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