Choosing a Therapist: 5 Tips From a Therapist

Choosing a Therapist: 5 Tips From a Therapist

By: Sara Arce, LMHC, MCAP, Founder and CEO

Are you having difficulty finding the right therapist? Research shows that the most important determinant of progress in therapy is the relationship between the client and their therapist. Having spent my career in mental health counseling and having sought counseling myself, I know that not finding the right therapist can be detrimental to the experience and it can turn someone off to therapy all together. I have found that clients who have had a negative therapeutic experience will be hesitant and guarded when seeking treatment again, causing them to struggle in therapy initially. It’s amazing how some people can find their sessions to be the most fulfilling hour of their week, while others do not feel it helps them at all.  In this blog I will share with you my top 5 suggestions on finding the right provider for you. Are you ready to learn from a therapist, how to find the right therapist? If so, read on.

Research Qualifications

By law, any person providing healthcare services must have certain education, training and certifications. All states vary in their qualification standards, but mostly have adopted similar requirements for therapists who wish to practice independently. So in finding the right therapist, the first thing you want to do is make sure that they are licensed to practice in the state in which you are seeking services. They should have active insurance and no complaints on file with the State Board that governs their license. 


Level of Experience

It is important that a therapist have experience and be what we in the field call “seasoned”.  In my view, a seasoned therapist is one who has had 5 or more years of experience in doing therapy with some variety in the treatment issues. That being said, a therapist with less years of experience can be highly skilled and have specialty training. I am a good example of someone who gained a lot of experience early on. In the first few years of my career I worked in an acute care hospital as a therapist with clients who were in crisis and had serious and persistent illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I was able to facilitate individual, group therapy and family therapy. During this time I was also exposed to the mental health court system and the criminal justice system. I later went to work in a residential program and was able to do long term therapy with clients who had comorbid disorders (mental health, substance abuse and sometimes medical issues simultaneously). These clients often have much more complex issues. Within 5 years, I had gained a significant amount of experience and only strengthened my skills over the years.  But, YEARS of experience might not mean the RIGHT experience. Before contacting a therapist, find their website or online profile and review their education, credentials and areas of clinical expertise. Some common directory websites are: Psychology Today, Zencare, Good Therapy


Avoid “catch all” providers! Unfortunately, there are therapist who consider themselves to be everything to everyone. The problem is that if a therapist begins working with you, it could delay your progress if they are not equipped to handle your specific issues or symptoms. So the best way for you to determine if they are the right therapist for you, is to ask. If you hear certain terms or feedback from them that strikes home for you, then most likely they understand what you’re dealing with.  Here’s a simple example: Let’s say you call a therapist for the first time and tell them that you think you might be depressed. They should ask you if you’ve had any of the following:

  • Sadness, crying spells or irritability

  • Low energy, low motivation or loss of pleasure in activities 

  • Weight or sleep increase or decrease

  • Lethargy or restlessness

  • Thoughts of suicide or any self-harm behaviors

  • Negative thoughts, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness

  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

Most likely you would have had some or all of the above symptoms. Someone who is knowledgeable in treating mood disorders would understand these are all symptoms of depression. A therapist should be able to ask you the right questions. Bottom line, follow your gut! If your gut tells you something is off and the research you have already done backs that up, then maybe it’s best to look somewhere else. But, If their website and profile states that they are experienced a certain area, and they seem to be knowledgeable when you speak to them, they probably are. This is a process of trust and healthcare providers are generally considered highly trustworthy people.


Lastly, but most importantly, how did you feel talking with this therapist? This is someone that over time you will confide in and tell many personal things to. You want to make sure that you feel comfortable sharing information with them and that you trust their feedback. It’s normal if you feel a bit shy at first, but by the end of the session you should know if you want to come back or not. 

Key points to consider when meeting your therapist for the first time:  

  • You should feel comfortable with their office environment and location.

  • A therapist should also be able to do what is known as “reflective listening”, which means they are able to express to you what they understood from what you said. 

  • Ideally, they are non-judgmental, likeable and easy to talk to. 

  • At the least, they have to be respectful and calm, listen and expressed empathy.

If you don’t feel the connection, feel free to try someone new! (It’s a part of the job, we won’t be offended, I promise) Finding the right therapist can be overwhelming and you may think it’s too much effort. I hope this blog has been somewhat helpful in identifying what to look for and how to go about it.

If you liked this article and are looking for a therapist, give us a call and let’s talk about how we can help you. If working with us does not seem like a right fit, that’s ok too. We’re happy to help you find the right therapist for you. 


Sometimes it comes down to affordability. Well, many therapist, you except and bill insurance, most don’t. This is a personal preference, and sometimes there are various factors a therapist must consider when deciding if they are going to be in network or an out of network provider with an insurance company. This does not necessarily reflect the quality of care that you will get. It simply is another option that you have, when evaluating who you’re going to go see. If you are looking for someone that is in network with your insurance company, the best I do is call your insurance company or go on their website and search their directories for a network providers. If you have an out of network policy, you may be able to pay upfront a self pay rate, but get partially or completely reimbursed by your insurance company – each plan is different and you must get information directly from your insurance. 


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