So, you already know that I think everyone and their mom should see a therapist.
It’s self-growth on steroids! I’d recommend it to EVERYBODY.
But then the question becomes, “HOW do I find a therapist? A badass, awesome one?”
And unfortunately, that’s a more difficult question to answer.
Finding an awesome therapist is more complicated than finding an awesome mechanic. It’s not just about technical skill and experience – it’s about finding someone who JIBES with you.
Just like dating, it’s about finding the right fit. The right chemistry. Someone you click with. Someone who gets you.
And just like dating…it may take a few tries to find the right match.
But fear not, the search process is not as scary as it seems! To make it easier, I’ve broken it down into 8 simple steps.
Just remember, the most important thing is to simply START. Take action.
If you care about living a happier, healthier, more connected life – it’s 100% worth taking the time to do this.
So without further ado, here’s how you find an awesome therapist:
1) Determine what your budget is.
The first step is to figure out how much you’re willing to pay. This can help filter out a lot of options.
Look, therapy can be expensive.
The average cost is around $75-175 for an hourlong session. And for best results, it’s recommended you see someone regularly (once a week or so).
Not cheap. But totally worth it.
If you can’t afford someone in the $75-175 range, don’t worry! There are still great options out there.
- Check out OpenCounseling.com to find free and low cost counseling in your area (US only).
- See if your health insurance covers therapy and find a therapist covered by them. (However a lot of great ones aren’t covered by insurance and I’ve found it totally worth paying out-of-pocket.)
- Many therapists will offer a sliding scale for people who are struggling financially. Always ask!
- Lindsay P. suggested, “Try finding a local Master's student program where the student gets their clinical hours in for their licensure (and is supervised!) and you get discounted or free legitimate therapy sessions.”
(For those in the San Francisco / Bay Area, I’ve heard great things about CIIS’ Counseling Clinics which use the above method to provide super affordable therapy.)
2) Determine if you have any specific needs.
Once you got your budget, now it’s time to figure out if there’s anything in particular you’re looking for.
Are you looking to specifically work through childhood issues? Relationship/attachment issues? Sexual issues? If so, it can be helpful to work with someone who specializes in these areas. (But any good therapist can help you make progress in all the above.)
Would you feel more comfortable working with a specific gender? Someone young or old? Someone who’s LGBTQ friendly or speaks your native language?
Is there a type of therapy you’d prefer? Somatic therapy (less talk, more body-based)? Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? Therapy with a spiritual/transpersonal element?1
If you feel strongly about any of the above, it can help narrow down your options and make you feel more comfortable in your sessions.
But if not, it’s all good! None of these may matter for your situation. And if they do, you’ll find out after a few sessions and have more information to make decisions going forward.
3) Ask your friends and family for references.
If you know someone who’s seeing a therapist and having awesome results, it can be helpful to ask them for a recommendation.
However just because they’re a great fit for your friend, doesn’t mean they’ll be right for you. But it’s a good place to start and definitely worth looking into.
Also if you know other therapists, it can be helpful to ask them for suggestions as well. They often know who’s running a great practice.
4) Search online.
I personally think the internet is the best place to look for a therapist.
Yelp is my personal favorite because it has reviews which are SUPER helpful. And the reviewers tend to be younger and closer to my demographic.
Search around your area for terms like “therapist”, “psychotherapist”, or “MFT”. Or if you’re looking for something specific, plug that in and see what comes up.
Browse around and click on therapists who interest you. View their profiles, check out their websites, read their reviews.
When you find someone who seems cool, who could be a “maybe”, add them to a text document of “potential therapists”.
Speaking of which…
5) Make a list of therapists that resonate with you.
As you’re searching online and taking in recommendations, open up a document and start making a list of potential therapists.
Anyone who you think could have potential, add them to the list!
It could be for any reason. Like the therapists’ photo? Did something in their profile resonate with you? Did a review match your particular situation?
During this process, I highly recommend you try to FEEL rather than THINK your way through these selections.
Trust your gut. If something draws you towards a particular therapist, add them to the list.
Then once you have a bunch of therapists on your list, sort through them and pick your Top 5.
Got it? Now it’s time to make contact!
6) Schedule free 15 minute consultations with your favorites.
So go through your Top 5 picks and send each one a quick email.
Quickly introduce yourself, what you’re looking to explore or work on, and then ask any questions you might have about how they work (i.e. What is your approach like? What should I expect in a session?)
Protip: write this email once and then just copy and paste for the others. Easy!
Also ask how much they charge (most don’t list their prices online), if they’re covered by insurance, and if they offer a free consultation (most do).
If the price they respond with is too high, mention that your financial situation is tight and ask if they offer a sliding scale. (And if still too high, ask them for a recommendation in your price range.)
If all sounds good and you’re still interested, schedule a free consultation with them!
Even if it’s just a 15 min. phone consultation, this can be super helpful in feeling out whether it’d be a good fit.
Ask questions about how they work and any topics you’d like to explore with them, but mostly pay attention to how you FEEL while talking to them.
After you hang up, sit and take a moment. Feel into your experience. Do you feel better? Inspired? Excited? Or tired? Deflated? Unsure?
Most importantly, ask yourself this question: Do you feel like they can help you?
If the answer is no, then keep looking.
The biggest factor in effective therapy is client readiness. You need to be ready, willing, and open to change.
And for that to happen, you NEED to work with someone that you feel can help you, for whatever reason.
7) Schedule a session with the one you vibed with the most!
After you’ve had a few consultations, you should have a good feel for which ones you vibed with the most.
Choose your favorite and schedule a session with them!
Now hopefully you got lucky and found the right therapist straight away. But what if you’re not sure?
In my opinion, sessions should feel less like being analyzed by a clinical doctor and more like having real talk with a trusted friend.
Go for a few sessions and pay close attention to how you feel during and after.
Do you feel better after the session than before?
Do you still feel like this person can help you?
Do you feel seen? Understood? Like this person gets you?
If the answer to those questions consistently becomes “no”, then it may be time to try another therapist. Don’t stress about this, it’s completely normal!
Many people have to go through a few to find the right fit for them. And it’s not a waste of time at all!
Each session you undergo – even with an imperfect fit – is still an hour you spent exploring your inner world and figuring out what you need and don’t need.
Even the “wrong” steps are helping you grow. So don’t be afraid to take them.
Any step forward is still a step forward. Keep moving.
8) Be as open and willing as possible.
Last thing: remember that it’s not just about the therapist, it’s about YOU.
As mentioned earlier, the biggest factor in effective therapy is client readiness.
So if you really want to grow and heal – and you’re willing to spend time and money on this – then LEAN IN as much as you can!
Challenge yourself to push your edges. To be more vulnerable, more open, more willing.
To share things that you’ve been scared to.
To try new things, even if they feel silly.
A therapist can only take you as far as you’re willing to go yourself.
So dive in.
But also, be gentle on yourself.
The road to growth and healing can be a long and winding one. Changes often won’t come in huge breakthroughs, but in small shifts, barely perceptible from week to week.
But as long as you’re continuing to make progress, learning more, and feeling better…keep going.
Eventually, you’ll look back and be astounded at how far you’ve come.
And you’ll be so glad you embarked on this journey in the first place.
But that journey ain’t gonna start itself.
So get your ass in gear. And take the first steps towards investing in yourself.
You’re gonna like who you become. I guarantee it.