Anxious? Tips To Find A Therapist For Anxiety

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams
Updated February 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Over 40 million US adults have a clinical anxiety disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), though anxiety can be highly treatable.

If you suspect you might have anxiety, there are techniques an anxiety therapist can help you learn to reduce the impact of your symptoms and minimize them when they appear. Many anxiety disorders are treatable, and the others can be made manageable if they're addressed. Therapy is often included in anxiety treatment plans. If you're interested in trying therapy, continue reading for tips to consider when finding a therapist for anxiety. 

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Find the right therapist for your anxiety

Seeking a mental health professional: 8 tips for finding an anxiety specialist

To make sure that your specific needs can get addressed, it can be helpful for people to know how to find the right counseling services for them. Consider the following eight tips when looking for a therapist specializing in treatment for anxiety and anxiety disorders.

1. Do your research on local mental health professionals

Not all therapists offer the same services or have the same experience, regardless of their licensing or clinical hours. For instance, two therapists might specialize in anxiety, but one could offer cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) while the other only offers exposure therapy. Therefore, researching therapy modalities, specialties, and techniques before finding a therapist can be beneficial. 

Many people may believe therapy involves lying on a couch and freely discussing your emotions or thoughts with your therapist. However, this style of therapy is only one of over 400. Researching various types you may be interested in for your particular symptoms and then locating mental health professionals who practice in these areas could be a helpful place to start. You could also contact a therapist who specializes in anxiety and ask for their opinion on which modality they believe could be a good fit for your situation.

2. Check each therapist's credentials 

Before you choose a therapist or psychologist, it can be important to confirm their credentials. Each therapist is required to have a certain education and a particular type of license, and each designation may come with different responsibilities or abilities. Here’s a quick guide to understanding what the different letters or terms behind a health professional’s name indicate about their psychology training and certifications:

  • MD: MD stands for a 'medical doctor'. In the psychology field, the only professionals with an MD are psychiatrists. These individuals have attended medical school and can write prescriptions, diagnose mental illnesses, and provide medical testing. They often collaborate with psychologists.
  • Ph.D. and PsyD: These individuals have earned a doctorate in psychology. Those with this degree designation commonly work as therapists, researchers, or professors.
  • MA, MS, LGPC, LCPC: These acronyms show that a person has received a master's degree in this field. They have a state license if they have an "L" in their credentials. They may have other credentials as well if they’ve completed specialized training in a particular study area.
  • MSW, LCSW, LCSW-C, LGSW, LSW: These acronyms stand for the various degrees or licenses that those with a degree in social work can have. Only those with a licensed clinical social work title can offer counseling.
  • MA, MFT, LFMT, LCMFT: These acronyms represent various types of marriage and family therapists. Those with an L are licensed, while those without an L have a master's degree in marriage and family therapy.
  • MA, CCPT, CpastC, NCPC, NCCA: You may see these acronyms for pastoral counselors or those with a master's in pastoral counseling. Often, these providers work in a church and offer religion-based therapy. If you meet with a pastoral counselor, ensure they have a state license to practice therapy. 
  • MHC, LMHC: These acronyms represent those with a master's degree in mental health counseling. Those with an L are licensed, while those with an MHC are working toward limited licensure. Mental health counselors and social workers receive similar training in their master's programs. 

3. Ask about their experience treating anxiety disorders

Being licensed and trained in a particular area does not necessarily correlate with experience. If a therapist has years of experience in treating anxiety, they may be able to draw on what they’ve seen work in the past and may know how to support a wide range of clients. On the other hand, providers who are newer to the field are usually supervised by more experienced professionals, and they may also be familiar with more modern techniques since they’ve recently completed their education. You might spend some time thinking about which level of experience is more important or comfortable for you.

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4. Check your insurance coverage for seeing an anxiety therapist

More and more insurance companies are now offering coverage for therapy. If you have an insurance plan, you might contact them to see if you have mental health coverage and, if so, which providers are covered in your network. If you have an anxiety disorder diagnosis, you may be referred to an in-network provider who specializes in anxiety. 

5. Check your pricing options

If you don’t have health insurance or if your insurance doesn’t cover therapy, you might check with various providers to see what their rates are to try and find someone within your budget. Note that some professionals offer sliding scales, discounts, or financial assistance programs based on income, so inquiring with their office about pricing could be helpful.

6. Consider alternative meeting options 

Some mental health professionals might only meet with clients in person. However, many therapists now also or exclusively offer sessions via phone or video. Those who are living with anxiety may find these virtual formats more comfortable, and they may also be more convenient for those who live in rural areas or have trouble locating the right provider for them nearby. You might compare the pricing, availability, and reviews of online versus in-person therapists to make a decision. 

7. Ask questions to determine whether they can help you with your anxiety disorder

To learn more about whether a particular therapist might be right for you, it could be helpful to write a brief list of questions to ask them. Many providers may offer a quick consultation before the first session to address any doubts you may have. A few examples of questions you might ask could include: 

  • Do you work with people who have anxiety?
  • What is your experience treating symptoms like mine? 
  • What therapy modalities do you practice?
  • What do you believe is the most effective form of treatment for anxiety? 

You can generally ask any question that helps you decide on a provider. Remember, the more comfortable you are with the therapist, the more effective your sessions are likely to be. 

8. Ask for recommendations

You can usually ask your primary care provider for a referral to a mental health specialist. Or, if you know friends who have worked with a therapist for anxiety in the past, you might consider asking for a recommendation. Knowing someone else has had a positive experience can be valuable; however, note that you might not be able to see someone who is already actively working with a close family or partner due to ethical reasons.

What to do if your therapist is not the right fit 

If you choose a therapist, start sessions, and realize that you don't want to see them anymore, you can always change providers. Just because you start the process with one therapist doesn't necessarily mean you have to stick with them. If you are uncomfortable or simply don’t feel like the two of you are a good match, it could be beneficial to find a new therapist to treat anxiety instead of forcing yourself to push through sessions that you feel are unhelpful.

Types of therapy for anxiety

Below are a few types of therapy commonly utilized for anxiety disorders and other mental health concerns. Understanding a bit about each type could help you make an informed decision on the therapy modality you'd like to request from your therapist.

You don’t have to have a modality in mind when you see a mental healthcare provider, as they are, of course, equipped to suggest one. That said, getting familiar with the basics of the most common, effective approaches for anxiety could help you feel more informed and prepared going in. Some of the most widely used types include the following. 

EMDR therapy for anxiety

EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. During these sessions, therapists may use hand tapping for anxiety, eye movement, and audio stimulation to help clients unblock and process memories that may be painful or challenging to confront. It's often used to help those with anxiety disorders face feelings of distress and understand how past experiences might have contributed to symptoms. 

EMDR was initially developed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but it’s now used for a wide range of mental illnesses. 

Anxiety group therapy

If you experience symptoms of social anxiety disorder or another specific anxiety disorder, one treatment option is group therapy— either online or in person. Group sessions are often more cost-effective than meeting one-on-one with a therapist. They can also be helpful because they allow you to meet with others who understand your symptoms. The group can learn together and practice new coping skills to overcome anxiety. Helpful lifestyle changes may also be discussed. If you’re interested in this format, look for a support group that's led by a licensed therapist. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is one of the most common types of therapy for anxiety and other mental health conditions. It teaches clients to identify distorted or unhelpful thought patterns and the impact of these on their behaviors and moods. Clients can learn to identify, challenge, and change these thought patterns through specific worksheets, techniques, role playing, or other exercises. Studies suggest that CBT is considered the current “gold standard” of psychotherapy for treating a range of illnesses, including many anxiety disorders.

Biofeedback therapy

Biofeedback therapy shows clients how their stress and anxiety impact their bodies. During sessions, the client may be hooked up to sensors showing their heart rate, breathing rate, and brain activity. This process allows them to visualize how stress and anxiety show up in their body. As they use techniques to lower their stress and relax, they can see what strategies work for reducing the anxiety they feel. 

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Find the right therapist for your anxiety

Exploring online therapy for anxiety

There are many options available for addressing the symptoms of an anxiety disorder. However, if you're having trouble finding a provider in your area due to factors like cost or transportation, know that many therapists who focus on treating anxiety now provide support online. Online therapy can allow those with anxiety or another condition to receive support from a location that makes them feel comfortable, whether that’s home or another place with an internet connection. 

With a platform like BetterHelp, you can speak to a licensed therapist about anxiety-related concerns via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging. You can also request a provider through the match-based system who suits your preferences and treatment goals. For example, You can note if you'd like to meet with an LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and/or religious therapist. Since research suggests that online therapy can create “equivalent overall effects” to in-person therapy in treating anxiety, this format may be worth considering if it’s more convenient or comfortable for you.

Takeaway

If you're living with anxiety, know that support is available. Around 20% of US adults have seen a mental health professional for treatment in the last 12 months, and the number is growing. That’s because therapy can be an effective tool for reducing distress and gaining a stronger sense of control and self-reliance. If you're interested in getting started, with in-person or online therapy for anxiety, consider using the tips above to help you find a provider who can provide the support you may need.

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