Finding The Right Therapist

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated July 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Finding the right therapist that matches your needs can be challenging, particularly if you live in a rural area without many therapists or are limited by the coverage from your insurance. The factors you may consider when choosing a therapist include the cost, distance, the therapist’s specialty or training, and the preferences you have when looking for a therapist in your area. Here are the ways you can get started in your search for therapists. 

Are you looking to try online therapy?

Choosing a therapist or a counselor: Mental health conditions

When you start your search for a psychologist or therapist in your area, whether you live in a rural area or near popular cities, consider the following steps. 

Outline your mental health needs

Individuals attend therapy for various purposes, whether they hope to work with a therapist to address life stressors, mental health conditions, distressing symptoms, or just improve their lives overall. Someone in a mental health crisis will need a different type of care than someone who is looking for help with stress management. Think about why you want to attend therapy and what you’re looking for in a therapist. You might create a list with factors that are non-negotiable to you, such as:

  • Distance
  • Specialty
  • Experience 
  • Cost
  • Insurance coverage 

When you meet with your therapist, they may ask you what you want to discuss and work on in your sessions. If you’re experiencing a mental health condition, such as depression, you might come with a list of symptoms that have been bothering you. 

Choose a specialty: Family counselors, CBT, DBT, and more

Many therapists specialize in a particular area of mental health, whether it’s depression, anxiety, trauma disorders, or a unique type of therapy like dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) or addiction counseling. 

To decide what you’re looking for in therapists, pinpoint your symptoms. You may choose to do research into effective types of therapy for your condition or symptoms. One standard counseling method is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), often referred to as talk therapy. 

Once you’ve nailed down your needs, search for therapists in your area using your preferred search engine. Try to personalize your search by including the specialty you’re looking for. For example, if you’re looking for a licensed marriage and family therapist, you could search for “marriage and family therapist near me in (city name).”  If you’re looking for a therapist to provide individual therapy sessions, rather than group sessions, be sure to inquire about this as well.

Contact mental health professionals

When you’re just starting your search, you may need to contact several therapists before you find a match. If you’re looking for therapists through a search engine, write down the phone numbers and emails of the therapists that stick out to you.

Once you’ve found options, reach out through email or by phone. If you email a therapist, you might say something like: 

I am interested in attending therapy for my depressive symptoms. I noticed you specialize in CBT for depression. I want to start counseling to learn new techniques for managing my symptoms. I have [Insurance Company Name] for insurance and was wondering if you are available and accept my insurance plan. 
(Your Name) 

Reaching out through email can show therapists you are ready to get started. You may not hear back from some but keep trying. Someone could be a match. 

Resources for finding a counselor

When wondering how you can find therapists or psychiatrists near you or teen counseling near you, it can feel like there are no family therapists in your town. At times, searching for therapists can be challenging. You might come across blocks, such as living in a small city or not having insurance. In these cases, your pool of potential therapists could be smaller. Try the following tips to widen your therapy possibilities.  

Online search

Some websites have a therapist search tool that can assist you in finding a therapist in your area. In learning how to check if a therapist is licensed, the American Psychological Association has its therapist finder tool that can connect you with practicing licensed therapists. 

Searching for therapists on a mapping service like Google Maps may yield some results. The National Register of Health Service Psychologists also has an online search tool for finding therapists licensed to practice.  

Medical referral

If you’re having difficulty finding a therapist online, your primary care physician may be able to refer you to a therapist or psychologist. To get a medical referral for therapy, you may need to discuss any psychological or distressing symptoms with your doctor. Ask them if they know of a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor in your area who takes your insurance plan. 

Word of mouth 

If you know someone in your personal life who attends therapy, ask them if they have any therapist recommendations. You might not want to meet with a therapist who works with your friends or family. However, you could learn about a psychological association of therapists or someone’s past therapist who helped them. 


Types of providers available

There are multiple types of practicing therapists and psychology professionals. If you’re looking for a therapist, you may choose between the following: 


Counselors generally have a master’s degree in psychology. They may be labeled as:

A licensed counselor or therapist will go through the city, state, and country-wide licensure requirements, such as a certain number of hours in a clinical setting and a passing score on a licensure exam. 

Social workers

Social workers often utilize the acronyms LSW or LCSW. They are mental health professionals who may practice social work with social groups, under-represented communities, treatment centers, human welfare organizations, non-profits, or as therapists in a counseling setting. 


Psychiatrists are medical doctors who attend medical school, like other doctors. They may have a medical residency before practicing. Often, psychiatrists offer medication, diagnostic testing, and general psychological counseling. 


Psychologists may work in a research-based setting, in a laboratory, or as medical doctors in some cases (such as neuropsychology). They may, at times, prescribe medication or perform diagnostic testing. 

Behavioral specialists

Behavioral specialists may or may not be licensed counselors. They might work in professional environments like group homes, schools, or community centers. They often have a bachelor's degree in behavioral science, and, depending on the state, a Master's degree as well. Behaviorists may work to inspire others to improve wanted behaviors through behavioral therapy techniques. 

School or work counselors

In some cases, counselors will work in an educational or professional setting, such as a school or workplace. They can provide a safe environment for career counseling, education advice, or work with students or employees to gain accommodations when needed. 

Alternative resources for finding a therapist

If you’re struggling to find a therapist due to barriers to treatment or another reason, there are a few options you can consider. 

Meet with a medical provider

If you cannot find a psychologist or therapist due to your location, insurance, or cost barriers, you may be able to meet with your primary care physician for some types of treatment. Although general medical doctors are not licensed to provide therapy, they are often able to prescribe mental health medication for common conditions, such as anxiety, depression, stress, and insomnia. 

Additionally, a psychiatrist in your area may benefit you if you cannot find a therapist. Psychiatrists can provide therapy, medication, and diagnostic testing. Although many psychiatrists do not provide therapy services, there may be one in your area that does. 

Find a sliding scale provider

In some cases, finances can be a barrier to finding a counselor. If this is the case for you, search by location for a “sliding scale.” Sliding scale often means you can pay what you can afford. In some cases, they may be able to lower your co-pay or work with your insurance company to reduce any financial burden. 

See a school or work counselor

If you are a university or college student, your school may have counseling resources at a low or affordable cost. Although it may not be ideal for long-term support, a school counselor can be an option if you cannot find a counselor traditionally.
Often, companies may include brief counseling for their employees, such as a counseling phone line. If you are struggling, you can call this line or make an appointment with a company therapist. Although you might not be able to meet back-to-back with a company counselor, it can be a beneficial option for short-term stressors. 

Commute to an office 

You may consider commuting to counseling or therapy if you live in a rural area. If there’s a large city within an hour of your home, look into therapists in that area. If you do not have a vehicle, cannot commute, or don't come up with options in your search for a therapist, you might consider trying online therapy. 

Are you looking to try online therapy?

Try online counseling 

Online counseling is an option for those who face barriers to in-person counseling, such as cost, distance, or availability. Online counseling can be much more affordable, often costing around $65-$90 a session instead of the country average of $100-$200 a session
Research on online mindfulness-based cognitive-behavioral therapy found that it was as effective as in-person counseling in treating conditions like anxiety and depression. Online counseling may be a beneficial choice if you’re struggling to find an in-person therapist. 

You can sign up to see a therapist through online counseling in a few minutes through platforms like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples. BetterHelp allows you to search for a therapist through our online directory of some of the best therapists, trained in a wide range of therapeutic techniques, with a variety of credentials including marriage and family therapy (LMFT) and Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). 


When looking for a therapist near you, outline your expectations, try an online search, or seek a professional referral. If you face barriers during your search for therapists, you might consider alternative options, such as online therapy. Counseling can be a beneficial tool for various mental health conditions, symptoms, and concerns. Seeking support for any reason can be a brave step, and there are resources to help you along the way.

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