Searching for a therapist? A quick therapist finder guide

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson
Updated January 4, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Deciding to go to therapy is not always an easy decision, but it's one that can greatly impact your life for the better. That’s why it can be important to know how to find a good therapist. Many people experience mental health challenges at some point in their lives, and choosing to find a therapist, counseling psychologist online therapy service can be one of the best decisions you can make. It can be possible to find a local mental health professional or connect with therapists online. It’s usually helpful to consider the professional’s education, experience, cost and location when you begin to search for your therapist.

Read on to learn more about how to find and contact a therapist who can help you to improve your quality of life.

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Searching for a therapist doesn’t have to be stressful
When to see a therapist
Mental health challenges may not look the same for each person. Even within the same diagnosis, each person can experience symptoms (either new or recurring) in different ways. This can mean there may be no way of knowing the “right time” to see a therapist.

However, it's generally a good time to reach out for help when you find that you are experiencing challenges with your mental health that impact your daily life. This is generally indicated by disruptions caused by either physical or mental symptoms. For example: Symptoms can occur when people are losing sleep because of anxiety disorder symptoms, they have a hard time getting to work because of depression or substance use, or they are experiencing symptoms of a more serious and complex mental health disorder—such as hearing voices or seeing things that aren't there.

Despite the general understanding of psychology today, many people might think that their problems aren’t serious enough, so they may continue to deal with them on their own instead of seeking help. To this, we want to reiterate: Your symptoms and experience don't have to reach a certain level for you to qualify to get help from a therapist (either via in-person services or with therapists online). Please know that if you are struggling with your mental health, then it is likely time to find a therapist and get the help that you need. 

Therapist requirements

As you begin to find a therapist, you may consider a range of pre-qualifications to help you narrow your search. This can look like area of specialization, gender, education and relevant experience. 

If you’re not sure what to look for, it’s no problem. We’ve listed out a few areas of focus to pay attention to below; helping you select the best therapists out of the prospect pool who can help you improve your quality of life. 

Education

The requirements that you may look for in a therapist or mental health professional often depend on the type of therapy you’re seeking. After all—someone looking for support with eating disorders or substance use may not need to look for someone who specializes in family therapy (or a marriage and family therapist.) 

The wide range of possible needs makes it important for many to review a therapists’ educational background to ensure that you’re getting what you need. For example, if you think that you're going to need medication to help deal with your mental health challenges, then you may want to see a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are trained medical doctors that specialize in mental health. Because they have been through medical school, they can write prescriptions. However, please note that medication is not always necessary or recommended.

On the other hand, many people might look for a therapist, find a psychologist or work with a psychiatrist for their therapy sessions, depending on their scope of need. While a psychiatrist generally manages the medical side of mental health, such as the chemicals in your brain, a psychologist usually helps with the emotional side of mental health, including your thoughts.

Other mental health professionals, called therapists, are usually educated with a master’s degree and may have a degree in social work or counseling. They are normally educated and trained to practice and provide talk therapy or psychotherapy. An example of a therapist at this level is an LMFT, or a licensed marriage and family therapy specialist. 

In general, it’s best to ensure that any mental health professional you’re considering has an applicable degree and is licensed to practice in their state.

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The next requirement you may look for in this category is the therapist’s clinical experience or area of specialization. A newer therapist may work under the direction of a more experienced therapist, so just because someone is new does not necessarily mean that they will not be a good fit for you. You may also want a therapist that has experience working with people with similar concerns or mental health challenges.

Cost

Another thing that many people may want to consider when choosing a mental health professional is how much the sessions are going to cost them. If you have health insurance, there's a chance that your insurance company may provide coverage for mental health sessions. However, if they do, know that there may be potential requirements to qualify, and it may only cover a certain number of sessions. It can be helpful to speak with a service representative with your insurance company (if you have one) to find out the details of your exact plan. 

If your insurance does not cover mental health services, there may still be other ways that you can save money on therapy sessions. The first may be to look for mental health professionals in your location that offer a sliding scale for payment. This generally means that the therapist will adjust the charge for your appointment based on your income level. Sliding scales often make therapy sessions possible for some people who wouldn't be able to afford them otherwise.

Another option is to look into online therapy, which can come with lower costs (and sometimes offers financial aid).

Location

When choosing a therapist, you may wish to consider their location as well. Some forms of therapy will have you going to appointments more than once a week. This means you will likely want to consider where the office is located and how easy or difficult it will be for you to get there.

For those people who do not want to have to attend therapy sessions in person, there can be other options for meeting with therapists online. This can also be convenient if you cannot find a suitable therapist in your local area, or if you don’t have a reliable method of transportation to get to therapy sessions.

BetterHelp is known to many as an online therapy platform that is available in all 50 states, everywhere from popular cities like New York City, Chicago and San Francisco to less-populated rural areas in the southwest. Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp are working to enable people to get therapy regardless of their location. 

To get started with BetterHelp, you first need to create your profile. After your profile is complete, it is time to find the right therapist for you from the online directory of experienced professionals. All you have to do to get a list of therapists near you is to select your city and press enter to find therapists doing business in the area. You can check out their credentials and choose the therapist that you feel is the best match.

How an online therapist can help
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Searching for a therapist doesn’t have to be stressful

Research shows that online therapy can be an effective method of treating different symptoms related to mental health. In one broad-based report, researchers examined the overall efficacy of online therapy interventions. The study concluded that online therapy can be as effective as traditional in-person treatment, and that online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often an especially useful modality. Online platforms can eliminate many common barriers to treatment, including high costs, geographical and time constraints and perceived stigma.

With online therapy, you can connect with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your own home. You may quickly make or modify your appointments so that you’re creating a schedule that works for you. An online therapist can also provide you with valuable guidance on the path to better mental health. 

Takeaway

Therapy can make a notable difference in your mental health and life in general, so it can be crucial to know how to find a therapist who will meet your needs and help you achieve your goals. Looking at a therapist’s education, experience, cost, and location can help you determine whether they will be a good fit for you. You might find a suitable therapist or other mental health professional in your local area or online. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need. 

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The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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