Therapist Requirements For A Successful Therapeutic Relationship

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated March 28, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It can be normal to be nervous when starting therapy, but finding a suitable therapist may make the process feel less overwhelming. Understanding the qualities to look for in a provider, such as their educational requirements, clinical experience, and communication skills, can be beneficial. Below are several tips to consider when building a successful therapeutic relationship with any provider, including mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, or child therapists.

What Qualities Should You Look For In A Therapist?

How To Find A Successful Therapist Match

Before choosing a therapist, consider your requirements for a provider. Each person can be unique, so some factors may matter more to you than they do to others.

Understand Education And Training

Having at least a master's degree in mental health counseling, clinical mental health counseling, or a related field such as clinical social work or marriage and family therapy is important in how to become a therapist. Psychologists often hold doctoral degrees with a focus on clinical work or research. A child therapist or one who addresses mental health issues and substance abuse may also require specialized training. Be cautious if a practitioner lacks the proper education, as it could be a red flag.

Look For A License

All states mandate that practicing therapists obtain and maintain a state-issued license. These licenses necessitate meeting minimum education standards, including completing a graduate degree program, adhering to state laws and ethics, and fulfilling supervised clinical hours. Therapists must also engage in continuing education to stay updated on the latest research in their field. If a therapist fails to provide licensing information or lacks a license, report them to the national board and refrain from a consultation.

Consider Affordability

If you are paying for therapy out of pocket, determine what a therapist charges before making an appointment. If you're concerned about pricing, ask about your options. Some therapists may offer a sliding scale, meaning the cost could depend on your income. Sliding scale fee systems can help people with lower incomes find support. If you have health insurance, ensure your policy covers the therapist you want to work with before attending a session unless you are prepared to pay out of pocket.

Ensure They Have Experience

You may wish to consult a family therapist or marriage and family therapist experienced in addressing your specific symptoms or concerns, such as mental health disorders or a behavioral disorder. Prior to scheduling an appointment or during the initial session, briefly explain your reasons for seeking help and inquire about their experience in the relevant field. Some conditions may benefit from a therapist with specialized expertise. Inform your therapist if you're seeking a particular therapy module.

Find Someone You're Comfortable With

To reap the full benefits of mental health therapy or occupational therapy, it's vital to collaborate with a practitioner you feel at ease sharing personal details with. You may disclose thoughts or feelings to family therapists that you haven't shared with others, so it's crucial to feel comfortable for achieving breakthroughs in your treatment. If you're uneasy with your current therapist, consider seeking a new provider. Sometimes, people might not be compatible in a professional setting, which doesn't necessarily indicate any fault with you or the therapist.

Take Availability Into Account

When looking for a therapist, try to find someone available to meet with you as soon as possible. It may not benefit you if you have to wait on a waiting list for months every time you need an appointment. Once you start your sessions, try to schedule regular appointments weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Talk to the therapist to determine their availability before starting a therapeutic relationship.  

Finding A Therapist 

Once you have an idea of your therapy requirements, you may look for a mental health counselor or therapist who meets those needs. Consider the following strategies: 

Ask For Recommendations 

Talk to family and friends and find out if they have therapist recommendations in your area. You can also ask for a referral from your primary care physician. 

Check With Your Insurance Company 

If insurance covers the cost of your therapy sessions, look through your plan to see which local therapists are within your network and covered by their service. This information may be available on their website as well. 

Search Online 

If you're still uncertain, consider searching online to find professionals who practice therapy. Browse through Google results and examine their reviews to verify past client satisfaction. Additionally, review their website and bio, which may include information about their supervised clinical experience or work, before scheduling an appointment. Keep in mind that therapists typically have more than only a bachelor's degree, and for some areas, such as substance abuse issues, have specialized knowledge.

What Qualities Should You Look For In A Therapist?

Counseling Options 

If you feel therapy could help you improve your symptoms, consider taking action now. Start searching for a therapist who meets your requirements. If you face barriers to treatment keeping you from finding a provider, you can also consider alternative therapy modalities like internet-based therapy. Teletherapy can benefit those with a busy schedule or those who can't afford traditional therapy due to insurance co-pays or lack of coverage. It can also provide an option for those who experience social anxiety or fear at in-person sessions. Attending a session from home can be more comfortable. 

Additionally, research shows that online cognitive-behavioral therapy resulted in significant and clinically meaningful improvements in individuals experiencing anxiety and depression after 12 weeks of online treatment, with results sustained for six months. If you're looking for a convenient way to find a therapist, consider phone, video, or live chat sessions with a licensed therapist through a platform like BetterHelp.


Selecting a therapist can be a daunting task, so bear in mind a few crucial factors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals in this field typically have more than just a bachelor's degree and should possess supervised clinical work experience. If you ever feel unsafe, unheard, or disrespected by a therapist, consider finding a new provider. Before starting a session, have a conversation with a potential therapist to ensure you're on the same page. When you're prepared to begin counseling, contact a therapist online or in your area for further assistance.

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns

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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