Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 2/17/2021
Whether you need help recovering from a traumatic experience, improving a certain aspect of your life or overcoming a mental health issue such as anxiety or depression, the right therapist can make a huge difference towards you making progress and accomplishing your goals.
Unfortunately, while therapists are generally easy to find, finding a therapist that you trust and connect with is often a process that requires considerable time, effort and patience.
Research shows that your connection with your therapist plays a huge role in the effectiveness of therapy.
For example, a study published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology found that the therapeutic alliance — the relationship between therapist and client — is closely associated with the outcome of therapy.
The APA has also concluded that your relationship with a therapist is at least as important to a positive outcome as using the right method of treatment.
Put simply, in order to get the best results from therapy, it’s important that you feel comfortable around your therapist.
Luckily, finding a good therapist isn’t as difficult as it seems. From asking your existing provider for a referral to using online resources, a variety of approaches can help you find and work with a therapist that can help you reach your goals.
Below, we’ve shared eight different techniques that you can use to find a good therapist. We’ve also talked more about what to look for in a therapist to ensure you receive the highest possible results and quality of care.
When it comes to therapy, a good connection with your therapist is essential. Take the time to find a therapist that you click with, even if it means trying a variety of therapists before you make your final decision.
One way to find a good therapist is to ask for a referral from a trusted friend, colleague or your primary care provider.
Numerous online therapy databases are available that allow you to search for licensed therapists and mental health professionals in your area.
If you have health insurance that covers therapy, your insurance company’s network of therapy providers is a good place to start your search.
If you’d prefer to take part in therapy online, our online mental health platform allows you to connect with a certified psychiatrist or licensed therapist from your home.
There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to find a therapist. Instead, a variety of approaches can help you to find trained, licensed therapists in your area.
You may need to meet with several therapists before you find someone you feel comfortable to talk to regularly. We’ve listed eight time-tested techniques for finding a therapist below.
One of the easiest ways to meet with a therapist is to ask for a referral from someone you trust, such as your primary care provider.
Primary care providers are often a first point of contact for people looking for therapy. Most will be able to refer you to a qualified, capable therapist or other mental health professional in your area who can help you with your needs.
When you’re asking your primary care provider for a referral, there’s no need to provide specific information unless you feel comfortable doing so.
Simply ask if your provider can recommend a therapist — in most cases, they’ll be able to refer you to an appropriate therapy provider.
In addition to your primary care provider, it’s also okay to ask a trusted friend or family member, someone at your place of worship (if religious), another health professional or anyone else you trust.
If you’re already seeing a therapist but don’t think they’re a good fit for you, it’s also okay to ask them for a referral.
Therapists tend to know their professional peers and can usually refer you to someone who may be a better match for your specific needs and personality.
Another good way to find a therapist is to search online using a database that lists mental health professionals.
Several well-known, reputable organizations devoted to mental health maintain local databases of mental health professionals, including therapists.
These databases often allow you to search by area to find qualified therapists located close to you.
Many also provide filters, allowing you to search by practice area (for example, addiction, career concerns, depression, personality disorders, self-abuse or others).
Good databases include Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist tool, the American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s Find a Therapist and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy’s Therapist Locator.
Not only do these tools make it easy to find therapists in your area — they also limit your search results to qualified, licensed professionals with the training and expertise that’s required to offer high quality, effective therapy.
If your insurance company offers coverage for therapy, their network of therapy providers can be a great place to look for a suitable therapist close to you.
If you’re not sure about which therapists are supported by your insurance provider, it’s best to call them for more information. Your insurance provider’s team should be able to provide you with a list of in-network local therapists.
In-network therapists, who have a contract with your health insurance provider, are typically the most affordable option if your insurance provides coverage for therapy.
This is because most of the fees for your therapy will be paid by your insurance provider.
In contrast, if you choose to go to an out-of-network therapist, you’ll generally need to pay most or all of the fees for your therapy by yourself. Over the course of an entire year, this may add up to several thousand dollars in total.
Since cost can be a major factor in therapy, it’s important to work out all of the details with your insurance provider before you get started.
If you don’t have health insurance, or if your insurance doesn’t cover mental health treatments such as therapy, talking to a therapist online can be a cost-effective, convenient way to access the help you need.
Taking part in therapy online is also a good option if you feel more comfortable talking with your therapist from your own home than going to their office for therapy sessions.
Several different forms of therapy are available online today, including individual therapy, group therapy and specialized forms of therapy.
It’s even possible to talk with a psychiatrist online and, if appropriate, receive science-based medication to treat your specific issues.
As part of your therapy, you’ll receive a personalized treatment plan that you can work through with your therapist.
During each session, you’ll be able to talk to your therapist by chat or video, all without having to leave your home.
If you have a specific issue that you’d like to address with a therapist, you may want to consider getting help from an organization that specifically addresses your concerns.
For example, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, which specializes in providing information about anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, has a tool for finding therapists that specialize in treating these issues.
Other organizations that may provide therapy referrals include the Black Mental Health Alliance, the Association of LGBTQ+ Psychiatrists, the National Eating Disorders Association and the Jed Foundation.
Reaching out to an organization that specializes in a certain type of therapy or addresses your unique cultural needs may help you to make better progress.
Some labor organizations may also provide mental health information and therapy referrals for people in specific careers. For example:
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers mental health services for veterans affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, grief, anxiety, the psychological effects of military sexual trauma (MST) and other needs.
The International Association of Fire Fighters offers treatment for members affected by alcoholism, substance abuse and a range of other mental health issues.
If you’re a student, it’s worth looking for resources or therapy services provided by your college or university.
Many colleges offer therapy, counseling and other mental health services through their campus health services.
If you attend a relatively large campus, there may even be on-site therapists or social workers available to assist with your needs.
To learn more about your options, you can visit your campus’s health center in person or check using your college or university’s website. Many health services will provide contact information for their mental health services online.
If help isn’t available on campus, your campus health services will usually be able to refer you to a qualified, licensed therapist in the area.
If you’re an employee of a medium or large-sized business, your employer may offer something called an Employee Assistance Program or Employee Assistance Plan (EAP).
EAPs are voluntary, work-based programs that offer free, confidential counseling and follow-up services for employees with work-based or personal issues.
The therapy sessions are private, allowing you to speak to a licensed therapist or counselor with total confidence.
As an employee, using your employer’s EAP can be a good option if you’re affected by stress, work-related issues, substance abuse, family problems or a psychological issue like anxiety or depression.
Depending on the details of your employer’s program, you may be able to take part in long-term therapy or participate in several sessions before you’re referred to another therapist in your local area.
Most organizations operate their EAP through the human resources (HR) department. If you’re interested in taking part in therapy through your employers EAP, it’s best to contact someone in your organization’s HR department for more information.
Finally, if you can’t find a therapist using one of the techniques listed above, it’s okay to search for therapists locally using Google or another search engine.
Many therapists are listed on Google Maps, making it easy to find options for therapy close to where you live.
Searching for “therapists in” your location usually also brings up lists of therapy providers from local business review websites such as Yelp.
Searching via Google also provides access to reviews of local therapists. While these can be a helpful guide, it’s important to remember that other people might not have the same objectives from therapy as you.
While searching online can help you find most therapists, it’s important to keep in mind that not all therapists are listed in Google’s search results. As such, you’ll usually get a wider variety of options by combining this approach with others.
One of the most important aspects of therapy is making sure you feel comfortable talking with your therapist.
Comfort, as well as trust, is an essential component of therapy for making real, measurable progress towards your goals.
During your first few therapy sessions, it’s normal to ask a variety of questions to your therapist to find out if they're a good fit for you. Common questions include:
Are they licensed? Most states require therapists to have a license in order to practice legally. Licensing can vary depending on the type of therapist you visit — for example, a clinical psychologist undergoes different education from a licensed social worker. Make sure that your therapist is licensed and able to practice legally in your state. It’s okay to ask about your therapist’s education and professional experience if you’d like to learn more about their background.
Are they a good fit for you? If you’re considering a local therapist, try to discuss what you’re looking for and the types of treatment they offer. If possible, see if they specialize in the specific issues for which you need help.
How long have they been practicing? Although experience isn’t everything, you may want to look for a therapist with several years or decades of experience treating people facing similar issues.
How much will your therapy cost? Make sure to find out how much you’ll need to pay for each therapy session. It’s also important to find out if the therapist charges any other fees, such as a fee for rescheduling or missing a session. If you have a limited income, ask about sliding-scale fees. Some therapists may offer a discounted rate for people with a low income or limited insurance coverage.
How far do you need to travel to see them? If you’re planning to visit your therapist in person, try to work out how long it will take for you to reach them. A long drive back and forth might make you feel less motivated to stick with therapy for the long term.
Will your health insurance cover the cost of therapy? If you plan to pay for therapy using health insurance, make sure that your insurance provider offers coverage for the therapist you’d like to work with.
If you’re covered by insurance, are there any limits? If you plan to use insurance for your therapy, make sure to check for limits on the number of sessions you can attend or other restrictions on your coverage.
If you have other questions, don’t be afraid to ask your therapist. Remember, therapy requires a significant amount of trust and comfort between you and your therapist.
Ask as many questions as you feel you need to in order to build this trust, comfort and connection.
Therapy can be tremendously effective at helping you overcome stress, grief and trauma, learn more about yourself, deal with specific issues and make real progress as a person.
The stronger your connection with your therapist, the easier you’ll find it to talk openly and make measurable progress towards your goals.
If you’re considering therapy and want to make sure you find a therapist who’s a good match for you, use the techniques listed above.
You may need to use several approaches to find the right therapist for your specific needs and personality.
If you ever feel uncomfortable with your therapist or feel as if you’d make better progress with a different therapist, don’t be afraid to ask for a referral.
It’s common and normal to talk to several therapists before finding someone who’s a good match for you.
If you aren't 100% happy with your current therapist, we have an article on the signs of a bad therapist you can read.