Therapy FAQ

How to Choose the Right Therapist: Everything You Need to Know

Starting therapy is a crucial step towards better mental health. Choosing the right therapist involves considering your goals, costs, and the therapist’s qualifications. With various types of therapists available, finding one who aligns with your needs and background is essential for effective therapy.

Author Generic Image By Grow Therapy

Updated on May 23, 2024

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If you’ve made the decision to start therapy, you’re already on the right path to feeling better and reaching your mental health goals. The next step is to pick a therapist who’s right for you.

While all licensed mental health professionals have undergone extensive training and are qualified to provide therapy, certain types of therapists are better suited for certain people, depending on their needs. You want to ensure that the therapist you work with is best equipped to understand your concerns and help you on your mental health journey. 

Here are some tips for choosing a therapist, as well as a breakdown of some different types of mental health professionals.

Why You Might Choose One Therapist Over Another

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a therapist. Some things to keep in mind include your mental health goals, what type of therapy you need, and the background and qualification of the therapist.

What you hope to achieve in therapy should be one of the main deciding factors when choosing a therapist. First, determine what your goal is going into therapy. For example, is it to learn techniques to manage your anxiety? Is it to cope with the changes that accompany being a new parent? Is it to process past trauma? 

Once you’ve identified your mental health goals, you can work towards finding a therapist who specializes in the areas that you need the most help with.

Cost and Insurance Plans 

Cost often plays a big role in deciding on a therapist. If a therapist doesn’t accept insurance, consider looking for therapists who charge for their services on a sliding scale, meaning they charge lower fees to people with lower incomes. 

If you have health insurance with mental health benefits, you can look for a provider who accepts your specific plan so you can pay less. The price of therapy will vary depending on your deductible, copays, and out-of-pocket maximum. Once you confirm that a therapist accepts your plan, you can contact your insurance to determine the exact cost of each session.

Licensure and Certifications 

Many types of mental health professionals can provide therapy, including licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs), psychologists, psychiatrists, and more. 

Different licenses indicate the type of education and training an individual has completed. Many therapists have similar training, although psychologists and psychiatrists have gone through more schooling. 

In some cases, you may want specific licensure, like a psychiatrist who’s a medical doctor if you also need medication prescribed to you, or an LMFT if most of your concerns revolve around familial relationships. 

Personal Background

While you don’t need to have a therapist similar to you, in some situations, it can be helpful to work with a mental health professional who understands your struggles or is aligned with your beliefs. 

For example, if you’re LGBTQIA+ or a person of color, you may want a therapist who’s also a part of that respective community so they can better understand some of the unique struggles you face on a personal level.

Grow Therapy makes it easy for you to find the right mental health care specialist by filtering your results based on the background of therapists and your special needs. Our expert matching team will help you connect with a therapist who:

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Common Reasons to Seek Therapy

You don’t have to have a specific mental health condition to seek therapy. In fact, therapy can benefit everybody. But it can be especially transformative if you’re struggling in a particular area of your life.

If you’ve already been diagnosed with a mental health condition, working with a therapist who has experience with your specific condition can be helpful. Here are a few mental health conditions therapy can be beneficial for:

Dissociation and Dissociative Disorders 

Dissociation is a mental disorder that makes the patient feel disconnected from their feelings, memories, and thoughts. A person also experiences a sense of lack of identity and belonging. 

Dissociative disorders include:

If you’ve been diagnosed with one of the conditions above, a therapist specializing in dissociative disorders will help you explore and process past traumatic experiences that cause you to dissociate. 

Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety disorders can present themselves in various ways, often characterized by symptoms such as panic attacks, avoidance tendencies, muscular tension, restlessness, impaired concentration, difficulty sleeping, and an intense, persistent fear or worry about upcoming situations. 

Common types of anxiety disorders include:

Seeking support from a specialized therapist can help you avoid the consequences of an untreated anxiety disorder. A therapist can help you find ways to cope with feelings of anxiety, demoralization, low self-esteem, unhappiness, and shame. 

Depression

Depression is characterized by symptoms that include low mood, self-pity, tearfulness, social withdrawal, suicidal ideation, or a loss of interest and enjoyment in things that previously seemed interesting and fun. 

Common types of depression include:

If you have been diagnosed with depression, seeking help from a trained psychologist can help. They will assist you in changing negative thinking patterns and equip you with coping skills to deal with conflicts and stressors. 

Different Types of Therapy

Depending on your specific needs, a therapist may recommend a particular type of therapy to help support your mental health issues comfortably and effectively. The common types of evidence-based therapy are: 

Couples Therapy 

Couples therapy is a form of evidence-based psychotherapy that helps partners to improve their relationships. This type of therapy can help couples address problems with various aspects of their relationship, such as:

Family Therapy 

Family therapy allows family members to explore and express their feelings in a non-judgmental, therapeutically-productive space. With the assistance of a therapist, families discuss the differences and difficulties that cause trouble in their relationships.

Family therapy helps with:

Group Therapy 

This type of therapy involves a small group and a psychotherapist. During therapy, group members are advised to share their experiences and improvements. The process may also involve group activities geared toward improving relational skills.

Group therapy is instrumental in offering support and allowing you to interact with others experiencing similar problems or concerns. Group therapy aims to:

Other popular forms of evidence-based therapy include dialectical behavioral therapy, couples counseling, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Different Types of Therapists

Many types of licenses and specialties exist within the mental health space. Some examples of common types of therapists include:

Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs)

LCSWs typically earn a master’s degree in social work (MSW) before completing real-world clinical training. These professionals may work with individuals and help them cope with their mental health struggles, or they might work on a larger scale, such as helping run community programs. 

Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs)

LMHCs usually hold a master’s degrees in psychology or counseling, and complete training specific to mental health. They’re considered similar to LCSWs, although their training and experience may lie more within treating individual mental health conditions than community-based social work.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) 

While LMFTs can address an individual’s various mental health concerns, their specialized training lies in working with people struggling with interpersonal relationships. They may help couples (married or not) and/or family members who need assistance with their relationships. 

Addiction Therapists 

Addiction therapists are the best fit for anyone coping with addiction since they have specialized training in the area of addiction, understand its complexities, and can recommend the best course of treatment. 

Additionally, they may have experience in rehab, inpatient programs, or extensive outpatient programs. 

Trauma Therapists 

Trauma therapists have specialized training and experience working with people who have experienced trauma. They know how trauma can manifest and affect somebody’s life, and they’re skilled in treatment modalities.

Psychologists

Psychologists have a doctoral degree, which may be a doctor of psychology (PsyD) or a doctor of philosophy (PhD). Compared to LCSWs, LMHCs, and LMFTs, psychologists undergo a few more years of schooling. They vary in specializations and can diagnose and treat mental health conditions.

Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists are either medical doctors (MDs) or doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs). They have undergone extensive schooling and completed a medical residency. On top of providing therapy, they are able to prescribe medications for mental health conditions, such as antidepressants.

Psychoanalysts

Psychoanalysts are typically psychologists who have completed advanced training in psychoanalysis. These professionals focus on analyzing individuals’ personalities, behaviors, and both their unconscious and conscious selves. 

Where to Find a Therapist

Different professions, including psychiatry, counseling, and social work, offer various therapy services. Therefore, finding the right therapist for you can be an uphill task, especially if it’s your first session.

However, you can get the necessary assistance from a credible online directory and decide whether to meet your choice therapist online or book an in-person appointment.

Online vs. In-Person

One of the decisions you’ll need to make when searching for a therapist is whether you want to have in-person sessions or opt for online therapy.

Online therapy has gained popularity in recent years, and for good reason. It offers greater flexibility and convenience, especially for those with busy schedules or limited mobility. With online therapy, you can have a session from the comfort of your own home or office, which can help you feel more relaxed and open. 

In-person therapy sessions are a more traditional option; for some people, there’s no substitute for the intimacy and connection of a face-to-face conversation. However, most therapists offer hybrid options.

Additionally, booking a session is much simpler than you’d expect. Most therapists are available for appointments within 48 hours. 

Where to Look

Once you decide whether you prefer in-person or online therapy, it’s time to start looking for a therapist. 

“It’s important to take your time when choosing a good therapist. You want to find someone who you feel comfortable with and who has experience working with the issues you want to address, especially if it’s your first time.” advises Karina Hester, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with Grow Therapy.

Grow Therapy is a great place to start your search. The easy-to-use search feature let’s you browse therapists based on your state, insurance provider, and the therapist’s specialty. If we’re not in your state yet or don’t accept your insurance at this time, you can try online therapy directories, professional associations such as the American Psychological Association (APA), or your insurance provider to find a mental health professional.

Key Takeaways

The right therapist for you is the one who makes you feel safe, understood, and supported. Considering your goals and looking into a potential therapist’s professional experience and background is a great way to find someone who might be a good match. 

Frequently Asked Questions

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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