Written by Samantha Carter

The journey of seeking a therapist can seem daunting and overwhelming at first. However, taking the time to find the right therapist is an endeavor that pays off in the long run. Because your counselor plays a crucial role in affecting your overall mental and emotional well-being, it’s important to find someone you can trust who has a skill set that matches your needs. With so many different clinicians to choose from, you may find it helpful to consider the following points while on your search for a suitable therapist.

Credentials and Qualifications

First, you’ll want to consider what credentials and qualifications are important to you. There are several types of credentials and qualifications within the mental health field, each indicating a different level of training and expertise.

Licensed therapists typically hold advanced degrees such as Master’s or Doctoral degrees in fields like psychology, counseling, social work, or marriage and family therapy. They are accredited by relevant professional bodies and have completed supervised clinical hours to obtain licensure.

Psychiatrists, on the other hand, are medical doctors specializing in mental health who can prescribe medication in addition to providing therapy. Psychologists often have a Ph.D. or Psy.D. and specialize in psychological testing and therapy.

Additionally, therapists in training, such as counseling interns or psychology doctoral students, work under supervision as they accumulate clinical experience and complete their degrees. Therapists in training are able to offer therapy services under the guidance of licensed clinicians to gain hands-on experience in the field.

When looking for a therapist, make sure to take note of their credentials and determine if those qualifications meet your needs and/or comfort level.


Consider what specific issues or concerns you want to address in therapy. Look for therapists who specialize in treating those particular areas such as depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, and/or other diagnoses and mental health challenges. By finding someone who specializes in your unique circumstances, you’ll have a better chance of working with a therapist who can help you navigate the recurrent themes in your life.

Therapeutic Approach

Different therapists use different approaches in their treatment sessions. Therefore, it can be helpful to understand some of the most common therapeutic approaches to determine which ones might be helpful to you. While there are many documented therapeutic approaches, some of the most common include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most widely practiced and researched therapeutic approaches. It focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to states of distress. A CBT-trained counselor will likely help their clients develop effective coping strategies and problem-solving skills to better manage their symptoms.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Another common approach is psychodynamic therapy, which explores unconscious patterns and conflicts that influence thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Through insight and interpretation, participants can gain a deeper understanding of their inner dynamics and learn to resolve underlying issues for lasting change.

Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy, including person-centered therapy developed by Carl Rogers, emphasizes self-awareness, personal growth, and the innate capacity for self-healing. Therapists trained in humanistic therapy will work on providing their clients with unconditional positive regard, empathy, and genuineness to create a supportive environment where participants can explore and fulfill their potential.

Mindfulness-Based Therapy

Mindfulness-based therapy integrates mindfulness practices with traditional therapeutic techniques to cultivate present-moment awareness and acceptance. By focusing on the here and now, participants can develop a greater sense of resilience, thus improving their emotional regulation skills.

Family Therapy and Couples Counseling

Family therapy and couples counseling focuses on improving communication and resolving conflicts in relationships. These approaches recognize the interconnectedness of individuals within family systems and aim to foster healthier dynamics and interpersonal connections.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness practices to help individuals with emotion regulation difficulties, particularly those with Borderline Personality Disorder. DBT teaches skills such as distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional control to promote stability and improve overall social-emotional functioning.

These therapeutic approaches, among others, offer diverse frameworks and strategies to address the complex needs of individuals seeking mental health support. Therefore, it can be helpful to spend some time researching the different approaches to better determine the skills you are looking for in a therapist.


It’s not always about qualifications, specializations, and approaches. Sometimes, you just really need to work with someone who gets what you’re going through on an innate or personal level. Therefore, you may want to evaluate a therapist’s experience in dealing with issues similar to yours. Experienced therapists may offer better insights and techniques gained from years of practice and unique connection to a particular circumstance.

Compatibility and Fit

Building a strong therapeutic relationship is crucial for successful outcomes. Consider factors like personality, communication style, and cultural background to ensure a good fit between you and your therapist.

Many therapists will offer a free consultation. This is a great opportunity to assess how talking with them makes you feel. You may consider reflecting on the following questions after one to three sessions with a new therapist.

Does it seem like the therapist genuinely gets what I am trying to explain, or does it seem like they are possibly misinterpreting my words? Do they have the capacity to understand my experience? Am I having to repeat myself often?

Has the therapist offered me any helpful advice or feedback, or did it just feel like one giant talking session? Also, what kind of therapy am I looking for? Do I want to be heard more? Do I want to learn more? Or, do I want a bit of both?

Do I feel comfortable talking to this therapist? Do things feel natural or forced?

It’s important to remember that therapists are people, too. They make mistakes like everyone else and come with their own set of personality flaws. Not everyone in life will get along, and it’s the same between therapists and clients. It’s OK to recognize and acknowledge when things aren’t working. Rest assured, you’ll find someone who is compatible.

At the same time, it’s important to recognize that it’s OK (and even good) to work with a therapist who can gently challenge your worldviews and thought patterns. After all, therapists are trained to help guide you to a better mental state, and that often involves a willingness to try on different perspectives and approaches.


You’ll also want to consider practical aspects such as location, office hours, and availability for appointments. Choose a therapist whose schedule aligns with yours and who is convenient to access. Attending therapy shouldn’t be another problem added to your plate.

In-Person Vs. Telehealth

In a similar vein as accessibility, you’ll want to determine whether you’d prefer in-person therapy, online therapy (telehealth), or are open to both. Consider which kind of sessions align with your comfort level and practical needs. There is no right or wrong answer and it’s all based on your own personal preferences.

Cost and Insurance

Another thing you’ll want to consider is money. Determine the therapist’s fees and whether they accept your insurance or offer sliding scale options based on income. Factor in the financial aspect to ensure affordability and sustainability for the long-term.

Remember that therapy is an investment in your mental wellness. There is strong evidence that suggests the relationship between mental and physical health as intertwined. Therefore, it stands to reason that an investment in your mental health is also an investment in your physical health.

Ethical Standards

You’ll also want to ensure that the therapist you choose adheres to ethical guidelines and confidentiality agreements. You should feel safe and respected in the relationship and that starts with a set of ethical standards that you feel good about.

Many therapists have their own code of conduct in addition to the oath they take as licensed clinicians. Consider asking your potential therapist what their values are, particularly when it comes to working with their clients. Then, reflect on whether or not that aligns with your own.

Client Reviews and Testimonials

Another great way to find a quality therapist is to seek out feedback from previous clients. You can do so by reading any testimonials and/or reviews that might be available about them. Oftentimes, you can find this information through a quick Google search. This can help you better gauge the therapist’s effectiveness and professionalism.

Holistic Approach

It’s important to remember that reaching a state of mental wellness often requires more than just attending therapy alone. By working with therapists who take a more holistic approach to your mental wellness, you can set yourself up for a greater likelihood of success.

It can be helpful to inquire about what practices outside of talk therapy your counselor recommends, such as mindfulness, healthy eating, exercise, and more. Also, find out if your therapist is knowledgeable about alternative approaches that may be helpful to you in the event that traditional practices alone (such as psychotherapy and medication) aren’t fully resolving your issues.

Ask your intended therapist whether or not they are aware of therapeutics like ketamine-assisted therapy, neurofeedback, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, stellate ganglion block, or deep TMS. Determine how they may have worked with these therapies and/or similar approaches in the past for improved outcomes with clients.

Cultural Competence

When looking for a therapist, you’ll want to consider whether or not they have experience working with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. Cultural competence is essential for understanding and respecting clients’ unique perspectives and experiences. You may or may not choose to seek out professionals whose cultural backgrounds align with your own.

Identity Affirmation

Similar to cultural competence, you may want to consider whether or not your potential therapist is sensitive to gender identity, sexual orientation, and other aspects of identity, especially as any of these may pertain to your unique situation. Feeling understood and affirmed in therapy is essential.

Collaborative Approach

You’ll want to choose a therapist who values collaboration and empowers you to actively participate in your wellness journey. A joint approach fosters a sense of agency and ownership over the healing process and encourages you to trust in your own innate wisdom throughout your development. Ultimately, you’re hoping to find a mental health professional who will eventually work themselves out of a job as they help you discover the skills to independently navigate your mental state.

Supervision and Consultation

When looking for a therapist, it can be helpful to inquire about their supervision practices and whether or not they engage in regular consultation with colleagues. Supervision ensures the therapist’s ongoing professional development and adherence to best practices. Because the mental health field is constantly changing and evolving, it’s important to work with therapists who are committed to lifelong learning and improvement. This should have a direct correlation to the quality of services they provide.

Flexibility and Adaptability

Life circumstances and therapeutic needs may change over time. Choose a therapist who is flexible and adaptable in adjusting the treatment plan to meet your evolving needs. You also may also want to inquire about their policies when it comes to rescheduling or changing appointments.

For many people, things like illness, parental responsibilities, and work can sometimes take precedence over previously scheduled obligations. While it’s important to remain committed to your therapy sessions, it’s equally as important to find a therapist who has reasonable policies for when life happens.

Treatment Length and Duration

Discuss the expected duration of treatment with your intended therapist as well as their approach to termination. Understanding the therapeutic process and timeline can help you better manage expectations and set realistic goals.

Also, don’t be disheartened if you learn that therapy may be a long-term need of yours. It often takes a long time to heal from traumatic and/or challenging experiences, so be gentle with yourself along the way and believe in the possibility of things getting better over time.

Follow-Up and Support

Consider whether the therapist offers follow-up sessions or support after completing therapy. Having access to continued support can be beneficial for maintaining progress and addressing any relapses or challenges.

Similarly, you may want to consider your therapist’s policies on booking last minute appointments in addition to your regular standing timeslots. We can’t always predict when difficult situations will arise. Therefore, having access to additional support when needed can be a vital aspect to your healing journey.

Trust and Intuition

Trust your instincts and intuition when evaluating a therapist. Pay attention to how comfortable and safe you feel during the initial consultation or session, as well as throughout your sessions with any therapist.

If you feel uncomfortable, hurt, or confused by any of your therapist’s actions, talk to them right away. A good therapist will make you feel seen and heard with whatever feelings you’re experiencing while attempting to solve any problems with you and taking ownership of any potential wrongdoings. Remember – no one is perfect, but a good therapist is someone who listens and knows how to repair unintended damages when they happen.

Referrals and Recommendations

Finally, consider seeking referrals from trusted sources such as friends, family members, or healthcare professionals. Personal recommendations can provide valuable insights into finding a therapist who meets your unique needs and expectations.

Finding a Therapist That’s Right for You

Finding the right therapist requires careful consideration of a multitude of factors ranging from qualifications and therapeutic approach to personal compatibility and accessibility. By prioritizing these considerations, you can embark on a therapeutic journey that feels supportive, empowering, and conducive to your overall mental well-being.

If you’re not quite sure where to start, Plus by APN offers both in-person and virtual therapy appointments in a variety of states to suit a wide range of needs. With a comprehensive and holistic approach to mental health, Plus by APN considers the whole person throughout their treatment process, incorporating a unique blend of traditional and alternative therapies for improved outcomes. If you’re in the market for a therapist, I highly recommend booking one of their free consultations by calling 424.644.6486 or filling out the online contact form today.


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