Talk therapy is a time-tested and evidence-based approach to helping people recover from the most common and disruptive mental health conditions. Yet, as effective as therapy can be, you first need to find a therapist who can truly help.

Not all therapy is created equal. Different therapists have unique specializations, experiences, cultural backgrounds, and therapeutic styles. The therapist who helped your friend overcome depression might not be the right therapist for you to work through anxiety.

When you’re looking to find a therapist, following these tips can help make sure you end up with the right person for the job.

1. Determine Your Needs

Before starting your search to find a therapist, it can be incredibly beneficial to determine what your needs are. What’s driving you to seek therapy? What specific mental health concerns do you have that need to be addressed? Do you think you have symptoms of a specific diagnosis?

For example, some of the more common reasons people seek out help from a therapist include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Trauma
  • Irritability or angry outbursts
  • Uncontrolled substance use
  • Loss of motivation
  • Frequent anxiety or panic attacks
  • Obsessive thoughts or compulsive behavior
  • Loss of interest in important hobbies or activities
  • Focus or productivity challenges
  • Interpersonal conflict

Listing out your needs before seeking therapy helps you in two distinct ways. First, it provides you with a baseline for what to look for when trying to find a therapist. If your primary concern is trauma, for instance, you know to look for therapists who have experience and training in helping people overcome trauma-related disorders.

Second, it provides you with a jumping off point for when you meet a therapist for the first time. You can explain your specific symptoms and challenges to a therapist, ask what their experience in helping people overcome similar problems is, and determine whether they seem like the right person to help you through these struggles.

Of course, your understanding of your symptoms may not be entirely correct, so while it can help direct your search for a therapist, it’s important to keep an open mind. People often mistake anxiety for depression, depression for trauma, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder for obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Therapists have specialized training to help distinguish what your disorder may be and help you recognize how different elements of your life may be contributing to your symptoms.

2. Consider Different Therapeutic Modalities

Therapeutic modalities refer to the wide range of techniques and approaches that therapists use to help their clients. There is an abundance of different therapeutic modalities that a therapist may use, and some may even have training in several modalities and incorporate elements of each when appropriate.

Some of the more commonly used therapeutic modalities include:

  • Prolonged exposure therapy (PE)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Marriage and family therapy (MFT)

Often, these modalities are intended to treat specific mental health diagnoses. EMDR, for example, is primarily used in the treatment of trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder. MFT is specifically catered to couples and families who are experiencing interpersonal conflict.

Modalities such as CBT, DBT, and ACT are used for multiple different mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders, among others. But still, they differ significantly in their approaches.

Knowing what your needs are in therapy means you can investigate a few different modalities that can help you find a therapist with specific training to help you overcome your mental health concerns.

If you’re not sure what modality is right for you, consider reaching out to a facility that has several different therapy options available. A brief consultation with a mental health professional can help guide you in the right direction and make sure that the style of therapy you receive is evidence-based.

3. Check Your Therapist’s Credentials

In the United States, “therapist” is not a protected title. This means that anyone can describe themselves as a therapist without fear of legal repercussions. Unfortunately, this means that some people are marketing themselves as therapists without having any education or credentials to support their ability to provide care.

When looking for a therapist, there are certain protected titles that indicate that someone has specialized training in talk therapy approaches. This includes titles such as:

  • Psychologist
  • Psychotherapist
  • Marriage and family therapist (MFT)
  • Licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)
  • Licensed professional counselor (LPC)

These professionals all have a graduate-level education specifically pertaining to mental health treatment. They have the tools and experience to deliver evidence-based interventions and complete hundreds or thousands of clinical hours before achieving their degrees and licensure.

When trying to find a therapist, make sure they are licensed in your state and that they have at least a master’s level education. Most therapists will have online bios or descriptions that include their education and licensure or can provide them upon request.

4. Pay Attention to “Fit”

When you first meet a therapist, the most important consideration for determining whether you have a good outcome in therapy is the “fit” you have with your therapist.

Therapy is a deeply intimate and emotional space, and you want to make sure that you feel like you can trust your therapist, that they have your best interests in mind, and that you get along with one another.

Academic research strongly supports this idea, with the “therapeutic alliance” being one of the strongest indicators of treatment success. A strong connection with your therapist is often much more important than the specific modalities being applied, making this an essential component of getting quality mental health care.

How do you determine a good fit with your therapist? Ultimately, this comes down to personal intuition. Most people will have a feel for whether their therapist is a good match within the first consultation. For others, one or two therapy sessions may be needed to determine whether they like their therapist and want to continue care.

If you don’t feel like there is a good fit, the best path is often to start looking for a new therapist or ask your current therapist if they have a colleague they can recommend.

5. Shop Around for Different Therapists

You can start this process by scheduling several consultations or sessions with different therapists before making a final decision.

Not every therapist is right for every client, and that is completely okay. Too often, people quit therapy too early or conclude that therapy simply doesn’t work for them because they didn’t meet the right therapist for them right off the bat.

As a general guideline, try scheduling appointments with three different therapists before making a final decision. If you feel a strong connection right away, then by all means, continue with the therapist that you had a great fit with.

Simply knowing that you are not “locked in” to the first therapist you meet can go a long way toward helping you get the mental health outcomes that you hope for.

6. Ask Lots of Questions

One of the best ways to decide whether a therapist is right for you is to ask therapists an abundance of questions when you first meet. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a therapy session is guided entirely by the therapist.

It is an inherently collaborative process, and asking lots of questions can help you decide whether you want to continue with this therapist or find someone else.

Therapists will typically welcome these questions and are happy to answer them honestly. Some of the questions that you can ask that could help you make the right choice include:

  • How long have you been doing therapy?
  • Have you ever had clients with my symptoms?
  • What kind of things will I have to do to see improvement?
  • What are your main therapeutic approaches?
  • Can you explain how the therapeutic process works?

Especially in your first sessions, these questions can help you not only decide whether you found the right therapist but also help you understand the process of therapy and what to expect throughout the experience.

7. Decide on Virtual vs. In-Person Therapy

Individual therapy is offered in both virtual and in-person options. Research has shown that both styles of therapy are similarly effective in helping people overcome most mental health conditions, but you may have a preference or specific set of needs that make one or the other the better choice for you and your goals.

Virtual therapy’s biggest advantages come from its convenience. You don’t need to spend time traveling to a therapist’s office, navigating traffic, or finding a therapist within a certain distance from your home. Many people also simply feel more comfortable talking about their challenges from the comfort of home.

There are certain downsides to virtual therapy to consider as well. First, it’s important for clients to have a space in their homes where they feel comfortable talking about issues with their therapist. If you don’t have a private room available, you may struggle to truly open up with your therapist in session.

There are technology requirements as well: you need a stable internet connection, a webcam, and a device such as a computer or smartphone to participate in online therapy.

In-person therapy, on the other hand, presents the opposite set of challenges and benefits. If you don’t have a private space available, you can find one at your therapist’s office. There are no technology requirements, and you’ll never struggle with connection issues during in-person therapy.

Choosing an in-person therapist also helps facilitate the communication process. Meeting in person means that your therapist can better recognize non-verbal communication, and they may be able to understand you more easily than they would over a webcam.

Let Plus by APN Help You Find a Therapist

Finding the right therapist isn’t always easy work, and it can often be a great challenge to research multiple therapists and modalities when you’re currently struggling with a mental health challenge.

If you need extra support in finding a therapist that fits your needs, call Plus by APN at 424.644.6486 or use our confidential contact form.

Plus by APN has many master’s level therapists with a wide range of specializations and experiences available in both virtual and in-person formats. Our team can answer your questions, help you find the right therapist for your specific needs, and help you change therapists if your first sessions don’t go as well as you hoped.

Therapy is just one of the mental health treatment options at Plus by APN. From ketamine-assisted treatment to deep transcranial magnetic stimulation, Plus by APN is here to provide every tool for you to achieve mental health recovery once and for all.


  • Ardito, Rita B, and Daniela Rabellino. “Therapeutic alliance and outcome of psychotherapy: historical excursus, measurements, and prospects for research.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 2 270. 18 Oct. 2011, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00270
  • Gratzer, David, and Faiza Khalid-Khan. “Internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy in the treatment of psychiatric illness.” CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne vol. 188,4 (2016): 263-272. doi:10.1503/cmaj.150007