Much of the information in this article is specific to finding treatment within the United States of America.
So you’ve decided to speak with a therapist. That wonderful! Therapy is a great way to improve your mental health. But what now? Actually finding a therapist can be intimidating—fortunately, there are plenty of resources out there to help you!
If you’re a minor or a student…
If you’re a minor, you will likely need help from a parent or guardian to find treatment. Click here to read more about finding treatment as a minor.
If you’re a student, check if your school has a counseling center on campus. They can walk you through the whole process.
If you have health insurance, your insurance provider can help you find a therapist. Many insurance companies’ websites have online search tools, or you can call the number on the back of your insurance card for help.
SAMHSA’s Treatment Services Locator works the same way, but it lists resources are for low-income individuals who don’t have private insurance.
Search engines like Mental Health Match or Psychology Today’s therapist finder provide more specific information about each therapist. You can filter your search results by gender, sexuality, faith, areas of expertise, and more. Each provider has their own profile where you can read more about them and their practice. Look for key words and issues that you identify with.
There are a few websites where people can leave reviews of their therapists. It never hurts to get more information about a potential therapist—just remember to take these reviews with a grain of salt. People can have a bad experience with a great therapist if they’re not a good fit. The number of stars isn’t as important as the reasons the reviewer gives for liking or disliking the therapist.
Ask your friends and family who are in therapy if they can recommend someone. If they like their therapist, there is a chance you will too. It can be comforting to know someone you trust has already had a good experience with them. Just make sure that they fit into your health insurance plan if you have one, or have a sliding scale (you pay less if you make less money) if you don’t.
You can also ask your doctor for a referral to a therapist. They might know someone who specializes in the type of therapy you need. And there’s a good chance that they will recommend someone who is covered by the same health insurance. Doctors also often know about assistance programs that can help you pay for therapy—especially if were hospitalized.
There are also apps for online therapy, like BetterHelp or TalkSpace. These apps make it easy to stay in contact with your therapist during the week. You can even switch therapists if you aren’t clicking with the one you have.
These apps come with a subscription fee. Some insurance plans or employers will cover the subscription fee. Otherwise, you’ll need to weigh the subscription fees against what you would pay out of pocket otherwise.
Making an appointment
After making a list of three to five potential therapists, start making some phone calls. (Some therapists will have a way for you to make an appointment online.) Let the receptionist know you are a new client and make sure they are covered under your insurance. (The insurance information you find online isn’t always up-to-date!) Sometimes they’ll send you paperwork to fill out before the appointment. Some therapists will even do a consultation over the phone to make sure it’s a good fit.
If they offer to put you on a waitlist, say yes. Even if you end up finding someone else who can see you right away, it can’t hurt to have a backup plan.
While you wait…
In the meantime, you can use short-term mental health resources to tide you over. If you’re in crisis, If you need immediate help, you can reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 or using the chat box at 988lifeline.org. You can also text “MHA” to 741-741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. Warmlines are an excellent place for non-crisis support.
Look through our list of DIY tools for other resources you can use to stay mentally healthy while you wait. Ask your employer if you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), where you can get short-term counseling.