How do I find a therapist?

So you’re thinking of starting therapy. That’s great, but where do you start? Finding a therapist can be intimidating, but there are plenty of resources out there to help you.

Ask around

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.

Searching online

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.

Search engines like HelpPro or Psychology Today’s therapist finder take things a step further. 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 starts isn’t as important as the reasons the reviewer gives for liking or disliking the therapist.

Other places to look

If you are student, your school might have a counseling center on campus. They can help you through the whole process.

There are also apps for online therapy, like BetterHelp or TalkSpace. Some insurance plans or employers will cover the subscription fee.

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, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK, or text “MHA” to 741-741 to talk to a trained counselor from Crisis Text Line. Look through our list of DIY tools for other resources (such as apps) you can use to stay mentally healthy while you wait. Ask your employer if you have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), where you can get short-term counseling.