Seeking Help For Your Mental Health: What To Look For In A Therapist

Updated on January 3, 2023

Everyone can struggle with mental health issues at one point or another. Whether it’s a short-term bout of stress or something more persistent like depression, the good news is that there are resources to help you get back on track. Finding a therapist who works best for you and your needs is one of the most crucial steps in improving your wellbeing.  

When it comes to seeking out help for your mental health, the process can seem intimidating. You want someone you can trust with your deepest thoughts and feelings, but where do you start? Click here to learn more about where and how to get started with your mental health journey.  

Here are a few factors to consider when looking for a therapist that could be right for you. 

  • Professional Qualifications 

Professional qualifications comprise of the credentials and trainings that a therapist has received to practice their profession. These may include a degree in psychology or social work, as well as specialized training and certifications.  

In the United States, therapists must be licensed to practice. The qualifications for licensure vary by state but typically involve completing a certain amount of education and supervised clinical experience, then passing a licensing exam.  

You must ensure that the therapist you choose is licensed and has the appropriate credentials to practice therapy in your state. You can check with your state’s licensing board to verify the therapist’s qualifications. 

  • Experience 

One of the most important factors to consider when seeking help for your mental health is experience. Consider what kind of issues that your potential therapist has worked with in the past.  

Do they have experience working with specific demographics or conditions? If you’re dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or another condition that calls for a specialized approach, ensure that the therapist has adequate background and knowledge to address it.  

Also, find out how long they have been working with people dealing with similar issues to yours, as this can give you a better idea of their expertise. 

  • Specialty Areas 

In addition to licensure, therapists may also choose to become certified in a specific practice area or obtain additional training in a particular therapy type and modality. With many different types of mental health specialties, each professional has their own expertise that you should take advantage of. 

Because mental health is a sensitive matter, you may benefit more from one distinctive approach. Some common specialty areas in therapy include the following. 

  1. Anxiety Disorders 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may be used by therapists specializing in anxiety disorders to assist clients in recognizing and altering harmful thought patterns that fuel anxiety. 

  1. Depression 

To assist clients in understanding and controlling their symptoms, therapists specializing in depression may use interventions such as interpersonal therapy (IPT) or CBT. 

  1. Trauma 

To assist clients in processing and coping with traumatic situations, therapists specializing in trauma may use eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) or CBT. 

  1. Substance Abuse 

To assist clients in addressing their substance use and associated concerns, therapists who specialize in substance abuse may employ techniques like motivational interviewing or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). 

  1. Relationships And Family Therapy 

Therapists specializing in relationships and family therapy may assist clients to improve their relationships and communication with others by using techniques like systemic therapy or emotionally focused therapy. 

  1. Children And Adolescents 

Therapists working with children and adolescents may use play therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help young clients address their concerns and develop appropriate coping mechanisms. 

You can research the different therapy specialties available to determine the best therapy methods for you or your loved ones. 

  • Personal Style 

Another important factor to consider when choosing a therapist is their style. You should feel comfortable talking to them and expressing yourself openly. A therapist’s personal style refers to their approach to therapy and how they interact with their clients. 

AdobeStock 469367632

You should find a therapist whose personality matches your needs and preferences, as this can impact your therapy’s success. When evaluating their style, take these into account. 

  1. Therapy Approach 

Different therapists may employ various techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, or solution-focused therapy. Consider whether the therapist’s approach corresponds to your therapy needs and goals. 

  1. Communication Style 

Some therapists are more directive in their communication style, while others are more collaborative. Consider whether you prefer a therapist who is more directive or one who is more cooperative. 

  1. Therapy Pace 

Some therapists may take a more gradual approach to therapy, whereas others may be more action-oriented. Consider whether the therapist’s speed is compatible with your own. 

  1. Level of Comfort  

It’s critical that you feel at ease talking to your therapist and that they understand and respect your concerns. Consider whether you feel at ease with the therapist and whether they are genuinely interested in assisting you. 

If it doesn’t feel like a good fit, take the time to find someone you can connect with. Remember, your therapy sessions should be a safe space where you can feel heard and understood. 

  • Cost 

Therapy can be expensive. As such, it’s essential to consider how much the therapy sessions will cost. The cost of treating mental health differs significantly depending on the therapist’s training, location, and the length and frequency of sessions.  

Think about the cost of therapy and whether your insurance will cover the fees. When evaluating these costs, you want to take into consideration the following options. 

  1. Insurance 

Examine your insurance provider to see what is covered under your plan. Many insurance policies pay some or all of the costs of therapy. Take note that some therapists may take a set payment for their services because they are in-network providers with specific insurance companies. If you have out-of-network coverage, you may still be able to get some compensation for your sessions. Just remember that out-of-network therapists may charge higher rates. 

  1. Self-pay Costs 

If you lack insurance or your policy does not cover therapy, you may be required to foot the bill out of pocket. Many therapists provide sliding scale fees based on your income, which means they will only charge you what you can afford. Before beginning therapy, discuss costs and available payment plans with the therapist. 

  1. Package Pricing 

If you intend to commit to continuous therapy, some therapists offer package rates for a predetermined number of sessions up front, which may save you some money in the long run. 

It’s best to be upfront about finances before starting any kind of treatment plan so there won’t be any surprises in the future. If you are financially constrained, you may want to consider less expensive alternatives like group therapy or online counseling. You can also inquire with your therapist about options or financial aid that might be offered to help with treatment costs. 

  • Availability 

Inquire about the therapist’s schedule and availability. When looking at a therapist’s accessibility, keep these factors in mind. 

  1. Location 

Is the therapist’s office easily accessible, or will you travel a long distance for appointments? 

  1. Office Hours 

Does the therapist have office hours that are convenient for you, or will you have to miss work or other obligations to attend appointments? 

  1. Appointment Availability 

Can you schedule appointments with the therapist at times convenient for you, or are their schedules fully booked, causing you to wait a long time? 

Committing to ongoing treatment if the therapist’s availability does not work with your schedule can be difficult. For this reason, you need to find out how often they are available for appointments and whether they offer online or telephone sessions if you need more flexibility regarding times and dates.  

Online therapy may be an option for you if you have a busy schedule or live in a rural area with limited access to mental health services. This will ensure you can get the help you need without worrying about any unexpected costs or delays. 

  • Recommendations 

Recommendations from friends, family, or your primary care physician can help you find a therapist who is a good fit for you. If you’re unsure where to begin, ask people you trust for referrals to therapists in your area.  

You can also look for therapists in online directories or ask your insurance provider for a list of therapists covered by your policy. When seeking recommendations, ask these questions: 

  1. What do you like best about your therapist? 
  1. What problems did the therapist assist you with? 
  1. What were the therapist’s approach and style? 
  1. Was it simple to make appointments with the therapist? 
  1. Was the location and availability of the therapist’s office convenient for you? 

However, remember that what works for one individual may not work for another, so do your research and consider your own needs and preferences when selecting a therapist. 


When seeking help for your mental health, there are many things to consider to ensure you find the right therapist. Foremost, make sure that the therapist you choose is licensed and has the credentials to practice therapy in your state. You also want to consider whether working with a therapist who specializes in a specific area, such as anxiety, depression, or trauma, would be beneficial to you. 

Moreover, be sure to find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable talking to and who understands your concerns. Don’t be afraid to inquire about their therapeutic approach and how they work with clients. Consider location, office hours, and the therapist’s appointment availability. More importantly, because therapy can be costly, think about the cost and whether your insurance will cover it.  

Do your research ahead of time and ask for referrals to narrow your options to find the best fit for your unique needs. Once you’ve found someone who meets all the criteria above, trust your gut and go with whom you feel most comfortable.