How I Find A Therapist – Part One

Recently, a lot of people have messaged me asking me to tell the story of how I found A. I also read a post about the top three things somebody has learned from finding a therapist. I mentioned to this individual that I had a checklist that I have perfected over the years – and they recommended that I write about it. So I am.

That checklist, combined with intuition and years of experience, led me to A. It’s been five months, and I can confidently say that I have found a well matched person for me. Is she the only therapist for me? Probably not. But she is the right therapist for right now.

I wish I had the knowledge I have now when I started my search 10 years ago. I wish somebody had written this out, and that I could find it. I wish that someone had told me what to expect when searching for a therapist. So, this is my contribution to that discussion. It is part one of a three part series on how to find a new therapist. I am not a therapist, but I have had 10 years and 8 therapists worth of experience. This is what I have learned.

I am well aware that this was learned in retrospect and it is a lot easier to talk about the process now, than when I was in it. So above all, be kind to yourself, remember that you may not click with the first person you meet, and trust your intuition. What is right for me may not be right for you.

Before You Begin

Before even interacting with a therapist, you need to do some basic research. Some of the most painful mistakes are easily avoidable at this stage of the process. I have failed to do these things, and found someone I loved but couldn’t afford in the end, and that was a really painful break. Note that this list assumes you are in the right mental headspace to answer these questions, and that you have some time. If you are not, I suggest having a trusted friend do this part for you — or seeking emergency short term help until you feel capable of handling it yourself. Figure out the basics, and answer these questions:

  • How much can I afford per session? How much does my insurance cover? What kind of therapy does my insurance cover? What is the average cost of a therapist in my region?
  • When can I see a therapist? Do I absolutely have to have sessions outside of my work hours? Do I want someone who is available on the weekend? Is frequency of sessions important to me? How many do I think I need a week? How long do I want my sessions to be?
  • What style of therapy am I looking for? Do I want somebody who is more reflective and empathetic or somebody who remains emotionless and acts as a ‘mirror’?
  • Male or female? Young or old?
  • How am I going to get to therapy? Where is the ideal location for my therapists office?
  • What is the registered body of therapists in my region? What is the licensing structure? How can I find out if my therapist is licensed?

It is more than okay to have an “I don’t know” to some of these questions. It could be that you have never seen a therapist and you don’t know how you will react to some of the options. It is okay to have blanks in the answers. I never would have known most of these answers even 5 years ago. It is a process – but at least if you have the questions, you know that you can fill in the blanks as you go.

For me, I know that my insurance covers $400 a year (what a joke, right?) so I have to pay for the rest. I also know that they don’t actually cover someone with A’s education and experience, they only cover a basic provider. I know that my needs are more complex – and therefore this list allowed me to actively choose outside of that range. I know that my budget is a certain amount each month. I know that I do better seeing someone twice a week for 90 minutes. I know that I can’t take time off of work to see my counsellor. I know that I need an empathetic, care-based provider.

Having the answers to these questions can be really helpful at this initial stage. Not only does it make you feel more comfortable and informed, but it can help you create a short list of providers.

The Short List

After having the answers to the above questions, I recommend creating a short list of providers that meet the criteria you’ve established. Hopefully, it has more than one or two providers on it. In a rural area or if you are restricted by budget, it could end up being one person or two. I don’t have a lot of experience with that, because I’ve looked for providers in areas where the population is over 200,000.

I start with a Google search for “therapists in X”. I take a look at their websites. I personally dislike people who pay for Google ads to get clients, but that’s just me and is a bias based on my experience in advertising. If you’re comfortable, you can also ask around to friends in the industry or even friends who you know are seeing a therapist. Do your research. Look at their websites, and don’t be afraid to Google their names. Look for articles or papers they may have published. Look at the type of therapy they practice, and Google that too.

The more informed you are the better.

My short list almost always exclusively has people who offer a 30 minute phone consultation on it. It’s a personal preference to me, to be able to talk to this person for free. To me, it says that the provider is also looking for someone who is a good fit to be willing to schedule that free introductory phone call. I also almost exclusively email people who have cost per session listed right on their website, and who have some sort of “about me” page going on. Bonus points if there is a picture and I can estimate gender/age.

However, those things are up to you, and over time you will figure out what works.

Send those emails/Fill out those contact forms

So now I have a contact list of 5-6 people. Last time I did this (when I was looking for A), my short list ended up with 10 people on it. I would have contacted them in rounds, so as not to overwhelm myself. Scheduling more than 3 phone calls with a new therapist in a week is too much for me. I always assume one person will not answer (happens a lot, actually), and that one person will not be taking new clients. So I send out 5 emails at a time.

The email usually goes like this:

“Hello, my name is <your name>. I am looking for a new counsellor to work with me, primarily in the areas of <insert areas here: I put familial trauma, abuse, and the resulting anxiety and depression>. I would like to schedule an introductory phone call with you. Can you please give me a time that works for you on <put in a few options>. Thank you,”

I keep the email short and brief and actually quite templated. It helps me reduce anxiety around “did I put too much, did I not put enough” in the email. It also reveals very little about me, so I don’t feel poorly or anxious about sending it.

The next post in this series will talk about that first phone call. I also welcome any additional recommendations, suggestions, or questions you may have in the comments below.


8 thoughts on “How I Find A Therapist – Part One

  1. Pingback: How I Find A Therapist – Part Two | Paper Doll Therapy Blog

  2. like you, i did a lot of research to find my current therapist eileen. I needed someone specialised in did and trauma. I looked for months before I found her its almost unheard of here in ireland to have someone specialising in these areas. I’m glad I took that time to research, it made all the difference in the end.

    Private emails are always welcome, you can reach me by emailing me at

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry, this is a really long comment.

    The big thing that stands out to me is that the process seems a lot more straightforward in retrospect than it is when you’re in the middle of it, particularly if your problems are poorly defined or still evolving – ‘the door is easy to see once you’re already in the room’. Having had a few bad matches with therapists/therapeutic approaches in your past is not entirely a bad thing, it gives you a much clearer idea of what will and won’t work for you. It’s much harder if you’re looking for your first therapist.

    When I went looking for my current therapist I was looking for very specific things, based on what *hadn’t* worked in the past: I wanted someone who was female, experienced in working with complex trauma using a 3-phase treatment approach, would be actively involved in any crisis management including suicide risk management, and didn’t use any modalities that sounded weird or scary, and nothing involving touching.

    When I was making a shortlist I relied heavily on the impression I got from the website: the sites which seemed ‘calm’ and well organised with clear information about billing arrangements, therapist profiles and downloadable information sheets were well ahead. A lot of the sites looked amateurish, tried to cram too much information on the home page, or claimed that their therapists had ‘expertise’ in 20 different things. I was wary of anyone who said they treated trauma but only seemed to know about simple PTSD, classified everything as ‘trauma’, or had information on the site about treating sexual dysfunction that made no mention of trauma as a factor.

    I’m not good at forming impressions over the phone, so I consider the first session as an interview, and I am prepared to pay their usual fee for this, but they have to work hard for it. I bring a whole lot of information to that session including a detailed history, summary/ timeline, and an explanation of what I’m looking for for, us to discuss.

    The two times I’ve taken this every organised and proactive approach I’ve been happy with the first therapist I interviewed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey dangerous!

      Do not ever worry about the length of the comment. You are definitely correct that the process is a lot more straightforward after you have completed your search. I wrote this and will write the other two for the people who just are not aware of where to start – maybe this (along with comments such as yours) will help them out.

      I also agree that bad matches are great lessons – and I tried to make it clear throughout the post that not knowing the answers to these questions isn’t a bad thing – it means you will gain experience as you go. Alternatively someone could be the right ‘match’ for you on paper or on the phone and then TOTALLY suck in person.

      I think that your shortlist relying on websites makes total sense. I love the calm ones – actually, one thing that A has on her website is photos of animals. I remember that standing out to me. Your point about therapists claiming to be experts in a million things is a great one – you simply cannot specialize in everything. That’s a definite red flag.

      Being organized and proactive is so key – and you’re right, I never would have learned how to be that way without the negative experiences (and in some cases simply learning experiences) that I had. Thank you so much for sharing, I’m positive that your comment will be helpful for others!


      • Thanks. I hope I didn’t come across as critical, that wasn’t my intention.

        Another thing I’ve found relevant has been to acknowledge that my needs have changed over time. 18 years ago a CBT therapist still finishing his internship was a really good match for me, 18 months ago my relationship with an experienced CBT therapist failed despite a promising start because her working hours were not flexible enough to increase the session frequency or provide crisis support when I needed it.


        Liked by 1 person

      • You didn’t come across as critical at all!

        It’s true that our needs change. A would not have been a compatible therapist for me two or three years ago. I needed to work with someone else for a while on basic coping skills first.


  4. This is really interesting PD. I have never commited to long term therapy before seeing T. Because I am in the UK I was lucky enough to be able to use NHS therapists… I say lucky but to be honest they weren’t​​ particularly good so I opted for private. It’s a struggle financially​​ ​if I am honest but I at least I could choose my therapist rather than having to take what I was given with the NHS.
    I didnt​ really know where to start with picking a therapist. I basically googled the therapists in my area and as shollo​w as it may sound I only emailed those who had a picture and who I liked the look of. The main problem I have now is I was only diagnosed with BPD in April and I had been seeing T for 5 months by then. I still need to have the conversation with T regarding her experience with people with the diagnosis that I have. Maybe I will have to change therapists but for now, I am happiest just staying with what I know!!
    Looking forward to reading your part 2 🙂

    Forever xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Forever. I thought that it may be interesting and full of some tips for people to at least consider when going on this journey. I know that I can definitely be at a loss of where to start and its only because I have this all written down that I am successful. It can feel like a frustrating, lonely journey to that ‘right’ therapist.

      It isn’t that shallow at all forever! I think that picking people off of looks and pictures is totally natural. If you ever have to change therapists I’m sure your T will help you in the process. Thanks for reading,

      PD xx


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