How To Find a Therapist

by Dr. Ervin on August 13, 2014

Choosing a therapist can be complicated, even if you’ve been to therapy before. Taking the following things into consideration will help you build a successful relationship with your new therapist.

Collect your thoughts and share them

The more clarity you have about why you’re seeking a therapist, the better you’ll be at expressing your goals to them by phone or email. Don’t be discouraged if your ideas are a bit random. They often are, but you’ll develop them as you speak with prospective therapists. A good therapist will ask for your input to determine if they have the right training, skill and experience to help you. Inviting you into their office without knowing if they can help is not only offensive to you, but it jeopardizes the extent to which therapy might be helpful.

Look for chemistry

The therapist’s first response can be a good indicator of your chemistry together. As in every relationship, chemistry between the therapist and client is crucial. Without it, the therapy moves along at a very difficult pace. Often the therapy ends before it even begins.

Research different kinds of therapies to find one that fits you

Many kinds of therapies and therapists can help you. All of these practitioners offer psychotherapy:

  • medical doctors (MD)
  • clinical psychologists (PHD)
  • licensed clinical social workers (LCSW)
  • marriage & family therapists (MFT)

They all have different licenses, training, skills, and specialities. Types of therapy range from psychoanalysis and psychodynamic (insight oriented) therapy to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). A quick Google search can help you understand what each one offers. A good therapist’s website should tell you simply and efficiently how he or she works. Not every therapist is trained to handle every problem; ask them what they do.

Ask questions

Don’t be afraid to ask the therapist questions. Ask them how long they have been practicing and how they approach therapy. Ask them about their education if it’s important for you to know. Especially ask if they’ve received the type of therapy they practice. If they haven’t, how can they use it to help you?

Be sure and tell them what you’re looking for if you know. Do you want someone who is interactive? Do you want someone who is going to assign you articles to read and workbook assignments? Do you want someone who’s available for a tele-therapy appointment when you’re not able to come to the office? See my recent blog post about tele-therapy for more information.

Find out how and how much you’ll pay

What are the therapist’s fees? If you don’t plan to pay out of pocket, check with your insurance company to find out what your plan covers. If you have an HMO and you can find a therapist within your network, you usually only pay a co-pay. If you have a PPO, your insurance will probably pay a portion of the therapist’s fee. Find out what your insurance carrier will cover so that you know how much to bring with you before you see the therapist. Not everyone takes PayPal or plastic. Ask when and how the therapist expects to be paid.

Always meet the therapist in person

The most important thing I tell prospective patients is this: don’t make a commitment to a therapy after reading the website, exchanging emails, or speaking to the therapist on the phone. Please, please go in and have two or three sessions with him or her. During those first sessions, find out what the therapist’s office procedures are. After a session or two you’ll know how the therapist works and how their office works.

Only make a commitment to the therapy when you feel there’s a connection and you sincerely feel this therapist can help you. Both you and your therapist will be happier. Remember, you’re making an investment in a more healthy mental and emotional life. And this will cost in time, effort, and dollars.

I hope this helps you make the most of your decision to consider therapy and how to move from consideration to actively seeking out a therapist and beginning therapy. I’m always happy to talk to you about this on the phone at no charge. You can reach me at 415-956-1884 (office) or 510-333-9493 (cell). You can text the second number. You can also email me at

Good Luck!

Dr. Thomas Ervin, is a licensed Clinical Psychologist with many years of experience offering psychotherapy to individuals in San Francisco. Dr. Ervins specializes in issues related to:

  • Depression, sadness, and loss
  • Anxiety, panic, and anger
  • Managing chronic pain and illness
  • Achieving maturity and relating better as adults.
  • Relationship issues

Call 415-956-1884 to get started

Previous post:

Next post: