How to Find the Right Therapist

Deciding to go to therapy is a huge decision, and finding the right therapist can be a daunting task if you’re not sure how to go about it. I’m a licensed therapist in San Diego, serving clients throughout California, and have been practicing for 23 years. I hope my experience and knowledge help make the process of choosing a therapist much easier and help you feel confident in your search!

Research indicates that the biggest factor influencing successful therapy is having a positive relationship with your therapist. It’s also important to ask whether a potential therapist is using evidenced-based theories at the core of their work to ensure you’re getting feedback that’s based on research and outcome studies. Below are some guidelines to help make your search for a therapist easier, faster, and more effective.

Get a Referral from Someone you Know

One of the best ways to find a good therapist is to get a referral from a friend or someone else close to you. If you know someone who brags on their therapist, take note! Ask questions about the therapist’s style, engagement, and how they work, as well as their personality, availability, and anything else that’s important to you. Like I stated above, research indicates that the biggest predictor for successful therapy is a positive connection and relationship between therapist and client and I suggest putting that at the top of your list.

Read Online Reviews

Searching online for local therapists is another way to gather basic information about other peoples’ experiences with therapists. Read what other people have to say and if a therapist has a pattern of positive reviews that’s a good indicator that they might be a good fit for you. Be wary of large corporate organizations who promise a lot and dump money into advertising and testimonials. You may find a therapist you work well with on those sites, but keep in mind they usually hire therapists with much less experience, and the therapist may leave the company as quickly as they came in.

When you choose a therapist who is established in private practice, they most likely aren’t going anywhere and they’re personally invested in making sure you’re happy with their service. Think of private practice therapists as a “boutique service” in comparison to large corporate therapy businesses. There often isn’t much of a price difference if you look around and you’re likely to get a much more personalized experience.

Request a Phone Consultation

If you find someone you think might be a good match, give them a call and ask them for a quick phone consultation. This is standard for most therapists and if someone won’t offer that, you may want to think twice about moving forward with them. With a phone consultation you can get a feel for the therapist’s personality and ask them any questions you have.

Questions to consider are whether they are comfortable working with the issue you’re wanting to bring to therapy, how many years of experience they have, if they are competent with a certain culture or demographic you’re associated with, what their fees are, what theoretical models they typically utilize, whether they see clients in-office or through video and what their availability is. Use a consultation as an opportunity to interview the therapist and don’t be shy! If you feel comfortable with the therapist after a phone call, that’s a good indication you’ll feel comfortable having them as a therapist.

Assess Credentials and License

There are various types of therapists, and it can be confusing when you don’t understand what all the letters mean after a name. The primary licenses for therapists are:

  • Psychologist
  • LMFT – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
  • LCSW – Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • LPC – Licensed Professional Counselor

These licenses all have a tremendous amount of schooling and training associated with them and therapists must pass stringent exams with their state licensing boards to hold a license of this caliber. They are all trained and proficient in counseling so any therapist with one of these licenses are technically qualified to offer therapy. Be wary seeking a “life coach” since there are no educational requirements, no standards, no regulations, no licensure process, and no governing board. Essentially anyone can claim to be a life coach, so you don’t know what you’re getting.

Inquire About Theoretical Orientations

If you know about certain theoretical models and want to work with a therapist utilizing a particular model, ask them if they utilize that theory in their work. There are many different theoretical models a professional therapist may utilize, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Emotionally Focused Therapy
  • Humanistic or Existential Therapy
  • Psychodynamic
  • Mindfulness Based
  • Solution Focused
  • Systems Approaches
  • And more!

Ask a potential therapist if they use an evidence-based theory in their practice and whether they rely heavily on one model or whether they’re more integrative in their work. Neither is wrong but it’s good to find out about how they approach working with clients and determine whether or not that feels comfortable to you.

Shop Around

After you’ve done some research, I suggest you call a few different therapists. This is an important undertaking in your life, and you deserve to take your time exploring different options. Have a few phone consultations with different therapists and lean towards the one you’re most drawn to. Remember the importance of a strong relationship with a therapist and if you have a good feeling about someone, you probably want to listen to your intuition.

Make an Appointment!

When you’ve done some or all of the above, go with your gut and make an appointment with the therapist you’re drawn to. Give you and your therapist a few sessions together before deciding whether they’re right for you. If you feel a good connection with the therapist but you’re not getting what you want out of the appointments, let the therapist know. Practice good communication and give them an opportunity to meet your needs by making your needs known. Remember, you’re the customer!

If after that, you’re still not getting what you’re looking for it might be time to try a different therapist. But usually if you read reviews or get a referral, have a phone consultation, and feel comfortable, they’re probably going to be a good match!

Get Started Today

I offer individual counseling, couples therapy and premarital counseling. The issues I work with are diverse and range from problems arising from sudden circumstantial changes to long standing and complex struggles. My approach to counseling is varied since individual needs and circumstances inform the methods I use. I don’t approach any two people the same and personalize my methods for each situation and client. Click the button below to book a session and we can begin your journey to rediscovery.


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