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How to Find a Therapist

Finding a therapist is hard—way harder than it should be. However, having a framework for how to go about the process can make it a lot easier. In this post, we’ll explore some strategies for connecting with a mental health provider, and hopefully, we’ll be able to save you some time and headaches.

Where to look

It’s not perfect, but Psychology Today has a pretty easy-to-use tool for locating local providers. Right on their homepage, you’ll find a search bar that says “Find a Therapist.” Simply input your location, hit enter, and you’ll be shown a list of therapists in your area. (You can also go to the drop down menu next to the search bar and change the type of provider you’re looking for, select psychiatric provider or behavioral health provider, treatment center, support group, etc.) From there, you can narrow down your search by clicking on the tabs right above the top listing. Using these tabs, you can refine your search to therapists who work with particular populations, accept specific insurance, and various other criteria. Now, you can start looking through the listings. If you’re looking to meet with someone via telehealth (i.e., video sessions,) check the area all the way to the right of their listing. If they provide telehealth, it will likely say, “Offers online therapy.” There may also be a little yellow box in this area that says, “Not accepting new clients,” and unless you’re in no rush to set up an appointment, it’s probably best to take them at their word and move onto the next profile.

If you have health insurance, another option is to go to your insurance company’s website. Most companies have a page or search bar on their site to help members find providers. Often, there will be a tab that says something like, “Find a Provider.” If you have trouble finding this tool, you can call the member services number that’s usually printed on the back of insurance ID cards and ask the representative to help you. Sometimes, the rep will offer to look up names for you or even contact providers on your behalf. Unfortunately, the provider lists that insurance companies maintain are often not updated regularly, and do not contain information about providers’ availability. Because of that, you want to double check when you reach out to each provider that a) they’re accepting new clients, and b) they’re still in your insurance company’s network.

Finally, you can simply Google, “Therapist in my area,” and you’ll likely find some decent information. The downside to that approach, is “therapist” isn’t a protected term, so any schmoe can call themselves one and charge you whatever they want in exchange for treatment that’s not informed by any formal education or training. As such, it’s a good idea to take a look at their specific professional title, often signified by the letters after their name. In New York State, trained therapists are usually mental health counselors (LMHC, MHC-LP, or some other permutation of MHC), social workers (LCSW, LCSW-R, or LMSW,) psychologists (PhD or PsyD,) psychoanalysts (LP or PsyaD,) or marriage and family therapists (LMFT, MFT-LP, or some other permutation of MFT.) There’s a lot of weird quirks about credential abbreviations, so you might see some other legitimate versions of these letters. If you want to check to make sure the therapist you find is licensed and in good standing, you can look them up on your state licensing board’s website. In New York state, that’s the Office of the Professions: Some therapists have licenses, while others who are accruing their hours for licensure may have permits—so be sure to use the appropriate search option.

Making the Call

Depending on the options provided by a given therapist’s listing and/or your personal preference, you may email or call your prospective therapist to set up an appointment or an initial consultation. Sometimes, therapists will give instructions as to what kind of information to include in your initial call or email. If they don’t, it’s generally a good idea to just provide basic demographic information (for example, age and gender), the general area of concern you wish to address (such as depression, trauma, or anxiety), and how you can be reached. Try to avoid getting too specific about the issues you want to work on in the initial inquiry. That information is usually very nuanced and often feels pretty vulnerable to discuss with a stranger, so it’s better to hold off until your prospective therapist can reply in real time during an initial consultation.

Rule of Three

During my graduate school internship, one of the therapists I worked with had a helpful algorithm he’d share when helping others find therapists. Basically, the strategy is that until you’ve found someone, always be waiting to hear back from three therapists. That is to say, call or email three therapists you’re interested in seeing. As soon as you hear back from one, if it’s not a good fit, call/email another, so that you always have three that you’re waiting for a reply from. Additionally, after a week or so of not hearing from a particular therapist, you can retire them from the roster, and reach out to another.

It’s also a good idea to ask for referrals. If you speak with a therapist, and it’s not a good fit, it’s more than appropriate to ask them if they have any colleagues they might recommend. This can be a quick way to refresh your three therapists in waiting.

Be Patient, but Not Too Patient

It can take time to find the right therapist. If you’re in a place where you can get by without immediate therapy, that might be okay. However, sometimes people need immediate mental health services. In which case, your county’s local crisis line will likely be able to connect you with the necessary resources you need to address your immediate mental health concerns until you can find someone to work with on a longer-term basis. Above all, don't give up. The right therapist is out there.

Thomas Shooman is a mental health counselor practicing at Resolution Psychotherapy who provides teletherapy to clients across New York State. Thomas’ clients include individuals dealing with anxiety, grief, and obsessive thinking. He enjoys helping people navigate uncomfortable circumstances and find solutions that are in line with their personal style. To inquire about therapy with Thomas, send him an email at

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