Choosing a Mental Health Therapist

How do I find a therapist?

Ask questions and get referrals from people you know and trust. You could check with:

  • Your healthcare provider
  • Your clergyman, school teachers, or school counselors
  • Friends or family members who have been in therapy
  • Your health insurance company
  • Your employee assistance program (EAP) at work
  • Local mental health or human service agencies
  • Professional associations of psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors

How do I choose a therapist?

You may need to meet with a few therapists before you find the one who works best for you. Most therapists welcome the chance to meet for one session to answer your questions. Ask if there is a charge for the first session when you set the appointment.

What questions should I ask?

To help you decide on the right therapist, you may want to ask the following questions:

Training and experience questions

  • What education (bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree) does the therapist have?
  • What areas of expertise does the therapist have?
  • What experience (number of years doing therapy, in what settings, with what kind of clients) does the therapist have?
  • Is the therapist licensed? People with no training at all can call themselves psychotherapists or therapists. Licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, and certified social workers have met state and national requirements.
  • What experience does the therapist have with your particular problems, struggles, or diagnosis?

Financial questions

  • Ask about the fees and fee schedule:
    • Do you pay after each session, weekly, monthly, or when billed?
    • Do you pay for missed sessions?
    • Are you charged for phone calls?
    • Is there a sliding fee scale or can you work out a payment plan?
  • Is the therapist on your health insurance plan?
  • Is the therapist covered by your employee assistance plan, if you have one?
  • What if you decide you don’t want to file with your insurance company?

Confidentiality questions

  • How is confidentiality handled? Does the therapist discuss your case with a supervisor?
  • What types of personal information will be provided to your insurance company? Your personal history? Drug and alcohol history? Past diagnoses and medicines taken? Current problems and diagnoses? Is this information sent by fax, email, or some other method?
  • How does the therapist decide what information is shared with your family members and what information is not shared?
  • Under what circumstances would the therapist share your confidential information with others such as police, healthcare providers, or employers?

Therapy questions

  • What type of therapy does the therapist recommend?
    • Does the therapist mainly focus on your thoughts, feelings, or behaviors?
    • Do they focus on you as an individual or will they include your spouse and/or family in the sessions?
    • How long are the sessions? (30 minutes? 50 minutes?)
    • How often will you meet?
    • Is there homework between sessions?
    • About how many sessions will therapy take?
    • Can you call or see the therapist in a crisis?
  • Will the therapist work with you to set goals? What results might you expect? Are you satisfied with these?
  • Can the therapist prescribe medicine or refer to someone who can prescribe medicine?

Above all, are you comfortable with the therapist? You benefit most from therapy if you trust your therapist. Your relationship with your therapist is the most important thing to consider in your decision.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-04-03
Last reviewed: 2014-04-03
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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