Choosing the Right Mental Health Therapist


Why is this choice so important?

Therapy is a collaborative process, so finding the right match—someone with whom you have a sense of rapport—is critical. After you find someone, keep in mind that therapy is work and sometimes can be painful. However, it also can be rewarding and life changing…

What are the steps for choosing a therapist?

  1. Find out what the mental health coverage is under your insurance policy or through Medicaid/Medicare.
  2. Get two or three referrals before making an appointment. Specify age, sex, race, or religious background if those characteristics are important to you.
  3. Make sure the therapist has experience helping people whose problems are similar to yours. You may want to ask…about the therapist’s expertise, education, and number of years in practice.
  4. If you are satisfied with the answers, make an appointment.
  5. During your first visit, describe those feelings and problems that led you to seek help. Find out:
    • What kind of therapy/treatment program he or she recommends;
    • What the benefits…;
    • How much therapy the mental health professional recommends;
    • Whether he or she is willing to coordinate your care with another practitioner…
  6. Be sure the psychotherapist does not take a “cookie cutter” approach to your treatment, because what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Different psychotherapies and medications are tailored to meet specific needs.
  7. Although the role of a therapist is not to be a friend, rapport is a critical element of successful therapy. After your initial visit, take some time to explore how you felt about the therapist.
  8. If the answers to these questions and others you come up with are “yes,” schedule another appointment to begin the process of working together to understand and overcome your problems. If the answers to most of these questions are “no,” call another mental health professional from your referral list and schedule another appointment.

Excerpts from National Mental Institute Health Information Center

Counseling 911

Seeking a couples therapist? Here are some resources and questions to help steer you to a good one. lists more than 15,000 marriage and family therapists who are members of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, which requires that they meet strict training and education requirements and abide by the association’s code of ethics.

To find a therapist who prioritizes commitment as the first option, search a registry of therapists who have agreed to a values statement at

Two widely recognized evidence-based approaches with research supporting their effectiveness include emotionally focused couples therapy, which helps couples shift their negative interactions to positives ones ( for a list of certified therapists); and integrative behavioral couple therapy, which helps each partner accept the other as is ( has a list of trained counselors).

For couples on the road to divorce, the University of Minnesota’s Couples on the Brink Project developed a new type of short-term therapy called “discernment counseling” to help them determine whether it’s worth pursuing counseling or if it’s better to let the marriage go. Go to (search for “discernment counseling”) for more information.

Information from here.