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How to Find a Therapist for the First Time (11 of our Best Tips to Get Help Now)

Choose a Good Therapist


There’s no quick fix or miracle in therapy. It’s a process. Therapy is about managing what is happening to you. So finding the right therapist is a big decision that will impact your path to a better self. Sound knowledge of your therapy goals, what you expect from your counselor, and other factors are key when finding the right therapist.

We thrive on Human connection. And those connections are important to our mental health and wellness. Seeking online or offline therapy is a considerable step to address your mental health issues, whether you're facing challenges coping with trauma, relationship issues, or simply working on a better version of yourself. So finding the right therapist for you is a vital step to overcoming your problems and starting your journey.  

A good therapist should be someone you can be comfortable with – the trust you share directly impacts your recovery. You would want to work with someone who you can open up to and someone willing to listen without any reservations. But how would you know that the therapist or counselor can be that trustworthy, listening ear for you? 

Let’s explore that, and help you learn the best way to find a good therapist who can understand your concerns, help identify triggers, and create a mental health treatment plan tailored to your unique therapy goals.

What Makes a “Good” Therapist, Anyway?

Before we delve into the question of finding the right therapist for you, we need to explore the makings of a good therapist. Let’s get a common misconception out of the way first - A good therapist is not your best friend. They’re not just a listening ear or a sounding board. Those things are nice. And helpful much of the time. But a good therapist is so much more. They are someone who will be there not just to listen to your problems, but to use their years of education, training, licensing, and more to guide you toward discovering solutions, coping strategies, and more. 

An experienced therapist will try to recognize those pestering negative thoughts, self-doubt, problematic behaviors, triggers, and more. What’s more, a good therapist won’t just recognize your problem and give you what may be an “obvious” answer in their eyes. A good therapist will help you discover those answers for yourself. After all, a person convinced against their will is still a person unconvinced.

A therapist will work with you to find a better version of you only when you accept yourself as you are first – minus the judgment.

Consider the power of a good match. Unless you feel comfortable with your mental health therapist - as close to 100% comfortable as possible - it is unlikely your work together will yield the results you’re after. In one survey of 100 people across America, 9% said they didn’t like their therapist, and another 9% said their therapist no longer had the availability to meet with them. While “liking” your therapist isn’t necessarily a prerequisite to doing good therapy work together, having a schedule that matches up surely is.

Finding a Therapist Can Be Tricky - 10 Tips to Simplify it For You!

Thinking about how to find a therapist that works for you? Are you overwhelmed by the number of choices? Here are some tips to help you find the right counselor or therapist for mental health issues.

1. Consider what works for you

Before you start your search, create a list of what you are and aren't comfortable with. Given how your recovery can be largely dependent on your relationship with your therapist, it might be a good idea to explore the questions that matter to you when finding that right fit: 

  • What issue should the therapist specialize in?
  • What treatment approach do they hold expertise in?
  • What insurances do they accept?
  • Do they provide both online therapy and in-person sessions?
  • How much experience do they have?
  • Do their religious beliefs or world view align with yours?  

Maybe you don’t know what answers you’d even like to hear yet from some of those questions, AND THAT'S ABSOLUTELY OK! Certain things can be puzzled out along the way.

2. Research, research, research

Research is another important thing to focus on when searching for a therapist.  

  • Consult your Insurance company’s provider directory: Planning to pay through your insurance plan? Does your plan cover mental health benefits? If so, research and look through your plan's provider network. Check out if there are any limits to the number of sessions you can attend, how much an out-of-network therapist will cost you, whether any additional therapy, counseling, or medication management costs are covered, and more. 
  • Ask for recommendations: A referral from a friend or someone who has gone through a similar situation might be a good idea. It widens your search and also expands your network. It is essential to understand that your needs might differ – so don't be disappointed if it's not a match at first sight.
  • Leverage a provider database or directory: Search online through therapist directories or reach out to reliable mental health organizations. Be it specialists or generalized therapists you are looking for, sites like the American Psychological Association or Psychology Today can often help. These usually maintain a list of licensed therapists available in your area that you can search for based on your zip code.

3. What do you want from therapy?

Determine why you want to see a therapist – that will help you narrow down the options and possibly even seek a therapist specializing in that. For example, a therapist specializing in depression may approach your problem differently than a therapist specializing in OCD. Knowing what you want is one of the crucial steps to finding the right therapist.  

  • What are the issues affecting you? 
  • How are your symptoms?  
  • What do you want to improve? 
  • What are you struggling to cope with that keeps you from daily life? 
  • What kind of therapy are you looking for? 
  • Do you want to be in a group?  
  • What do you envision your future to be like once you complete therapy? 

You might not have answers to these questions, but asking yourself is the beginning of finding the right therapist for you. Moreover, your goals may also change as you work toward getting better with time, which is perfectly OK.

4. Credentials matter

Accreditations, credentials, licenses, certifications, and also reputation make a big difference when looking for a good therapist. Often, the initials after their names can get quite confusing. Want to know what it means? Here's a list: 

  • LCSW: Licensed Clinical Social Worker 
  • LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist 
  • NCC: National Certified Counselor 
  • LCDC: Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor 
  • LPC: Licensed Professional Counselor 
  • LMHC: Licensed Mental Health Counselor 
  • PsyD: Doctor of Psychology 
  • Ph.D.: Doctor of Philosophy 
  • MD: Doctor of Medicine (in the case of a physician psychiatrist)
  • PMHNP: Professional Mental Health Nurse Practitioner 

Some variations exist in each state with its accreditation and licensing boards. Ensure that the therapist you choose is a licensed mental health professional and adheres to the medical law and code. Ask about: 

  • How long have they been practicing? 
  • Their work experience in a certain specialty 
  • Their area of expertise 
  • The treatments that they have found to be most effective 
  • Whether they are licensed in your particular state 

This one may seem like out of the box thinking, but how does the employer your therapist works for treat them? Does your counselor or therapist actually like where they work? Believe it or not, this is an often overlooked factor that affects the quality of therapy you may receive as their client. Check websites like Indeed or Glassdoor to research the reputation of the company the therapist or counselor is affiliated with.

5. Choose your therapy type

Before you delve into your Google search for the best online therapy for mental health issues, let’s explore your needs first. You need to consider what kind of therapy you are comfortable with first – online or offline. That would help you to streamline your search better. Several mental health services provide detailed information about therapists or counselors and maintain the latest database. Online therapy platforms provide easy access to reviews and credentials that you can confirm in minutes. 

6. Scheduling your therapy session

Scheduling your first appointment, either for online therapy or in-person counseling should be a simple process. If it’s a painstaking endeavor even to get set up to see the therapist, odds are the rest of the experience may be equally difficult.  

Why you ask? Well, think about when you may need immediate help. How difficult is it to get in touch with your therapist? Do you have to go through a front desk or layers of admin teams connecting you all over the place? Choose a platform or therapist that would be available to contact directly if you ever need to do so. 

Flexible scheduling also helps your routine, especially if you undergo trauma, depression, or anxiety. For people with depression, daily routine often weighs them down, and keeping up with appointments is usually the last thing on their minds. So select someone who offers flexible scheduling.  

The convenient scheduling of appointments through online therapy has garnered much popularity, making therapy easy, accessible, and affordable to so many. Online therapy can be incredibly beneficial. Just make sure you can also speak to your therapist outside of those regular sessions by phone, or email, or maybe even text.

7. Prepare for your first therapy session

Now that you have a list and have probably scheduled your first session, it is time to prepare for it. Make a list of topics you want to explore and questions you want to ask your therapist. The first session will involve your therapist reaching out to you about specific challenges you face, any triggers you may have, how long you have been dealing with them, and how you have been coping with them. It will make you feel at ease and get some of your worries out of your system if you’ve prepared in advance. 

Finding the right therapist can sometimes be a long and arduous journey, but it’s worth it in the end.

8. What if you don't click with your therapist after 3-4 sessions?

Yes, 3-4 sessions. That is often at least how long it takes for you to begin connecting with your therapist truly. It isn’t a quick fix - it’s a real relationship both parties need to work at to foster real change. After those few sessions, take some time to answer these questions: 

  • Do you feel any different? 
  • Are you motivated for your further sessions? 
  • Have your thoughts been somewhat positively influenced?  
  • Have you been open and honest? 
  • Is it a healthy working relationship between you and your therapist? 

These questions will help determine whether you are a good fit for each other. Also, maybe ask questions like these to spot any red flags:

  • Does your therapist talk about themselves and their similar experience too often? (maybe research the topic of countertransference while you’re at it.)
  • Do they provide their undivided attention during the sessions 
  • Do they use technical jargon too often that’s difficult to follow (don’t fall into the trap of nodding without fully understanding what your counselor is saying!)
  • Are they patient with you?
  • Are they giving their solutions or helping you discover your own? 

Don’t be afraid to make the difficult decision to meet with a different therapist if you feel disconnected. A good therapist won’t take it personally. They’ll know they aren’t the best fit for everyone.

What to Avoid When Choosing The Right Therapist?

  1. Therapists who specialize in everything
    Your healing journey may have specific needs that only a specialist can treat. A good therapist should have specialized expertise. The common saying, “a jack-of-all-trades is master of none,” is well known for a reason. If you have a specialized need - seek out a specialized therapist. If the therapist you're seeing isn’t the right fit, they may be able to refer you to the one that is. It doesn’t hurt to ask!  
  1. A therapist who cures a problem
    There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health issues – no quick fix or miracle. It’s a process. Therapy is about managing what is happening to you, identifying a more positive direction, and figuring out how to take the right steps in that better direction.

How Lifebulb Can Help You Find The Best Therapist?

Irrespective of the type of concern you are going through, finding the right therapist can positively impact your life and make a big difference in your healing journey. When you find someone you feel comfortable talking to, you are more likely to see the results you’re after - but remember, your therapist doesn’t hold a magic wand. It’s going to take work. But it’ll be worth it! 


Ultimately, finding the right therapist is a personal matter. Human connection is at the heart of effective therapy, and remember, you can build that sense of connection whether you talk with your therapist in person, on the phone, or online. 

Here’s an important final thought - While thinking through all of these questions and topics about finding the right therapist for you can be helpful, the BEST thing you can do to help yourself is take that first step. Don’t get paralysis Analysis! Pick someone. If they aren’t a homerun - that’s ok! Keep at it. You’ve gotten over the biggest hurdle - actually asking for help. 

And that’s something to be proud of.  We at Lifebulb are here to help you live better; talk to us about your mental health concern now!

Frequently Asked Questions

The answer to this question varies from one person to another. It depends on your process, the type of therapy, and the therapist who is helping you in your journey. The important thing to remember is that therapy is less about the hours put into it and more about the meaning of those hours of inner work. A therapist will work with you to come up with a treatment plan which will help to inform goals over a timeframe specific to your needs.

“A typical timeline for therapy is anywhere from 3 months to a year, depending on the person’s treatment plans and goals. Therapy can be used for a longer period of time if the person is struggling with more severe symptoms such as intrusive thoughts or depression and thus may create a more in depth treatment plan.” – Jaclyn Gulotta, PhD

The cost of therapy can depend on the type of therapy, the therapist’s experience, and whether you’re talking with a therapist in person or through teletherapy. Get convenient and affordable in-person and online therapy sessions by licensed therapists at Lifebulb. We accept major commercial insurance plans and self-pay rates as low as $99, which may vary slightly by geography and therapist licensure.

There are many different types of therapy, and the type you choose will depend on your needs and preferences. Some common types include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps you identify and change negative thinking patterns and behaviors.

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT): DBT combines elements of CBT with structured skill-building in mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Psychodynamic therapy: This type of therapy focuses on your unconscious thoughts and emotions.

Interpersonal therapy: The focus of interpersonal therapy is on your relationships with other people.

Family therapy: This type of therapy helps families resolve conflict and improve communication.

Group therapy: In this type of therapy, you meet with a group of people who share similar experiences.

Art therapy: This type of therapy uses art to express emotions and help process trauma.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy: EMDR is an interactive form of psychotherapy used to relieve psychological and trauma-based stress.

Therapy has several benefits, including improving mental health, resolving personal issues, and increasing self-awareness. Therapy can also help people learn new coping skills and manage stress.

Some people see therapy as a way to prevent mental health issues or as a way to address underlying causes of mental health conditions. Others use therapy to work through traumas or difficult life events. Therapy is an effective treatment for many mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and eating disorders.

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