Looking for a therapist — whether you’re trying therapy for the first time or you need to find a new one — can feel overwhelming. But don’t let that keep you from getting the help you need. You can find a therapist that’s the right fit for you.
Never Miss a Beat!
Subscribe to Our HealthBeat Newsletter!
Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!
Is Therapy Right For Me?
If you’re wondering whether you can benefit from therapy, the answer is probably yes.
Psychotherapy — therapy for short — is often part of treatment for many mental health diagnoses. Conditions commonly treated using therapy include depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.
But therapy isn’t just for those managing specific mental health conditions. Everyone can benefit from therapy. Therapy gives you the space to deal with specific life challenges — such as the death of a loved one or a divorce. It can help you cope with other medical issues you or someone close to you is experiencing, like cancer or chronic pain.
Therapy can also help you process past trauma or deal with everyday stress and challenges. Therapy empowers you by providing the tools and additional support you need to manage your day-to-day life.
What’s the difference between psychology, psychiatry, and psychotherapy?
Psychology is the study of how people think, act, react, and interact. Psychologists provide different types of therapy and can perform various tests and evaluations. They do not prescribe medication, but can refer you to a provider who can.
Psychiatry is the study of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental health disorders. As medically trained doctors, psychiatrists can prescribe medications and other medical services to treat mental health disorders.
Psychotherapy is a type of mental health treatment that does not use medication. Both psychologists and psychiatrists can provide psychotherapy. Also called talk therapy or counseling, psychotherapy can help with specific mental health conditions as well as everyday stresses, trauma, or situational or emotional challenges.
Who provides psychotherapy?
Several types of mental health professionals can provide psychotherapy. These include:
- Licensed social workers.
- Licensed professional counselors.
- Licensed marriage and family therapists.
- Psychiatric nurse practitioners.
How To Find A Therapist
Finding the right therapist for you can take a little time and research. Here are some good ways to look for a therapist.
Ask your primary care provider
Part of your doctor’s job is to provide referrals to specialists, including therapists. Many UPMC primary care groups have a therapist in the practice that your doctor can refer you to. Your doctor can be an excellent place to start if you’re still figuring out how therapy might help you.
Get recommendations from a previous therapist
If you have a good relationship with your current or previous therapist, ask who they think would be a good fit for you. Your therapist should have a good idea of what type of therapy and what kinds of therapists could be the most beneficial for you.
Get referrals from a psychiatrist
If you’re seeing a psychiatrist, they can recommend therapists with expertise in specific areas.
Check with your insurance provider
Your insurance provider will usually have a directory of therapists who accept your insurance. You can call your insurance’s customer service or look for a database of their doctors and specialists online.
If you get a therapist recommendation from another source, check your insurance’s provider database to make sure they accept your insurance. You may want to call the therapy practice directly and check that their policies haven’t changed.
Ask family and friends
Your family and friends may also currently use or have used therapy. Use the people you know network as a resource. Talking about your experiences can help fight the stigma against mental health.
Be understanding if someone does not want to share their medical history. Also keep in mind that someone else’s therapist might not be the right fit for you.
Use a reputable online database
Many medical and mental health organizations maintain online searchable databases of mental health professionals. Some databases are broad while others focus on specific areas of care.
- The American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator is a searchable database by city, state, or practice area.
- The Anxiety & Depression Association of America has a database of therapists who can help patients with anxiety and depression.
- Psychology Today maintains an online database of therapists by city and state.
- National Eating Disorders Association has a database of in-person and virtual providers.
Tap local resources
You can often find counseling services through schools, employers, community centers, and places of worship.
Consider online or virtual therapy
Some people find it easier to talk through text, call, or video. You may be able to access mental health help through a telemedicine service offered by your insurance. You can also consider a reputable therapy app, such as Talkspace or BetterHelp.
Choosing The Right Therapist
Choosing the right therapist for you requires thinking about what you want out of therapy and from your therapist. Think about what kind of services or therapy you are looking for. Determine what type of therapist would be the best fit for you and your needs. Also consider who you would feel comfortable opening up to about your inner thoughts and past experiences.
Questions to ask yourself
Consider these questions when looking for or choosing a therapist:
- Do you have something specific you would like to talk about?
- Will you feel more comfortable if your therapist shares or can relate to your experiences of your religion, ethnicity, gender, race, etc.?
- Do you want to talk in-person, online, or a combination?
Questions to ask a potential therapist
Interviewing your therapist ahead of time can also help you choose. Some therapists offer consultation appointments to see if you would be a good fit. Questions to ask a potential therapist include:
- How long is a typical session?
- Do you offer in-person and telehealth options?
- How experienced are you in dealing with issues such as those I am experiencing?
- Are you certified in any therapeutic techniques?
- How soon can I expect to benefit from therapy with you?
- Do you offer weekend or evening appointments?
- How long have you been a therapist?
- Are you licensed to practice in this state?
- What insurance do you accept, and how do you bill my insurance?
- Do you accept Medicare or Medicaid?
- Do you offer a payment plan?
Deciding If A Therapist Is Right For You
Remember that even after choosing a therapist, you can change your mind if it doesn’t feel like a good fit. Don’t hesitate to switch therapists if you feel like you aren’t making progress after three (or more) sessions. It can take time to find a therapist who fits with you. You may also find that your needs have changed since beginning therapy and want to make a change.
Above all, you should feel comfortable and at ease with your therapist. If you don’t, it can hinder your progress and benefit. If your gut is telling you it’s not a good fit, more time with them may not help. Consider what you have learned from the experience, and keep looking until you find a connection that feels right.
For immediate mental health help or counseling 24/7, Allegheny residents can call resolve Crisis Services for free at 1-888-796-8226.
UPMC Western Behavioral Health provides therapy and counseling for both specific and general mental health needs. For more information, call 1-877-624-4100 or 412-624-1000.
How to Choose a Psychologist. American Psychological Association. Link.
UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is the hub of UPMC Behavioral Health, a network of community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors. Our mission is to provide comprehensive, compassionate care to people of all ages with mental health conditions. UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. We are here to help at every stage of your care and recovery.