by Meg Tenny, MS, LCMFT

You’ve decided that you’re ready to find a therapist to help with some issues that you’ve been experiencing lately. But how do you go about finding a therapist? There are many useful therapist search websites available, which can narrow your search by zip code, issue, theoretical orientation, and even insurance: sites like  Psychology Today  and  the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.  More importantly, how do you ensure that you find a good therapist who can help you? What defines a “good therapist”?

1.   Therapist is Specialized, Licensed and Experienced

A “good therapist” is someone who is trained and licensed in the subject in which you are experiencing problems. For example, if you are experiencing marital problems, it is best to see a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT), who is trained in facilitating the resolution of systemic couple issues. You can verify licensure qualifications with therapist professional boards. They should also be a clinical member of their professional organization. Generally, therapists who are more experienced tend to be more helpful.

2.   Therapist is a “Good Fit”

A good therapist will also be a “good fit” for you, which means that you feel comfortable taking sensitive matters to the therapist. You experience the therapist as an emotionally safe and validating professional, who is also confident in challenging you on your growth areas. You should feel like you are on the same team as the therapist and find that therapist suggestions and the style of therapeutic interaction are effective and beneficial to you. Therapist shopping is not a bad idea. You will probably have a feeling one way or the other about the fit in the first session. Getting referrals from family and friends, even coworkers, is often valuable.

3.   Financial Concerns

Nobody likes to talk about money, but it is an important factor when choosing a therapist. Most deep emotional issues can’t be resolved in one or two quick sessions. When considering a therapist, you should think about what you can afford. If you need to use your insurance, you should look into therapists who are approved by your insurance panel. Alternatively, it may just be worth it to spend the money on a specialized therapist who is more expensive and including the cost of therapy sessions in your financial planning. In the long run, good couple therapy might not only save your marriage, but could also be significantly cheaper than getting a divorce.