Taking The Stress Out Of Mental Health Help: How To Choose And Vet A Therapist




May 9 2024, Published 8:10 a.m. ET

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Finding the right therapist isn’t always easy. You’ll have to consider each therapist’s treatment options and how they might be a good fit. Use this guide to make the process easier and feel confident when looking for a therapist.

1. Verify their license.

Mental health professionals often need a license, a certification or both. A license means they’ve passed your state’s licensing exam after earning a degree in their specific psychological field. Certification proves the therapist took a course to learn a particular type of counseling or treatment.

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It doesn’t guarantee they earned a degree or have a license to provide anything other than general counseling. It would be similar to getting advice from a spiritual leader rather than talking with a licensed psychologist. Both can be helpful, but the licensed expert will be a more effective therapist.

Once you’ve found a few local therapists, verify their licenses by using your state’s licensing website’s search function. You may need their first and last names to confirm their active license. If you need the specific license number, you may be able to locate it on their website or after a quick phone call to each therapist’s office.

2. Check their specialties.

Every therapist lists their specialties on their website, professional social media profile or business card. Check what they offer to see if their treatments could help you. You might benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy if you want to reverse unhelpful thinking patterns, while you might need something more specific if you’re healing from a particular trauma.

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3. Discuss their telehealth availability and security.

Leading insurance providers like Blue Cross Blue Shield note that 60% of their members are engaging in telehealth visits, their millennial members even prefer it over in-person for ongoing behavioral health appointments. Many therapists offer virtual appointments to meet that high demand but double-check each’s availability along with their security measures. 

4. Request their hourly rate.

Every therapist should clearly state their hourly rate range on their website. You can also call to ask if you can’t find it. You’ll need to know what you’ll pay after each session to determine how many sessions you can afford each month and how long you want to see your therapist.

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In-person sessions cost between $30 and $250, but discount programs and virtual appointments can significantly reduce that expense. Your insurance may also cover the sessions if they’re within the network. A quick phone call with potential therapists will provide the answers you need to work therapy into your monthly budget.

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5. Watch for red flags.

Even if someone is an expert in their field, it doesn’t mean they can recognize their own unhealthy behaviors. Experts estimate 43% of therapists can’t acknowledge their undiagnosed mental health conditions. It’s vital to watch for potential crossed lines after you find someone who fits your needs and budget.

Therapists uphold professional boundaries to prevent their patients from becoming their friends — it’s not personal. They provide unbiased guidance during your healing by remaining slightly distanced. Watch for red flags like:

  • Constantly talking about their private life
  • Breaking your confidentiality
  • Crossing your boundaries, such as pressing to talk about something that makes you uncomfortable or trying to force a type of therapy for your treatment
  • Forgetting things you’ve said in previous sessions
  • Dismissing your concerns

You’re always free to find another therapist if you’re not making personal progress or start seeing red flags. People are always in control of their own healing, so don’t be afraid to end your sessions politely and move on to someone who takes their professional role seriously.

Find The Best Therapist For Your Needs

Finding a good therapist may seem complicated, but anyone can follow these steps to get the mental health support they need. You’ll begin experiencing the care you deserve when you find someone trained to help you.

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By: Mia Barnes

Mia Barnes is a health journalist with over 3+ years of experience specializing in workplace wellness. Mia believes knowledge is power. As the Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine, Mia's goal is to cover relevant topics to empower women through information.

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