How to Choose a Therapist

choose therapist

First, if you or someone you love is to the point of hurting themselves, take them to the hospital or call 911. They can get you to the help you need.

If the situation is less urgent, let’s discuss some ways to find a therapist who will be right for you. It’s important to find someone with whom you are comfortable talking about the things that are worrying you.

First, most therapists require a referral. You can obtain referrals through your primary care physician, or through any of the following sources:

  • State psychological services
  • Hospital emergency rooms
  • Clinics at colleges
  • Community mental health centers
  • Your Clergy
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Phone book

Different therapists are better suited to work with different issues and you may want to call several offices before you find the one with which you feel the most comfortable.

Types of Therapists

Anyone can call himself a “therapist” or “counselor” massage therapists, camp counselors, etc. However, Psychiatrist and Psychologist are protected terms and to earn the title requires several years in graduate school.

A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor. He completed medical school and then a residency in psychiatry. He can prescribe medication.

A Psychologist did not go to medical school. He completed years of postgraduate study. They have an average of 7 years of education and training after their undergraduate education. They cannot prescribe medication.

A Licensed Clinical Social Worker completed a two year Master’s degree in social work. They have some supervised clinical training and are licensed in their state. Social workers work more with family problems than with individual problems.

Any of the above may be the best fit for you. It just depends on which one you feel the most comfortable with.

Community Mental Health Centers are another source of assistance rather than private practices


A Psychiatrist is the most expensive, charging around $200 per hour. Psychologists get roughly between $80 and $135, and a Clinical Social Workers may charge from $75 to $125.

These are just general figures. Geography makes a big difference.

Of course it is easiest if you are able to pay out of pocket for the therapy but not everyone is able to do that.


Some insurance companies cover the costs of therapy and others don’t. There are several questions you may want to ask your benefits representative including:

  • What are your benefits
  • Talk about the professional expertise covered
  • What about the contractual limitations
  • If there is a disagreement about your coverage, what are the appeals and grievance processes
  • Do they honor strict confidentiality
  • Can you choose one on your own or is there a list of covered doctors
  • What about treatment options? What is covered

Once you have chosen a few call their offices and see if you can ask a few questions. You might ask about his license, how long he has been in practice, and how you can pay. Sometimes the therapist will return your call in his time between other clients and give you a chance to ask the questions then. Other times you may need to make an initial appointment just to ask your questions. If you are satisfied with the answers you may want to continue seeing him. If not, keep looking for another therapist until you find one that “fits”.