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How To Choose a Therapist


Choosing a Therapist is an important task and one that clearly can affect the success or failure of one's therapy. The information on this page is intended to help research and respond to that task.

One of key goals and reasons for the formation of CareForTheTroops is to be able to help find a therapist that has some training, experience, or background that provides familiarizes them with the Military Culture. This familiarization with the military culture is no guarantee of a connection or bond between the therapist and client, but it is expected to improve the chances that a person seeking a therapist can find one that is a better match for meeting the needs being sought.

So consider using the database that is available on this web site. CareForTheTroops has proactively sought a partnership with the State network of EMDR trained therapists who can help with Trauma related issues, and the State Association for Marriage and Family Therapists who can help with a wide range of non-trauma issues. Other therapists who belong to other licensed professions (LPC, LCSW, Psychiatrists) can also be of assistance, especially if they have some background or experience with the military or training about the Military Culture.

Extracted from, a Derivative of Wikipedia

How to Choose a Therapist

It can be difficult to choose a therapist. The times we feel our best, smartest, and most discerning will usually not be the times we find ourselves wanting to get some counseling. And when we're not feeling our best, it can be frustrating to sift through the names and counseling styles to find someone who is understanding, experienced, and in possession of a good range of skills. The following is a procedure which should make the process easier and the results more reliable.


  1. Using What a Therapist Can Do and What a Therapist Cannot Do in the Tips section below, determine what part of your problem can be helped by a therapist, and write a brief (two or three sentences) summary of this.
  2. Obtain the names of a few therapists from sources that you trust. One source could be to ask family members or friends, favorite teachers, school counselors, your family doctor, your pastor or rabbi, and any other person whose opinion you value. Use online referral listings too, as there is a wealth of resources available online, often with an informative blurb about how each therapist works, their fees, etc.
  3. Call each of the recommended therapists: ask lots of questions and take notes. If a therapist won't answer your questions over the phone, s/he probably won't answer them at all. Most important is how you feel talking to this person. Does s/he return your phone call in a timely manner? Do you like the way that s/he talks to you? Do you feel relatively comfortable talking to him/her about what is going on with you? Do you get the feeling that this person is empathic, intelligent, warm, and approachable?
  4. You may want to call a few therapists before you make a decision. Compare your findings to the tips and warnings below. When a therapist seems warm, personable, intelligent, and knowledgeable, and doesn't display any of the warning signs below, consider scheduling an initial appointment with that person. If you plan on using insurance, call your insurance company to be sure that the therapist you like is covered, or if that therapist will provide 'out of network provider' statements to you.
  5. It's important to bear in mind that some problems will take longer to resolve than others, so treatment duration can vary considerably. But if you notice absolutely no change in your problem after the first month or so, talk to your therapist about this.
  6. Ask the therapist about his/her training, and about whatever else feels important to you to know (for example, does s/he have experience working with people of your ethnicity/sexual orientation, etc.)
  7. Ask the therapist about how s/he handles conflict. Therapists who are able to repair the rupture in the relationship when there is a conflict tend to have better outcomes than their conflict-avoidant colleagues.


  • What a Therapist Can Do
    • Can be an understanding and supportive listener.
    • Can help you develop your ability to cope with life's difficulties.
    • Can help you develop some of your life-skills: more effective communication, better problem-solving, better impulse-control, etc.
    • Can help you look at your problems in different ways and with a different perspective.
    • Can help you gain more insight into your behaviors and emotions.
    • May be able to help you make changes in how you function and feel. (This may require a lot of hard work on your part, though!)
    • Can offer advice on how to find services which s/he isn't able to provide.
  • What a Therapist Cannot Do
    • Cannot remove hurt feelings and unhappy events.
    • Cannot change other people in your life, and cannot tell you how to change them, either.
    • Cannot create instantaneous change in you. Personal change requires hard and dedicated work.

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Extracted from A Psychology Today Article

How to Choose a Therapist

Is life going up in flames? Are you suffering through a nasty divorce, a devastating layoff or even prolonged depression? Life's difficulties are hard to avoid, and we might get stuck in them and not see a way out. That's when getting help from a professional may be imperative.

But how do you go about finding the right help? Wisdom, life experience and empathy are vital in a therapist. After all, he or she will have to teach you the skills you need to manage life. A great place to begin your search is in Psychology Today's Therapy Directory. Here are some things to consider when searching for the right match:

Location, Location
Proximity is actually very important. People make excuses when it comes to therapy: "I can't make my appointment today because it's too far..." Location should not become an obstacle. If there are no therapists in your zip code, try those in a town nearby.

Comfort Level
Check out the photo profiles of therapists in your area. Do you think you'll be comfortable discussing the secrets of your life with this person?

Ask yourself if you'll be more comfortable with a male or female therapist. Or, if you need one who speaks Spanish, Chinese or Arabic.

The Right Stuff
Find a professional who has treated people with problems similar to those you face. Often a therapist focuses on specific issues such as eating disorders, sexual dysfunction or mood disorders. You can custom search the Directory to find therapists who specialize in these areas. And, of course, find out what treatment the therapist employs as well as his results.

Sometimes a therapist works closely with particular populations such as adolescents, gay couples or people of particular religious backgrounds. Be sure to learn your therapist's focus.

Psych Basics
Ph.D., M.D., Psy.D., M.S.W.-don't fuss over credentials and degrees. What you really need is a therapist who will connect with you. But if you want to decipher a provider's credentials and differentiate psychologists and psychiatrists from family therapists and social workers, see Psychology Today's >professionals. All Directory therapists are trained and licensed.

The Methods
Therapists have certain methods and orientations. Some use cognitive behavioral therapy, for example. A variety of methods are effective. However, if you want to learn more about therapy methods, see Psychology Today's article What's Your Orientation?.

Make Contact
Contact two or three therapists. You will most likely get voicemail. Don't hang up; leave your name and number.

On your first visit, ask yourself, "Do we click?" Do you feel a connection with your therapist? For you to reveal yourself, you will need to feel safe and at ease. The first session is normally free, so if you don't click, move on to the next one.

In The Pocket
When you do settle on a therapist, settle on fee beforehand. You may also need to inquire about a sliding-scale arrangement-a flexible fee schedule adjusted to your needs or income.

There's a confusing array of insurance arrangements-HMO's, MBHO's, private pay. But the first thing you need to do is check with your carrier. Make a list of questions, including how many visits the insurer will pay for, does the carrier cover a percentage of cost only, the difference between providers who are in-network and out-of-network, and is primary care physician approval required.

After the carrier has answered all your queries, ask your therapist about coverage too. Bring up matters such as co-payment, how other patients handle insurance and payment, or whether your diagnosis will go on your record. Arm yourself with information, so you don't end up with surprises.

Additional Considerations

Sharing Values Equally critical is sharing the same values. One would think that psychotherapy is value-free, but finding a therapist who shares your beliefs is necessary. You are building a relationship, so starting at the core is important. If struggling with a partner in a relationship has brought you to therapy, for example, you certainly want to know how the therapist feels about cohabitation before marriage.

Are You Listening?
Does your therapist have good listening skills? Don't laugh, but you need to be sure she is attentive and hears what you have to say. That's why it's called talk therapy. Is she asking the right questions, is she asking enough of them?

Too Eager
A therapist shouldn't be too eager to please. Say you suffer from self-esteem problems, it does no good if the therapist does nothing more than flatter you. Instead, choose one who will challenge you. You will want one who is proactive and perhaps gives you assignments. She might ask you to read up on your issues or to conduct an experiment. The road to good mental health takes work.

Ask the provider how long therapy should last. Don't accept a vague answer. If the person is experienced, he or she should have an idea of what you can expect.

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Extracted from Self Help Magazine

How to Choose a Therapist - Part I

by Gail S. Bernstein, Ph.D.

The decision to ask for help is important, and the search for the right psychotherapist can be confusing. Making good decisions when you are feeling depressed, anxious, scared, or otherwise distressed can be difficult. This article is designed to help you with the search for the right therapist.

Practical Questions

People sometimes feel embarrassed by the questions they have about psychotherapy. They may feel it is insulting or crass to ask about fees or hours of service. Not so! Psychotherapy is a service you purchase. No service is useful if it is inconvenient or too costly to use. Here are the 'nuts and bolts' concerns people often have:

Location. It is important to find a psychotherapist whose office is easy for you to get to.
Accessibility. This refers to two types of accessibility
  One is accessibility of the therapist. You may wish to ask how the therapist handles emergencies and vacations. Some therapists are available by pager 24 hours/day, some are not. Most of us arrange for a colleague to take emergency calls when we are on vacation.
  The other type of accessibility is physical. People who have difficulty walking or who use a wheelchair are concerned with whether the therapist's office is accessible to them. If you have a hearing impairment, you will probably want to know if the therapist has the skills to communicate with you and the equipment needed to take your calls.
Safety. You may want to ask the therapist if the office is on a well-lit street, if parking is well-lit and safe, and if the building is secure after daytime business hours are over.
Fees. Some people feel uncomfortable asking therapists what they charge. Don't be afraid to ask about money issues: you are paying for a service and need to know what it costs. Also, some therapists have a sliding scale for fees, which means the cost of therapy depends to some extent on your ability to pay. The therapist's policy about missed sessions is also important:
  Many therapists charge for sessions you miss if you do not give at least 24 hours notice.
  You may also wish to ask (1) if the therapist accepts insurance and (2) if the therapist is willing to bill the insurance company directly. Some therapists ask that you pay in full each time. These therapists will give you a receipt to send your insurance company. Other therapists will bill insurance directly and ask you to pay only the part of the fee that insurance does not cover.
  It will help if you find out what kind of mental health coverage you have as part of your health insurance. You will need to know what part of the cost will be yours, and if there are any restrictions on who you can see or how much therapy you can have. If you have health maintenance organization coverage (Kaiser, for example), you will probably be required to use therapists employed by the HMO. Some health insurance plans require you to use a therapist from a list of health care providers who are part of a preferred provider list. Finally, some insurance plans let you choose the therapist. However, even when your insurance lets you choose the therapist, it may pay only for services provided by a licensed therapist or someone working under the supervision of a licensed therapist.
Sessions. When people make the decision to look for a therapist, they may feel a sense of urgency. One important question to ask is how soon you can schedule your first session. Other questions people often ask are: does the therapist have times available that fit my schedule? Evenings? Weekends? Lunchtimes? How long are the sessions? Most therapists work a 45, 50, or 60 minute hour. Group therapy sessions are usually longer. Another important question is how often you will be seeing the therapist. Weekly? Biweekly? More often?

Therapist Qualifications

There are good and bad therapists in every licensed profession, and there are good and bad unlicensed psychotherapists as well. You may want to ask therapists where they were trained and in what specific therapeutic approaches. There are many ways for therapists to learn additional clinical skills once they have their degrees. Thus you may want to ask therapists about both their original training and their continuing education activities.

You may also want to ask how much experience they have with your type of problem.

You may want to ask what training the therapist has had in working with clients from diverse racial and ethnic cultures. Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals may want to ask if the therapist has been trained to work effectively with their concerns. You may be interested in whether the therapist is trained to work with people with disabilities. Other frequent questions are about the therapist's training in and attitudes toward marriage, gender roles, spirituality, and the use of medications.

Therapist Characteristics

There are many good therapists who feel it is important to avoid giving their clients personal information. Therefore, do not assume that a therapist who will not answer personal questions is a bad therapist! What you need to do is decide whether your choice of a therapist will depend on that person's willingness to answer personal questions.

You may want your therapist to have specific personal characteristics. For instance, whether the therapist is a man or a woman is often important to people. Other personal characteristics that may be important to you are: age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, marital or relationship status, whether the therapist has children, or spiritual affiliation.

It is important to remember that there are both advantages and disadvantages to having a therapist who is like you in certain ways. For instance, if you and the therapist are both divorced women with children, your therapist may be able to easily understand some of your concerns. However, she will also need to remember that her experience and yours are not necessarily the same. On the other hand, a single woman without children may be a very well-trained therapist who is sensitive to your issues.

A Note on Dual Relationships

It is unethical for a psychotherapist to have a 'dual relationship' with a client. This means the therapist should have no relationship with you in addition to having you as a client. Specifically, the therapist should not be your employer, supervisor, spouse, lover, relative, or friend. There is a very good reason for this prohibition. No matter how hard your therapist works to give you choices and control in therapy, you will always be more vulnerable than the therapist. This is inevitable. You are there to work on your concerns, so the therapist is going to know much more about you than you will about the therapist. Since you will be the more vulnerable one in the relationship, it is important that you believe the therapist's primary concern is to help you.

If your therapist has any relationship with you in addition to the therapeutic one, that additional relationship can interfere with your therapy. If, for example, the therapist hires you to paint the therapist's office and then complains about your work, how will that make you feel about the therapist's ability to help you? Also, if the therapist is angry about the paint job, how can that anger be separated from the therapist's feelings about you as a client? This example is a simple one: dual relationships become even more complicated if the therapist is also a relative or a lover. No responsible therapist will agree to see you as a client if you already have a relationship with that person. No responsible therapist will try to start any additional relationship with you while you are a client.

Where To Find A Therapist

There is no one best place to find a therapist. Here are some places to check:

Physicians Religious/Spiritual Organizations
Word of Mouth/Friends School Counselors
Referral Lines Community Mental Health Centers
Ads University Clinics
Community Organizations and Centers

After The First Session

The first session with a therapist should always be a consultation, with no commitment by you or the therapist to continue if either of you feels you will not be able to work together. After the first session, ask yourself if you felt safe, if you felt like you were treated with respect, if you felt listened to. Ask yourself if you are willing to talk with the therapist about your concerns and if you feel the two of you can work together. If the answer to any of these questions is "no," you have two choices. You may decide to tell the therapist what you did not like or feel good about and see how you feel about the response you get. On the other hand, you may want to schedule a consultation with one or more other therapists and then select the one you prefer.

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Extracted from Healthy Mind Website

How Do I Choose a Therapist?

If you have made the decision to look for professional help you are beginning a journey that takes courage. Even looking for a therapist is an unfamiliar task for most people, and it can be a frightening thing to do. In fact, it can be very uncomfortable for almost anyone.

So where do you start...simply by looking through the Yellow Pages? Probably not. Ask around and get some feedback from others. Talk to your physician or lawyer, or a friend who has been in therapy for a situation similar to yours. Ask your pastor for a suggestion, or call a national association or a local support group that specializes in your area of concern. Try to get several names. Particularly look for names that come up more than once.

It is important to look for a therapist who is familiar with your area of concern. Go for a consultation and ask about the help you might need. Make a point of clarifying any questions you have about the therapist. Ask him about his training, or ask her if she is experienced with your type of difficulty. Ask directly about fees, how she might go about helping someone with your problem. Ask about specialty areas.

Ask yourself if the therapist seemed to pay attention to what you say. Does he answer your questions or beat around the bush? Does he seem at ease with you? Do you seem at ease with him? Look until you find a therapist in whom you feel confident. This is important.

Seek therapy that is within your financial means, so that you will not have to quit prematurely. Good therapy can sometimes be found at community mental health centers, where fees tend to be lower than in the private sector. However, many community mental health centers are overloaded with work, and you may have be willing to wait for a therapist to become available. Paying a high fee is no guarantee that you will receive good help, but if you do have to pay a high fee to get the help you need, then it is worth it. A good therapist can help you do lots of good work between sessions to shorten the number of sessions needed. Also, many people improve their effectiveness at work because of therapy to the point that they earn quicker promotions or find the courage to find a better paying job, eventually earning back the money they paid for psychotherapy.

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