How to Find a Therapist
4 min read

How to Find a Therapist

You may find that you need ongoing therapeutic support to process what you experienced. Fortunately, Sonoma Academy has agreed to pay for student and alumni mental health care through the RAINN therapy fund.

Finding a therapist can be time-consuming and challenging, especially if you are in a distressed state. If you are searching for someone on your own, we hope this guide will help. If you have supportive friends or family members who can help you identify therapists you might like to work with, we encourage you to share this resource with them.

Psychology Today can be a good place to find a list of counselors in your area. If you are in a major metro area, there may be hundreds of options available to you. You can use the filters to narrow down the list. We recommend that you begin by identifying three therapists you might be interested in working with. We suggest you then reach out to therapists and have a conversation to see if they would be a good fit.

Here are some questions to consider before looking for a therapist.  These prompts can help you get a clearer read on what you're really looking for.  But don’t let thinking about these questions be the thing that stops you from picking up the phone/sending the email to get the ball rolling.

  1. What’s your prevailing mood these days? Where are you in life and how do you feel about that?
  2. Why are you interested in therapy? What issues do you hope to address? Do you have specific goals you want to achieve, or are you looking to establish a long-term supportive relationship with your therapist? For example, people sometimes turn to therapy as a safe place to unpack trauma, learn new coping skills, vent, examine relationships and interpersonal dynamics, or explore values and identify.
  3. Do you have any concerns about starting therapy? If you’ve been in therapy before, what was that like? What worked and what didn’t?
  4. What are you looking for in a therapist? For example, do you want someone who will listen quietly, offer advice, challenge your assumptions, or offer affirmation? Would you like things to feel casual and chatty or more professional/clinical?

Questions to ask a potential therapist

Before you schedule an appointment with a new therapist, ask to set up a time to talk on the phone. If they don’t want to do this (or if they want you to pay for it), we suggest you move on to the next person on your list!

It’s fine to be upfront about the fact that you’re setting up phone screens with other therapists--a good therapist will see that as a smart move. If they respond negatively to this or try to pressure you into scheduling an appointment right away, take that as a red flag and move on.

  1. Are you licensed in the state in which you’re practicing? You should also be able to find this on their website.
  2. What are your areas of expertise? What kinds of people/issues do you typically work with? This information is often available on their website, but it can be helpful to hear it directly from them as well.
  3. How would you describe your style of work? What does a session typically look like? Is your style affirming/quiet listening/challenging/interactive?
  4. What does a successful patient-client relationship look like to you?  How would you assess if we’ll be a good fit? What would you do if it seems like we’re not? They should be able to answer this clearly! It can be awkward not to mesh with a therapist and a good one should be sensitive to that and address it proactively, rather than leaving it to you to break up with them. Good signs include: checking in with you to see how you feel things are going, offering to refer you to someone else if they don’t think they’re best suited to what you need.
  5. What does progress look like and how do you assess it? Do you typically set clear goals/intentions with clients? What will you do if it seems like we’re not making much progress?
  6. Do you expect clients to complete assignments between sessions? If so, what do they typically look like?
  7. What are your strengths and limitations as a therapist? Are there types of people/issues you find it particularly challenging to work with?
  8. What has been your experience with therapy as a patient? Don’t work with a therapist who hasn’t spent a good amount of time in therapy themselves!
  9. Do you take insurance or offer a sliding scale rate? What time slots do you have available, and how often do you like to see patients? Strictly every week? More frequently if necessary? Less frequently as time goes on?

Once you’re off the phone, think about how it felt to talk to them.  Listen to your body and trust your instincts! If it doesn't feel like a good fit, move on.

Example of an email to a potential therapist

Hi [Therapist’s Name],

My name is [Your Name] and I'm looking for a new therapist.  I came across your website and I was hoping we could chat briefly and see if we might be a good fit to work together.  My phone number is [Your Phone Number].  If for some reason I don't answer, please feel free to leave a message.

A bit more about me and what I'm looking for:

A teacher at my high school was recently fired over his history of misconduct towards students and it’s brought up some difficult memories. I’ve been reexamining my interactions with him in light of that information, as well as how the school’s administration handled things at the time. It’s been really tough and it’s raised a lot of questions and emotions I’m having trouble processing. I’ve realized I could use some guidance to help me work through all of this. I’ve been in therapy before and [Here's what that was like]. I’m hoping this time [It will be like this].

I'm curious to hear more about what your style of working with clients is like. What does a successful client-therapist relationship look like to you, and how would you assess if we'll be a good fit to work together?

Thanks for your time,

[Your name]