How to Find an Effective (Online) Therapist
Updated: Jun 29
In the previous post we learned more about what psychotherapy is, who can provide therapy services in Minnesota, and what those providers' credentials might look like.
This post will build upon that information by exploring the best ways you can find a therapist that's right for you, and more importantly, one you can trust.
Below I'll review some questions that could be helpful to ask yourself before starting your search for a therapist, some resources on where to actually look, and what you might expect from the process.
Clarifying Questions That Could Help Your Search
It probably doesn't need to be said, but working with a therapist is not the same as working with, say, an accountant or a mechanic.
Sure, trust is a major factor in your decision to let someone manage your taxes or fix your vehicle: you want to trust in their knowledge and abilities to perform the job, and that they can use the appropriate tools to do it well.
When it comes to psychotherapy, your therapist is the tool.
It's important that your therapist is someone whom you feel safe with. Someone you can say anything to without fear of being judged. Someone whom you can connect and relate to.
Ask yourself some of the following questions to help determine what you're looking for in a therapist:
What specific goals am I trying to accomplish through therapy?
What type of therapy am I looking for?
Do I prefer in-person or online sessions? Does it matter?
Would the work I do in therapy be enhanced by having a therapist that belongs to the same community as me (LGBTQ+, veterans, persons with disabilities, race, ethnicity, religion, etc.)?
What logistics are important to me (costs (insurance/private pay), schedule flexibility, location, etc.)? What would I prioritize first?
Where to Search for a Therapist
Now that you have a better understanding of what you're looking for in a therapist, the next step is actually finding one. Thankfully, there are several ways to go about doing this.
One of the best ways to start working with a therapist you can trust is by getting the contact information of someone whom a friend or family member recommends working wit. This allows you to get broad but direct feedback of what the therapist's presence is like and how they work.
You can also request referrals for a therapist from other healthcare providers that you already see, such as your primary care provider. It's a frequently requested service, so there's a strong chance they have a network of therapists with positive feedback.
Your Insurance Company
If you plan to utilize insurance to pay for therapy services, most insurance companies have online databases that list in-network and out-of-network providers in your area.
Employee Assistance Programs
Depending on your employer, you may have a benefit provided to you called an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Generally, EAPs provide short-term counselling services, among other things, to employees who are in need of mental health support, whose lack of intervention could impact their work.
Each EAP is different, though most provide 3-6 sessions at no cost to the employee. Following those sessions, you will usually have the option to continue services with that therapist at their standard rate.
Online directories are amazing tools to find a therapist that feels like a good fit for you. Listed below are the ones I've experienced as having been the most effective:
Mental Health Match specializes in using a matching tool to connect you with therapists that best meet what you're looking for. Even if you don't use the matching tool, Mental Health Match provides the largest variety of filters to help you narrow down the right therapist for you.
Therapy Den is an inclusive-oriented therapist directory whose mission is to make finding a therapist easy. They provide just about as many filters as Mental Health Match, and it's very easy to use.
Psychology Today is arguably the most well-known and widely-used therapist directory. Although their filters aren't as specific or diverse as Mental Health Match's, Psychology Today tends to have more options for therapists in your area.
Open Path Collective is a network of therapists that are dedicated to helping clients at a steeply reduced rate, making it one of the best options for mental healthcare for people who are underinsured or uninsured. It requires a membership of $65 that lasts a lifetime. Session fees range anywhere from $30-70.
Consultation Calls Are Key
When you feel as though you've found a therapist who could be a good fit for you, I would encourage you to ask them about scheduling a brief consultation phone call.
This is a perfect opportunity to confirm what you've gathered about them online or ask questions to help you decide if they could help you.
The consultation call is also a brilliant way to get a feel for how your therapist responds to you, which can offer a glimpse into what therapy with them might feel like.
Questions You Can Ask a Potential Therapist
What experience do you have working with ________?
What's your approach to therapy?
What does the therapy process look like when working with you?
What is your fee, and do you offer a sliding scale? or,
Do you accept my insurance?
Many independent therapists already offer a consultation call for free because it's a chance to determine if it's a good therapeutic fit for them as well.
Questions a Therapist Might Ask You
What led you to consider therapy now?
Have you sought therapy before, and if so what was your experience like?
What are you looking for in a therapist?
At the end of the call, the therapist will usually offer you the chance to schedule the first session and get the ball rolling.
What Do I Say If I Don't Want to Get the Ball Rolling?
The most important thing is to be honest.
Again, the strength of the therapeutic relationship is the best predictor of success, and if you're getting the vibe that you won't be able to connect well with this person, trust them, or open up to them, then therapy might not be as effective as you'd like it to be.
If you don't get a solid vibe from a potential therapist, or if you're not quite sure yet, here are some example phrases you can say when asked about taking the next step:
"Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me, answer my questions, and describe more about your practice. At this point I'm going to keep searching for a therapist but I'll reach out to you again if anything changes."
"I'm interviewing a couple more therapists before making a decision, would it be alright if I get back to you?"
"I really appreciate the information you gave me, but I'd like some time to think about it before committing. Can I get back to you with my decision soon?"
By being honest and direct, it will save both you and the therapist time and resources. Plus, this is a part of the process that many therapists are very used to, so there's no need to worry about causing feelings of rejection.
How Do I Know If a Therapist Is the Right Fit?
Consultation calls generally last about 15 minutes, which may not be enough time to fully gauge if a therapist is the right fit for you; however, this is one of those moments where I would encourage you to go with your gut feeling.
Below are some questions you can ask yourself during the call to help determine if you want to schedule the first session with them:
Do I feel like they're really hearing what I'm saying?
Do I feel respected and validated?
Do I feel like I could be honest with them and open up about what's going on?
Do I feel like they're knowledgeable enough to really help me?
Do they use language that allows me to feel like they understand my background or identities?
It's possible that you'll get a gut feeling about the therapist not being the right fit for you without being able to pinpoint what that feeling is about quite yet. That's okay. You don't need a reason to justify your decision; just be respectful about it.
If this is the case, refer to the previous section to get some ideas about what you can say at the end of the consultation call.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Hopefully at the end of this process you'll have found a therapist whom you feel is the right fit for you, and perhaps scheduled the first session.
But oh my, has the work only just begun!
These points were mentioned in the last post to help you get the most out of therapy, and I believe they're worth highlighting again as a way to set yourself up for success:
Be open and honest with your therapist
Feel the feels
Know that therapy is a process
Do the work
Maintain consistency as best you can
Therapy isn't the easiest thing to undertake. But having a therapist that you can trust, feel connected to, and feel you can open up to, makes all the difference.