How to Find a Good Therapist: 9 Questions to Ask Before Your First Appointment

Research has shown that approximately one in 25 adults in the United States struggle with a serious mental illness. These include major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

Working with a good therapist can be a great way to overcome these issues. In addition, therapists are able to help people struggling with other life phase transitions like stress, changing careers, adjusting to a new baby, relationship issues, grief and more. However, finding a good therapist isn’t always straightforward.

The process of finding a good therapist can be easier if you know what questions to ask, and we’ve put together a guide to help you get started. Let’s explore how to find a good therapist.


1. How Experienced Are You?

It’s essential to check their level of experience before you make your decision. Although working with an inexperienced therapist isn’t guaranteed to provide poor results, you may fall short of your goals.

It’s best to choose someone who’s been in the industry for at least a couple years, and who has experience with the specific concerns you are looking to work on. For example, if you are looking for a couples counselor in Atlanta, you may want to ask them what methods of couples therapy they are trained in, or some about what approach they take with their clients.

Consider their credentials as well. Though you do not need to understand everything about all the letters that follow after someone’s name, a basic understanding of if someone is licensed, in the process of getting licensed, or still finishing their graduate program may help you understand more about their experience level. 

2. Am I a Good Fit?

Not every patient is a good fit for a therapist. This could be due to personality conflicts, age or phase of life differences, budget, etc. Ask your therapist how they feel about working with you.

In some cases, the therapist might feel as though someone else can better handle your needs. If this occurs, ask them to refer you to another professional in the industry. This will help streamline your search for someone who can accommodate you.

3. How Do You Determine Goals?

It can be difficult to quantify therapy goals in many scenarios. One therapist might seek to improve their patient’s situation, while another might not be satisfied until they uproot bad habits that lead to poor behavior. It’s important to work together with your therapist in the first few sessions to identify clear goals that are important to you as the client. Once you and your therapist establish your goals, you can objectively track your progress.

If you don’t feel like you’re moving forward at a fast enough rate, you can reassess your professional relationship with them. Keep in mind, though, that it may take you a fair amount of time to work through your concerns. So don’t worry if things get off to a slow start.

4. What Have Others Said?

Research their past reputation to see what others have said about their experiences working with this therapist. It’s essential to choose a therapist who has a majority of positive feedback.

Otherwise, you risk having an unpleasant experience. Ask them for resources you can use to learn more about their reputation, and read reviews on their practice.

If they attempt to deflect this question or can’t give you a straight answer, this is a sign that you should consider your search elsewhere. A simple Google search can often give you plenty of information about your prospective therapist. Keep an eye out for any controversies they may have been involved in so you can avoid hiring the wrong person.

5. What Methods Do You Use?

Not all therapists use the same methodologies. Unfortunately, there isn’t a universal answer of what works best for every issue. What works for someone else may not work for you. It’s imperative to find a therapist who uses tried-and-true, well researched strategies.

The last thing you want is to find a therapist you connect with whose methods don’t meet your needs. They should have no trouble breaking down their methodologies and helping you understand them. Ask about the specific challenges you are dealing with and what type of methods they typically use for clients with these concerns. You can also google any terms you hear them say to make sure there is research supporting these approaches.

Be wary of therapists who don’t elaborate on the techniques they use. This could be a sign that you’re working with someone inexperienced.

6. How Often Should We Meet?

The frequency of your sessions will heavily depend on your situation. Some people only need to meet a few times per month, while others might require many more sessions. Your therapist should provide an accurate and honest answer to this question. It is typical that a therapist may want to see you more often when you are first working together (like once a week or every other week), and then may space out your sessions when you are seeing progress on your goals.

Just remember that you ultimately are in control of how frequently or for how long you remain in therapy. A good therapist will support and empower you to make decisions that align with your goals for therapy and will not force you to attend sessions that you don’t find to be beneficial. 

7. Do You Take My Insurance?

Therapy sessions can sometimes be financially overwhelming. This is particularly true if you work with an industry-renowned therapist. If you are trying to use your insurance benefits, ask them if they take your insurance plan so you can budget for their services appropriately. Many therapists do not take insurance, for various reasons, and if so they should be upfront with you about their rates, and if there are any accommodations they can make if you have financial constraints. 

If you aren’t sure if your insurance covers counseling sessions, be sure to call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask. Sometimes, even if a provider is not in your network, your insurance may still reimburse you for a portion of the cost.  

8. Am I Charged for Cancellations?

Some therapists charge you for canceling appointments. This is understandable, as this often prevents them from seeing other patients during that time block. If you cancel far enough in advance, you might not have to deal with fees.

This will vary between therapists, though. Check their policy so you can avoid unnecessary expenses.

It’s also customary to prevent cancellations, if possible. You should only schedule sessions you’re sure you can attend.

9. What Is the Cost per Session?

No matter how good a therapist is, it’s still important to discuss their rates. You won’t be able to get the most out of working with them if you can’t afford regular sessions.

In contrast, you should also stay wary of therapists who charge notably low rates, or of choosing a provider just because they are covered by your insurance benefits. A good therapist for you is someone who has experience working with clients similar to you, and also fits within your budget. You often get what you pay for, and it’s not recommended to choose the cheapest option. 


Understand How to Find a Good Therapist

Knowing how to find a good therapist is easier than it seems. The above information has everything you need to know to get started on the right track.

From here, you’ll have no issue getting the best possible results. Book your session today at Fava Counseling Associates. We have the tools and resources to help you reach your goals, and we offer free 15 minute consultation calls with our office staff and therapists to help you find the best fit.

About Liz Fava, LPC

Liz provides individual and couples therapy for adults, including counseling for dating, engaged, and married couples. She also conducts couples workshops, and training and supervision for therapists.