How to Find a Good Therapist: Ten Things to Consider

Gabriel Bryne

Dr. Weston would be my first choice…

What makes a good therapist or counselor?

Over the years I’ve seen a handful of therapists in short spurts to help get me through tough times, and I think I’m starting to get a better idea of what traits to look for in a counselor. Finding a good therapist can be a pain in the ass, so here are are a few things to consider when evaluating a new therapist.  I could go on and on (and on…) about this, but for this list I’ve capped it off at ten. Now, in no particular order…

1. Does it matter what kind of education your therapist had?

MFT, MSW, PHD, PSYD, I’ve tried each of these. I think you can get quality care from all of those options, but when you’re just starting out, definitely take a minute to read up on the differences in approach and schooling that your therapist undertook. More degrees may not lead to better treatment. For example I talked to a psychiatrist for a bit and all he wanted to do was give me drugs. So terrible! Then I worked with a social worker and was quite impressed with her care. It’s a crapshoot.

2. Along the same lines, before you book an appointment with your counselor, stalk their website! Who are they? Where are they from? What kind of therapy do they practice? How many years have they been practicing?

Do they have a dog? BONUS POINTS. I am not kidding. Do they lay out their interests and working approach online? This may save you a few awkward sessions where you try to weasel your way out of a commitment to a therapist who is just not a good fit. For example, when I clicked over to one possible MFT, I realized that she was a little bit too hippie dippie for me. While I liked that she took PayPal, I could tell we were not going to get on well. BULLET DODGED.

3. Do they speak your native language?

You’re going to be talking about some deep shit, you might as well be comfortable.

4. Money matters

How much do they charge per hour? Do they take your insurance? If not, will they work out a special fee system for you? Do not assume that you will pay more for a person with more education. Insurance is funny in that way. I paid $60/session for an MFT, and $20/session for a PHD. Shop around and don’t be afraid to talk cash with your therapist.

5. Do they have any testimonials on Yelp?

Yeah, I stalk all my doctors on Yelp. What?

6. Do you think that your potential new therapist can connect with your point of view and your struggles? Is your current issue one of their specialties?

It is so important to be comfortable with your therapist, and understanding your ish is part of that. Try as a they might, I don’t think that white men can really understand what it’s like to be a twenty-something Asian female. Lots of therapists will mention if they specialize in certain demographics, such as youth, chronically ill patients, or LGBTQ issues.

7. More on the approach to treatment

Is your potential new therapist goal oriented? Will they ask you to set concrete goals for treatment? Will they ask you to actively change, maybe even… give you homework assignments? Or is their approach more free form, perhaps talking about whatever you like every week? Is your therapist open to having joint relationship sessions with your partner if you are having romantic relationship issues?

8. Has your therapist lived through some shit? Is your therapist in therapy?

It’s kinda hard to snoop and figure this one out, but I think it’s so important for a therapist to have lived through some shit before they start working with you on how to get through your shit. It’s kind of like that therapist in Short Bus. What, you’ve never seen it? Save it for a rainy day.

9. Does your therapist offer remote therapy  (Skype calls, phone calls)?

Consistency in treatment is key for making progress. If you travel often, you may want to get a therapist who is comfortable offering different methods of connecting for your sessions. Phone counseling sounds weird, but when you already have a relationship with the therapist in person, you can slip back into comfort quite quickly over the phone.

10. Are you comfortable talking to your therapist? Can you be honest with them?

And obviously, most importantly, you gotta be able to talk to them. If you’re gonna grow, you have to be able to work with this person honestly, without fear of judgement.

On the other end of the spectrum, however, be cautious of therapists who end up feeling like your own personal cheerleader. Once you have a cheer squad behind you, you may feel afraid of letting them down, or telling them about your poor choices last weekend. They have become just another friend.  If that’s what you’re looking for, perhaps you should find a life coach instead. In fact, many therapists moonlight as life coaches on the side.

11. Bonus point to consider- Is your therapist financially secure? Are they on the hustle?

This sounds weird, but if you notice that your therapist is perhaps falling on hard times financially, and seems to be marketing heavily, or pushing you to increase your sessions, be careful! They need your business and their treatment may be a bit less than stellar due to their money woes. I’d never thought about this before, until I realized that my last therapist was hard up and trying to get me to do sessions when I wanted to take a break. Yeesh.


That’s all for now, but I hope this post was helpful for you fellow crazy diamonds out there. Maybe in the future I’ll write some more about how to literally go about finding and booking a therapist.


Mood Disorders in the Media: Aaron Swartz
The conversation in the media around depression and other mood disorders has been supercharged lately, what with the too numerous tragedies and the implications of health care reform. I read all relevant pieces that I come across, so I thought that I would start flagging the good ones here. 

A few weeks ago I read a New Yorker bio piece about Aaron Swartz. I didn’t know a ton about him and his life (unfortunately I knew more about his death, how terrible is that?), yet I was touched by the piece.

While I read it I  found myself nodding along with descriptions of him from his friends and family, and also excerpts from his personal blog. There were expressed so many familiar feelings of continuous struggle, questioning life as a game, longing for intimacy yet shutting oneself off from others, and being afraid to ask for help. Well, maybe too afraid, or maybe too proud. Anyways, it all felt a bit too familiar. It’s a very thoughtful and sometimes infuriating piece.

You should read it if you have spare time. Of course you have spare time.