Select a Psychotherapist


NPI members are constantly in a process of compiling and reviewing resources that may be useful to people the following situations:
  1. Selecting a Psychotherapist: prospective clients (or patients) on how to select a psychotherapist
  2. Adjunct Resources:  for clients (or patients) who are already in psychotherapy
  3. Information for Supportive Loved Ones: family, friends and loved ones who want to know how to be supportive to someone they know who is currently experiencing emotional or mental health issues
  4. Considering a Career in Psychotherapy: people who are considering embarking on a career in a the field of psychotherapy
  5. Advanced Training & Continuing Education: psychotherapists who are looking for advanced training and continuing education opportunities
  6. Self-Care and Development: anyone who wants to improve or enrich his or her life through better self-care and development

We are constantly adding to and revising this information.  If you have anything to add, please let us know.  If you encounter a link that no longer works, please email us.
A word of caution: Psychotherapists agree about many things, but we also disagree about many.  There are relatively few areas of unanimous consensus in our field and, even where there is consensus, we often disagree about how to describe that consensus.  Consequently, we have tried in these resource lists to make it clear whether something on the list is something on which there is very little consensus or whether it is disputed by others within our field.


Selecting a Psychotherapist

Written by John Waide
Here are some suggestions on how to find a psychotherapist:

Points to keep in mind while you're engaged in this process.
  • A good therapeutic relationship can be enormously helpful to you.
  • A good therapist for you will need to be skilled AND be a good match for you.
  • If you don't feel good about a therapist in the first couple of sessions, it may be better for you to continue looking for someone who is a good fit for you.
  • If you begin to have negative thoughts about your therapist later on, don't hesitate to talk with your therapist about them.  (It's best to bring them up near the beginning of the session, so you can have time to discuss and explore them.)  If the therapist's responses to you seem very hostile or negative, go home, think about it, and come back and talk about it more.  If this continues, and doesn't seem to be fruitful for you, then discontinue your therapy with that therapist and seek out another.
  • Perhaps you will only need or want a brief course of psychotherapy.  But it's still best to start with someone whose schedule, location, and fee arrangements would make it possible for you to continue as long as is best for you.

Things to ask in a an initial phone contact:
  • First, tell the therapist how you got his or her name.
  • Ask how long it will be until you can get an appointment at a suitable time?  (If your need is urgent and that therapist can't see you soon enough, don't hesitate to ask for a suggestion of whom you might contact for a sooner appointment.)
  • Convenient times?  If you can only make it to appointments on certain weekdays or at certain times of day, ask whether the therapist can see you regularly in those convenient times of your schedule.
  • Money & insurance issues?  If it is especially important to you to be able to use insurance coverage, ask whether the therapist is covered under your plan.  In most cases, the answer will be "yes, but ...".  If you need to use a provider who is in your insurance company's provider network, confirm whether the therapist is in that network.  If you are planning to pay entirely out of pocket, you may want to ask about your therapist's fee in that first phone conversation.
  • Dealbreakers?  If you have some particular dealbreaker issue, it will be easier for everyone if you ask the question on the phone, before you've spent any money or shared too much information about yourself.  For example, if you cannot trust anyone who doesn't share your same religious background (or perhaps cannot trust someone who is an active member of a religious congregation or community in which you were mistreated), ask about it up front -- but only if it is an issue that would doom the therapeutic relationship.

Some pitfalls to avoid:
  • Except in unusual circumstances, it is best NOT to go to your friend's therapist.  If your friend is still in therapy (or returns to therapy with that therapist), you will inevitably find yourself wondering what your friend may have said about you and you may feel some awkwardness in mentioning your friend.  This isn't the worst thing possible and a skilled therapist is capable of coping with it -- but it is better if neither you nor the therapist has to worry about this.