How to a Find a Therapist

If you are asking the question: How to find a therapist, you have come to the right place. The truth is there is a virtual plethora of choices in most large metropolitan cities. For example, Chicago is home to thousands of specialists who work in the counseling field. Depending upon where you live, the choices can be overwhelming.

That’s why we thought it might be a good idea to publish this ultimate “how to find a therapist guide” as a way of helping you make the best decision for your therapy needs. We’ll start off with a basic definition of therapy and then give you some of the inside baseball about what all of the different therapist titles and acronyms mean.

For example, if you are searching for how to find a psychologist, you will likely run across other helping professionals who are counselors and social workers. As a result, you may wonder: What do these titles mean?

Finally, we’ll jump into the “How to Find a Therapist” guide itself and give you important some important tips.

Find a therapist: Titles and Acronyms

therapists acronyms therapy counseling psycholigy specialties

What’s up with the titles?

  • Psychiatrist: Physician who can diagnosis and prescribe medication. May or may not engage in talk-therapy.
  • Psychologist: Doctoral degree (PsyD or PhD) in psychology. Most do not prescribe medications. Talk-therapy is common when working with a person who has this title.
  • Social Workers: Skilled with groups, communities and individuals. Does not prescribe medication. Talk-therapy is a common modality with persons who have this designation.
  • Licensed Professional Counselors: Mental health professionals who hold a masters or doctoral degree. Can diagnose mental health issues. Talk-therapy is common modality for individuals who have this designation. Does not prescribe medication.
  • Marriage and Family Therapist: Can diagnose. Does not prescribe medications. Commonly works with couples, families and inviduals using talk-therapy to work through relationship related issues.

What about therapist licensure?

Each state has different licensure requirements for therapists. Check with your state to discover specific requirements. Some states do not require the individual to be licensed in order to call themselves a “Psychotherapist”. Other states do. This is why you want to check.

What’s up with the acronyms?

When you look at a therapist’s listing, you often see their last name proceeded by a series of acronyms. An example might be a listing for a psychologist that reads: John Doe, PhD, CADC, CGP. You probably know what the PhD means but what about the rest?

Here is a link to a quick online guide to the acronyms to help you figure it out published by Network Therapy.

Find a Therapist: What Issues?


1) Determine what you need therapy for

Before you can get to the “how to” question for finding a therapist, it’s probably a good idea to know what you are looking for. Specifically, this means understanding what the basics of your symptoms are and then moving about the business of conducting the search.

Example: Are you feeling depressed or a little blue? Then finding a therapist who specializes in depression is your starting point. Other examples might include:

  • Therapists for anxiety
  • Therapy for PTSD
  • Marriage counseling
  • Couples counseling
  • Relationship problems

Find a Therapist: How will you pay?

paying for therapy

2) Paying for therapy

The next step in finding a therapist is to assess how you will pay for therapy. Knowing this information will help you when you conduct the actual therapist search.

If you are using your insurance, it is important that you check with your provider to determine if your plan has counseling benefits. But hang on – not all insurance policies are the same. There are HMO’s and PPO.s We’ve addressed both types below as it relates to mental health.

Finally, if you are paying out of pocket (cash, credit card) we’ve also included some tips and suggestions.

HMO (Health Maintenance Organization)

If you have an HMO, you most likely will need to see a therapist that is within your network. For example, if you have a Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO, you will need to see a counseling professional within that specific HMO.

To locate a therapist in your HMO network, visit your health insurance carrier’s website to conduct the search.

FYI: HMO’s tend to be the most restrictive when it comes to healthcare. For example, the majority of therapists in Chicago do not belong to HMOs but instead, PPOs.

PPO (Preferred Provider Organization)

If you have a PPO plan (i.e. Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO, Aetna, United Health Care and so forth) we recommend that you pull out your insurance card and call the telephone number located on the back.

Usually, this phone number is toll-free with a number labeled “Member Services”. When you call, have pen and paper ready and make sure you ask the following question(s) based on your needs:

  • Does my plan have a behavioral health benefit?
  • Does my plan have a counseling benefit?
  • Does my plan cover individual counseling?
  • Does my plan cover marriage counseling?
  • Does my plan cover couples therapy
  • Does my plan offer a family counseling benefit?

Other questions (and this is important) is to ask about specific costs. Here are several inquiry points under this area:

  • Do I need to see someone “In Network”?
  • If I see someone out of network, what (if any) benefits apply?
  • Does my plan have a deductible?
  • How much of my deductible has been met this year?

Paying Out of Pocket

If you are paying out of pocket or do not want to use your insurance, there are questions/options here you may want to consider. Below are a few quick ones:

  • How much money can you afford to pay for therapy?
  • Do you participate in a Health Savings Plan (HSA) at your workplace? Is the cost of therapy reimbursable?
  • If I cannot afford therapy, does my town have a community mental health center?

Find a Therapist: Search

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3) Conduct the therapist search

Now that you know the type of therapy you are seeking (i.e. anxiety) and how you will pay for therapy, you can now go about the business of answering that question – how to find a therapist.

The suggestions under this point may or may not apply to your situation for a variety of reasons (depending upon your comfort level).

  • Ask someone you trust for any recommendations
  • Ask your doctor if she/he has any suggestions
  • Conduct a search on the Internet using the specific search term for what you are looking for.


  • Find a therapist for anxiety Chicago
  • Find a therapist for depression New York
  • Find a marriage therapist Los Angeles
  • Find an addictions therapist Miami

Once you have gathered 3-4 names, you can then do some more involved checking. Here, we are talking about things like:

  • Assessing the person’s credentials
  • Determining their level of experience with your issues
  • Read reviews that appear on various review sites
  • Visit the therapist’s website and read any articles or posts that appear on their blog. As an example, here is our therapist blog.

Some therapists have videos available online that address certain topics. We’ve published two here to give you an idea. If you are on a given therapist’s website, look to see if any videos appear. This is a great way of “seeing” what the therapist might be like in real life.

Find a Therapist: Video Examples

find a therapist near me

Find a Therapist: Book Appointment

schedule appointment therapist

5) Decide and book

Once you have talked to several therapists and have gotten a basic idea of who they are and their overall approach to counseling, you are ready to take the final step – booking a first appointment.

Under this point, consider the following:

  • Given that therapy is often a journey of self-exploration, have you given careful thought to the person you want to work with?
  • Do you think you would be best served by a female or male therapist?
  • Does the therapist seem comfortable with the issues you have discussed (i.e. anxiety, LGBT matters, trauma, relationship issues)?

Final Thoughts

Once you begin therapy, recognize that you are not “locked in”. It might be helpful for you to think of the first few sessions as a trial period. When you come in for therapy, ask yourself the following: What am I aware of? Does this person seem focused on what I am saying? Are they interactive?

We encourage you to visit other pages on our website that explores all things related to therapy. Be sure to stop by our learning room for other articles.

We hope you found this ultimate guide on how to find a therapist useful. Thanks for visiting 2nd Story Counseling online!