A guide to choosing the right therapist

If you’re struggling with your mental health, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

More than a half

of all Americans will be diagnosed with an emotional or behavioral health disorder at some point in their lives.

Fortunately you have many

treatment options
. A common one is talk therapy, also called counseling or psychotherapy. The

American Psychiatric Association

says it can “help people with a wide variety of mental illnesses and emotional difficulties.”

To be successful, talk therapy requires a good relationship between the patient and the therapist. So if you go down that path, you need to choose your therapist wisely. Here are some tips to help you do that.

How to start

A good way to start is by

tell your primary care doctor

that you feel you have an emotional or behavioral health problem, and would like to seek help to treat it. This is important because your doctor needs to know that you have these types of problems, as they can affect your physical health. Your primary care doctor can also recommend a therapist you feel comfortable with.

Your health insurer and/or hospital system will also have mental health professionals in their networks that you may want to consider. There are also online services that work to connect people with the best therapist for them, based on their preferences, clinical needs, and insurance. Also, the

American Psychological Association


American Psychiatric Association

has online tools to help you find psychologists and psychiatrists near you.

If your employer has a

employee assistance program
, you might want to start by seeing if they offer mental health counseling. If you do, and you’re comfortable using their services, you’ll want to review everything about the counselor or counselors you’ll let you see, just as thoroughly as you would if you were selecting an outside counselor.

Therapists and therapies

There is a lot of

types of therapists

for you to choose They include social workers, licensed professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and members of the clergy.

One thing to consider is its cost. Not only do they have different rates (a member of the clergy, for example, may not charge anything), but if you have health insurance, it may pay you to see some types of therapists a certain number of times a year.

Another thing to consider is the

type of therapy

you are interested in getting Couples, marriage and family counseling is what their names suggest, as is group therapy.

cognitive therapy
, or cognitive-behavioral therapy, focuses on your current difficulties and gives you strategies to deal with them. Behavioral therapy, or behavior modification, focuses on getting you to replace harmful behaviors with healthy ones.

Other considerations

Unless you are seeking couples, marriage, or family therapy, you may not know what type of therapy you need. It’s okay. Just make sure that when you talk to the mental health professionals you’re considering seeing, you ask them what type of therapy they provide. You should also ask them to describe you to make sure you are comfortable with their therapy approach.

If you think you will need medication to help you deal with your problem, you should

choose a therapist

who can provide it to you or refer it to someone who can. Psychiatrists can prescribe drugs because they have medical degrees. Psychiatric nurse practitioners may also write prescriptions in some states.

Regardless of the type of therapist you choose, make sure they have the proper credentials. These include the degrees they need for their specialty, such as an MD or DO for psychiatry, as well as certification from the state in which they practice.

You also want to make sure you feel comfortable with them. That may mean talking in depth, or even having a session, with more than one to make sure you have the right option.

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