Choosing the Right Therapist: Five Simple Steps

A red pen sits on a paper with five checked boxes.Choosing the right therapist really depends on your needs and the counseling style that will work best for you. There are several steps that you should take if you want to find a counselor that will truly make an impact on your life. These steps include:

Step 1: Go with your gut. Many people pick a therapist who makes them feel at ease, so pay attention to the way you feel when you’re talking to a potential therapist. Keep in mind, though, that this is only the first step in choosing the right counselor for you. Because, while you do need to have a good amount of comfort and trust with your counselor, you also need to be certain that you’ll get results. Since therapy is personal, you do need to feel your therapist is the right fit in terms of comfort, but this shouldn’t be the only criteria.

Step 2: Look for credibility and knowledge. Not all therapy is the same, and many types of therapy have little to no evidence showing that they significantly help people. With that in mind, finding out the type of therapy the counselor uses is very important. Do a little research so you are an informed consumer.

Step 3: Evaluate their therapy style. Some therapists say they practice evidenced-based therapy, which is a great start, but you may want to ask a little more about their training or visit their website to see if this gives you a better indication of their counseling style. Do they have a website? If so, is it informational or just an advertisement for their services? These details also give you a sense of what you can expect from them in terms of how serious they take their work. Therapists who give a good amount of helpful information on their websites will typically have your best interests in mind and will be dedicated to helping you get the best results.

Step 4: Are they easy to understand? Another factor that is important when it comes to choosing a counselor or therapist is taking a look at how he or she speaks to you. Some counselors have brilliant ideas, but they can’t get their message across in simple, layperson language that is easily understood. After all, you won’t get far if you don’t understand what your counselor is talking about. You’ll be able to tell how easy potential counselors are to understand by the way they write for their websites or by the way they talk if you speak to them over the phone. They should also be patient with your questions and not act in a condescending way.

Step 5: Consider a specialist. Choosing a counselor who specializes in many areas may be a sign that this person knows a little bit about many topics, but may not be well versed in working with your particular concern. A better choice would be to find someone who focuses on your particular struggle or to choose a group practice that can help you find the person who is best suited to help with your needs.

Try to find someone who has a good combination of the above characteristics. If you can find a therapist who helps you feel comfortable, provides evidence-based therapy, is serious about helping you work through your struggles, is easy to understand, and has experience with your particular needs, you will have a much better chance at getting significant results from your therapy.

© Copyright 2009 by Ernest Schmidt. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Scotland

    November 14th, 2009 at 4:05 AM

    I needed to see a therapist about a couple of years ago and because I was not too comfortable with two different therapists that I saw, I had almost given it up… until I found one that was really welcoming and seemed like he truly cared to help solve my problem… I stuck with him and was really comfortable sharing all that I had in my mind and had a lot of very successful therapy sessions.

  • Eliza

    November 14th, 2009 at 5:53 PM

    You don’t realize when you first begin how much you need to be able to make a connection with your therapist but you really do so that the two of you together can work and get to the heart of the manner. I think that you will likely know right away if this is someone that you are going to feel comfortable with and who you are going to be able to trust enough to allow into your life and to help you along this incredibly difficult but eye opening journey that you are sure to experience. That is hard for some people who naturally do not trust others but this is someone who is going to learn all of your deepest and darkest secrets so you better make sure that you have a good rapport with him or her and that you feel like you could trust them with anything that you say and share. Remember this is a person who is there to help you and you want it to be someone who can see you through until the end.

  • Lisa

    November 15th, 2009 at 5:14 AM

    I went with my gut when I was getting a messy divorce. I had the worst therapist as a result of that. A friend of mine told me that it was not the best time to go with my gut as I was in shambles mentally.

  • Ernest

    November 15th, 2009 at 10:56 AM

    I think you make a good point. Going with your gut only takes you so far. I like the idea of using the same criteria you use to choose other professionals to work with. Get friend’s opinions as well, even have them look at the therapist’s website and give you their impression. Good discussion…

  • Leslie

    November 16th, 2009 at 11:34 AM

    Referrals from other people is a great way to get information about a therapist.

  • Jane J.

    January 10th, 2016 at 6:12 PM

    Great information as if you choose the wrong therapist it will impact your entire treatment

  • Olivia

    March 23rd, 2017 at 3:47 PM

    I agree that a good marriage therapist is easy to understand. It would seem important to find a counselor that will not use overly confusing terms and words. My husband and I are looking for a marriage counselor so we’ll have to find someone who speaks in clear and understandable words.

  • Tammie H.

    October 25th, 2017 at 2:47 PM

    I agree with you in thinking that among the most important things to consider when choosing the right therapist for you is if I can understand what they say easily. You are in their office for a reason, and that reason is vital for you. The therapist that you will hire should be able to explain the entire process to you and make you understand everything that you need to know. That way you can be at ease. I like your article. It gave me a few points to consider. I’ll make sure to remember your tips. Thanks!

  • Bobby S

    January 3rd, 2018 at 10:54 PM

    I couldn’t agree more when you mentioned looking for a therapist that has credibility and is fully knowledgeable about his profession. It is recommended that you do your own research and select a counselor or therapist who has been practicing his profession for many years and has established himself as one of the most trusted in the industry. This only means that he has counseled many clients and is very much reliable and trustworthy. If I were to look for a family counselor or therapist, I would make sure to take this into account. Thanks.

  • Latoya A.

    March 14th, 2018 at 9:38 PM

    I do agree that it’s important to pay attention to what you will feel when you’re talking to the therapist that you’re considering so you can end up choosing a therapist that can make you feel at ease. Since my husband died, I can say that I’ve been showing signs of anxiety, and I want to get a professional help. This is a private and personal matter to me, so it’s important for me to find a therapist that can make me feel comfortable to talk about my experiences and condition so I can get a proper help from them. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Ava M.

    April 17th, 2018 at 10:07 PM

    I like that you recommended paying attention to the way you feel when you’re talking to the therapist that you’re interested in so you can see if you will comfortable with them. My sister is looking for a psychologist. She mentioned to me that she wanted to find a psychologist that can make her feel at ease so she can easily open up about her feelings and struggles. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Duncan

    August 21st, 2018 at 4:48 PM

    I think it is pretty great that the article recommends evaluating the therapist’s therapy style before you get help from them. After all, everybody is going to respond to therapy in a different way. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure that your therapist does their job in a way that you can actually respond positively to

  • Easton M.

    October 18th, 2018 at 12:35 PM

    I like the tip that you gave to evaluate a therapist’s style of therapy before you decide to choose them to be your long term therapist. My doctor has asked that I start therapy to help me manage my depression, and I want to make sure that I get a therapist who will work for me. I will be sure to evaluate their therapy style to make sure it is for me before I hire them, so I can be confident that they will offer the help I need.

  • Carolien

    November 22nd, 2018 at 3:49 PM

    I like that you suggested choosing a therapist that specializes in the area where you are struggling a lot to make sure that they can meet all your needs. This is something that I will make sure to remember because my sister needs help. She has been struggling from depression since her child died, and I’d like to find her a mental health counselor that has handled depressed patients successfully in the past. Thanks!

  • Chelsea

    November 22nd, 2018 at 8:50 PM

    You made a good point when you said that it’s best to choose a therapist that knows well how to handle your particular struggle to make sure that they can help you with your needs. My mother needs help because she has been suffering from depression. What I want is for my mother to restore her quality life, so I’ll be sure to find a therapist that has dealt with depressed patients in the past.

  • Jeff

    June 20th, 2019 at 1:12 PM

    I like the tip that you gave to choose a counselor who you could research beforehand. My wife and I have been talking about finding a counselor for our son. If we decide to find a counselor, I will be sure to look for one who we could do research on.

  • Jeff

    June 24th, 2019 at 10:24 AM

    I like the tip that you gave to choose a therapist who has knowledge in your field of need. My wife and I have been talking about finding a therapist to help us if we choose to get help with our son. If we do, I will be sure to look for one who has knowledge with his needs.

  • Thomas

    August 12th, 2020 at 1:55 PM

    Thank you for explaining that it is important to figure out what kind of therapy methods that a counselor uses. My wife has been dealing with a lot of anxiety for the past year, and she has finally decided to start looking for a counselor that she can work with so that she can learn how to better handle her triggers. We will be sure to pay attention to the methods that are used by the professionals we interview.

  • Charlotte

    May 3rd, 2021 at 1:20 PM

    I appreciate your suggestion to do some research about potential therapists so that you can make an informed decision. My younger brother wants to go to therapy and my parents need to find him a great therapist. I will help my mom and dad conduct research to find the best therapist for my little brother.

  • Shammy

    May 24th, 2021 at 8:30 PM

    The best part of your blog is when you said that it is best to choose a therapist who can make you feel at ease when you are talking to them. I will be sure to consider this because I feel the need to see a counselor for a therapy session. Since I lost my husband, I have been experiencing signs of depression and anxiety. I am worried about the welfare of my children, so I need to ensure that I will find a professional who would not make me feel intimated. Thanks!

  • Shiela M.

    June 1st, 2021 at 3:04 PM

    I found it helpful when you suggested choosing a therapist that will make you feel at ease, so you should consider the way you feel when speaking with them. My sister’s husband died due to an auto accident last month. The accident has caused trauma to my sister, and we are looking for the best possible way so she could get help. She has not been eating and sleeping properly, and it will make sense for us to find a professional with who she can express how she feels.

  • Mia

    July 2nd, 2021 at 3:48 PM

    I found it helpful when you said that you must pay attention to the way you feel when talking to a therapist so you could choose one that could make you feel at ease. This is something that I will do so I won’t find any hesitation in my heart to share my emotions and problems and get the treatment that I truly need. Since last month, I have been experiencing panic attacks where I could not breathe at all, and my hands are shaking so bad. My husband and I going through a rough road right now, and I acknowledge the need for me to seek help.

  • Dana

    August 11th, 2021 at 12:58 AM

    It caught my attention when you said that you must choose a therapist that can make you feel at ease, so you must pay attention to the way you feel when speaking with them. My sister is looking for a psychotherapist for her daughter who has been showing signs of depression since she lost her husband due to an auto accident 5 months ago. She has been locking herself in the room and has been refusing to talk to anybody. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Liana

    September 27th, 2021 at 10:24 PM

    It made sense to me when you said that people choose a therapist that makes them feel at ease, so you must consider your gut. This is something that I will share with a close friend of mine who has been experiencing signs of depression and anxiety. She has been losing weight and has been experiencing trouble sleeping. Your tips will surely be helpful as she always keeps things by herself.

  • Zina

    October 20th, 2021 at 5:18 PM

    I like that you suggested doing research to become an informed consumer and to understand the type of therapy the counselor uses. My brother has been suffering from drug addiction since his wife divorced him for someone else. He wanted to seek help for the sake of his children, so I will convince him to see a drug counselor that offers the services that he needs. actwellnesstn

  • Bea A

    December 2nd, 2021 at 4:43 PM

    It sure was helpful when you suggested choosing a therapist that can make you feel at ease, so you must consider how you feel when you talk to them. My sister has been isolating herself and stopped painting since she lost her husband due to an accident 2 months ago. I want to help her recover from experiencing depression symptoms, so I will convince her to do your tips to find a psychiatrist that can make her feel comfortable.

  • Vivi

    January 28th, 2022 at 5:49 AM

    It made sense to me when you said that you could be an informed consumer when you do research about the knowledge of a counselor. This reminds me of a friend whose 9-year old daughter was a victim of domestic violence. She wants to find a child counselor that could help her out, so she will surely want to find a professional that can help her in the best possible way.

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