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  • Bonny O'Neill, LPC-MHSP

How to Select the Best Therapist for You

Updated: Jun 14, 2021

A therapist will walk with you through your darkest challenges so it's important to find someone you can trust to take that journey with you.


What to look for:

Choosing a therapist is a little like finding a restaurant to eat at. You need the right location, price range, offering, and ambiance. If you have a bad restaurant experience then you don't stop eating out altogether. You get more recommendations and keep trying till you find the right place for you.


Before starting the search for a therapist, answer the following questions:

  • Do you need someone who accepts your insurance or can you afford to pay out-of-pocket?

  • If you have to pay out-of-pocket, how much can you afford? Do you have an HSA that you can use?

  • Does your employer offer any mental health assistance through an EAP?

  • Do you want a provider close to work or home... or do you want telehealth?

  • What are you wanting to work on in therapy? (Like doctors, therapists have specialties.)

  • Do you want someone who takes a directive approach or someone more organic?

  • Do you want someone who specifically works with LGBTQ, BIPOC, military/veterans, etc...?

  • Do you need inpatient care for substance abuse, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, etc?

  • Are you ready to dig deep and make changes?

  • Are you willing to invest in your mental health?

Keep in mind, that just because you have insurance doesn't mean that your insurance provider will cover what you are wanting to work on. Most insurance companies require that you have a billable diagnosis, which is not always the case. Many therapists who take insurance will provide you a super bill that you can take to your insurance company for some form of reimbursement.


Before setting your first appointment with a therapist, make sure that you understand their fees and billing AND contact your insurance company to see what their requirements are for coverage and reimbursement. Also, many therapists will offer you a free 20-30 minute phone or in-person consultation so you can get a feel for how they operate.


Where to start your search:

Here are the best places to find a local therapist:

  • Psychology Today (online listing and search engine)

  • Good Therapy (another online listing)

  • Your insurance company... if you call them, they will gladly give you names of in-network providers

  • Google... don't give much credence to online reviews. Most therapists are not ethically allowed to ask clients to write them reviews so they will only give you a very limited scope of understanding.

  • Ask your doctor if they have a recommendation

  • Ask friends for referrals

The blessing of being in the age of technology is that you can access therapy from anywhere with individual therapists or through platforms like Better Help and Talk Space. Explore all your options.


Setting Expectations:

Therapy is very much a collaborative effort so don't be afraid to communicate with your provider about your wants and needs. While all therapists have made extensive study of human behavior, we're not mind-readers. If an approach is not working for you, then tell your counselor. All therapists worth their salt welcome feedback so we can tailor the sessions specifically to you.


With that said, your therapist should never work harder than you. You read that right... you should be working just as hard in session as your counselor. Much of what you get out of therapy will depend on what you bring to it. Your therapist will be a catalyst for change but they cannot make you change.


As you walk through the process of finding a provider, the cost of therapy may seem intimidating. Think of it an investment. Your mental health impacts your physical health, relationships, work, creativity, opportunities, etc. It's worth the investment. And if you find yourself asking, "Why does it cost so much?" Try flipping that around to, "It's worth that much." I promise, it doesn't matter what your therapist charges, they are not in this profession for the money. We genuinely care about our clients and will go out of our way to make the therapeutic experience a positive one.


To understand a little more about the investment, your therapist isn't "paid to just talk to you". Mental health providers are trained to evaluate and assess for the possibility that your depression or anxiety may be a result of a physical or nutritional condition... we examine cognitive, social, communication, and relational patterns... notice body language indicators... are equipped to handle actively suicidal clients.... and more. And we do that all the while talking and listening to you.


Therapy can be life changing if you find the right counselor for you. If this is something you've been considering, don't hesitate another moment, start your search today and invest in yourself.


If you’d like to work with me then check out the rest of my website for more information on my practice. You may contact me at bonnyo@riverrockscounseling.com or (615) 682-8674. My license is only for the State of Tennessee so I can only work with residents in Nashville for in-person and the whole state for telehealth.



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