Choosing the right psychotherapist is an important decision for people with mental health disorders; however, it can be a bit daunting.

There are many types of psychotherapy, and mental health professionals have different levels of training and education. A psychiatrist, for example, can prescribe medicines in addition to treating mental and emotional illnesses. Psychologists and Clinical Social Workers are qualified to make diagnoses and provide counseling. It's important to choose the right type of professional based on your therapy needs.

While there is some overlap among therapy modalities, certain therapeutic approaches are better suited to specific mental health problems. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has proven effective relieving symptoms in people with depression, anxiety and eating disorders, schizophrenia, and Bipolar Disorder. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is effective for people with borderline personality disorder.

The American Psychological Association, Mental Health America, and the National Institutes of Mental Health offer some guidelines for choosing the right therapist.

Finding Therapists

  • Ask your physician or healthcare provider for recommendations
  • Call your state or local psychological association
  • Get recommendations from family and friends
  • Use the Psychologist Locator Service at the American Psychological Association Help Center

What to Ask Potential Therapists

  • Do they have experience treating patients with your specific problem? What are their areas of expertise and their credentials? Effective therapists keep up with current research and are willing to take a dynamic approach to treatment options.
  • How long have they been practicing?
  • What type of treatment do they recommend for you?
  • How long do they expect therapy to last?
  • What are their fees and do they accept insurance?

After Therapy Begins...

The most important ingredient in effective therapy is your relationship with your therapist. It's critical you are comfortable with him or her and feel a sense of rapport. Are you confident your therapist understands you? Does the treatment plan make sense to you and do you believe it will help you? Good therapists are willing to address issues that impede progress.

It's important to set clear goals at the start of therapy. You'll know if the therapy is effective; you should begin to feel a sense of relief and hope, be better abile to make decisions, and have an increased level of comfort in your relationships.

If you don't feel you are making progress, discuss it with your therapist and don't hesitate to find someone new if the relationship isn't working.


"Psychotherapies." National Institute of Mental Health. Web.  13 May 2010.

"Therapy." American Psychological Association. Web.

"How Psychotherapy Works." American Psychological Association press release. Web. 22 December 2009.

"Different Approaches to Psychotherapy." American Psychological Association. Web.

"Dr. Katherine C. Nordal on How to Find a Therapist." American Psychological Association press release. Web. 13 May 2010.

"How to choose a psychologist." American Psychological Association. Web.

"Choosing the right mental health professional." United States Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Servicces Association. National Mental Health Information Center. Web. April 2003.

"Which Mental Health Professional is Right For Me?" Mental Health America. Web.