Throughout my career as a psychologist, I have been asked by those in my personal life “How do I find the right one?” First, congratulate yourself for seeking help. It takes strength and courage to seek assistance when we are out of sorts or unbalanced in some way, and let’s face it, therapy is decadent. You are hiring someone to assist with you with some inner difficulty you’re having – whether it involves your interpersonal relationships, your work setting, or a specific feeling like anxiety or depression that you are having. Regardless of why you’re seeking assistance, remember that the relationship you establish with your therapist is very special. It is based on trust, honesty, and confidentiality. You want the right person for the job. Below are some quick tips to helping you find the right one for you (and yes, this is exactly what I say to my friends when they ask).

Tell the Therapist You’re Interviewing for the Position
Your therapist is going to have an important job- namely knowing your inner thoughts and feelings, and helping you gain insight into your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You don’t want the first person who can fit into your schedule, simply because it is convenient. You want to interview a few, especially if you have never had a therapist before, to see which therapist inspires the most comfortability. Where is it that you feel is the most emotional safe place for you. There is nothing wrong with asking questions such as “How long have you been in practice?” and “What are the problems that you see most frequently? Do you have a specialty?” A secure therapist will happily answer your questions and understand that you are looking for the best fit for you. When you make the initial appointment, be clear about that from the beginning.

Ask Details About Your Therapist’s Credentials
Know what kind of educational background the therapist has had. Did they have two or four years graduate work? What exactly is their degree (e.g., Master’s, Doctorate, etc.) Were they required to do externships prior to going into practice, or did they just hang a shingle? Externships are supervised clinical hours some graduate students must do for a certain length of time before obtaining a degree or license. Did they complete a fellowship? A fellowship is an additional year long training post graduate school. Do they have any specialties? If you were going to a physician for a heart problem, you probably wouldn’t make an appointment with a gynecologist. Knowing if the therapist has any specialties is helpful because it can lead you to a person who you feel comfortability with, and has the right specific training and experience for you.

Have a Sense of What You Are Looking For in a Therapist
When seeking out an individual to help you with a problem, or simply listen as you verbalize the intimate thoughts in your head, consider if you want a male or a female. Do you want someone closer to your age, older, or younger? Do you want someone experienced or a recent graduate? Do you want someone who is the same religion and/or cultural background as you? What are the characteristics of the person you are looking for? This will also help you pick the right person.

Ask the Therapist If There’s A Way For You To Speak To A Former Client
As I mentioned, confidentiality is the cornerstone through which all therapy rests. A therapist can’t give you a name to call. They might be able to direct you to a website that has reviews of their work, however. And they may be able to get a former client to call you (after speaking with the former client and obtaining permission from them first, obviously).

Practicing psychotherapy is a job that hopefully, enables an individual to live their life healthier, happier, and more fully. When you’re seeking to fill that position, the more care and consideration you give to the hiring process before they start, the better off you will be.


  • Amy Trachter

    Psy.D., Ph.D.

    Amy is a licensed clinical psychologist with eighteen years experience treating teengers, adults, and couples who live with an array of difficulties. She spent her early career in academics, working at the Miller School of Medicine University of Miami. She has published multiple works about the Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. Prior to becoming a psychologist, Dr. Trachter was a special education teacher. She currently has a private practice and lives in Bergen County, New Jersey.