For Patients

Finding a Therapist

How to sift through the noise and find a therapist who actually fits your needs.

Finding a therapist can be tough. You open up to one stranger after another, mustering the energy it takes to be vulnerable, until at last you find the person who fits your communication style. 

Or maybe you haven’t stepped into an office yet. You’re at phase one, trying to figure out how to find a therapist online. The vast array of choices that seem identical based on their digital profiles can be overwhelming.

It can even feel like online dating! But it shouldn’t. No therapist is going to judge or reject you. It’s simply antithetical to their job description. In addition, there are plenty of directories that can make finding a therapist easier. (Wouldn’t it be nice to have a helpful directory before a first date?) We’ll talk about how to find a therapist later in the post. 

But a directory doesn’t always make things easy. Often, people run into the same difficulties with directories of therapists that they would from a Google search. We don’t blame you if you just want the help of a real human. Here at SuperBill, we want to make navigating the healthcare system as easy as possible, so we wrote this guide in the hopes that it will help ease the process of finding a therapist. 

Why Is It So Hard to Find a Good Therapist?

Let's face it, finding someone who understands your complicated inner self and the language you use to express it is hard. It’s okay for this to take time. The fact that you’re probably already dealing with feelings of overwhelm and anxiety certainly doesn’t make your search for a therapist any easier. Before we go any further, let’s pause to note that these feelings are common, and they do pass. If this search is hard, it’s probably not any fault of yours; it’s just hard

It’s a shame the healthcare system doesn’t make finding a good therapist a smoother experience, but for now, this is how mental health works in the US. It might be difficult, but you’re going to find a therapist you like. To get started, let’s break down some of the obstacles you might be facing. We’ve already crowdsourced it!

We’ve heard from patients and therapists alike about the most common barriers to finding the right match. Here are the top 5. 

  1. Therapist directories can be overwhelming with seemingly never-ending lists of providers. It’s hard to know where to start! 
  2. A lot of counselors have full caseloads and aren’t taking on new clients. But they don’t always advertise this, since their availability changes frequently, meaning you might do the research and find the perfect counselor only to be turned away when you try to make an appointment. 
  3. It’s difficult to assess a therapist’s fit just from words on a page. You only get so much information from a website! Having a real conversation with another human allows for more meaningful dialogue and a potential connection.
  4. Providers are very busy, and it can take a bit of time to hear back from them regarding availability, etc.
  5. It is a difficult process for therapists to accept insurance, and it can be even more difficult to find a provider who is in your network.

Tips for Finding a Therapist Who Fits Your Needs

As far as searching for a therapist online goes, Psychology Today, GoodTherapy, Headway, and Open Path Collective are a few popular and informative directories that we like here at SuperBill. Your insurer’s website probably has some leads too. It’s also worth double checking your plan’s details because you might be covered for therapy in ways you didn’t expect. More on this in the next section…

When you’re looking for a therapist, there are a few questions you can ask to help determine whether they might be a good fit. We’ve outlined a few to get you started: 

  • What experience does your therapist have working with clients who have similar goals to yours?
  • What does a typical session look like?
  • What should you be working on outside of therapy to meet your goals?
  • Has your therapist worked with clients of your culture or background?
  • How will you know if your sessions with them are helping move you towards your goals?
  • What theoretical modality does your therapist use in session? 
    Note: you can think of a theoretical modality as a framework for a given therapist’s practice. Most practices fall into one of five general categories: psychoanalysis, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, emotionally focused therapy, and EMDR. You can read more about these and other approaches here

Keep running with these ideas to come up with some questions of your own. This kind of thinking will help you zero in on what’s important to you in a therapist, so you have some more criteria for making a decision.

Post-session reflection can make a big difference as well. Here are five major questions to reflect on after meeting with a therapist:

  • Do they seem knowledgeable and competent? 
  • Do you feel heard and understood?
  • Do you feel emotionally safe with them?
  • Do you have a better idea of what you want to get out of therapy? 
  • Do your thoughts seem clearer than before?

Writing down your thoughts before and after a therapy session is a helpful way to get a sense of your compatibility. If you don’t feel sure about your therapist after some reflection, keep trying! 

How to Find a Therapist Covered by Insurance

You have two options when considering finding a therapist from an insurance perspective. You can stay in-network or go out-of-network. To find a therapist in your network, you can look on your insurer’s website for a list of approved providers. Or, to speed things up you can search Google with some specific terms. For example, if your insurer is Cigna, search “Find a Therapist Cigna” to see who’s in your network.

Unfortunately, networks for therapists tend to be pretty small, and many therapists choose not to work with insurance companies at all. This means in-network options may be limited, and wait times may be uncomfortably long. Chances are, you’ll be going out-of-network to find a therapist. But OON does not necessarily mean you pay 100% of the costs!

Look over your plan carefully. Most insurance plans cover a percentage of OON costs once you’ve met your deductible. After that, you’ll only have to pay the coinsurance, which usually ranges from 20 - 50% of the cost. 

Usually, when receiving therapy services out-of-network. You’ll pay the full cost up front, and your therapist will provide you with a superbill detailing all the charges. You can send that superbill to your insurer for reimbursement. For help adjusting to superbills, check out our What Is a Superbill post

Stay Persistent!

The most important things when looking for a therapist are to keep an open mind and keep trying. Each time it doesn’t work out you gain valuable information about what you’re looking for. 

If you make it to the billing phase of therapy and get bogged down there, SuperBill is happy to help. We handle 100% of the billing and claims process for you, so you can focus on your mental health. Here’s a link to our post on How to Get Started with SuperBill in case you want it.

And of course, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for any assistance during the search process. We know it can be daunting. We’ve been there.

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This post was written and researched by
Harry Gatlin

Harry (he/him/his) is a freelance writer and web designer who has worked in the health and tech spaces for over 2 years now. He is passionate about the power of language to make complex systems like health insurance simpler and fairer. He received his BA in English Literature from Williams College and his MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Alabama. In his spare time, he writes fiction and obsesses over Bob Dylan. You can reach him at harrison.gatlin@thesuperbill.com.