678-365-0099 TDD

Here’s How to Find a Therapist Who Is a Good Fit

A person talking to a therapist. Both shown rom the neck down

By Dr. Brandon Printup, Clinical Director at Bobby Dodd Institute

All my doctors have either recently or are about to retire, so I must find new MDs. I am very particular when selecting a doctor to care for my health. To me, it’s not just about the person’s professionalism and knowledge; it’s also about creating a connection. In front of my doctor, I am in a vulnerable state, so I want to find someone I trust, someone with whom I can be open, free, and honest.

In general, we put a lot of emphasis on finding a good doctor, but we don’t put as much emphasis on finding a good counselor trained to meet our specific needs. In this blog post, I will share my step-by-step guide on how to find a good therapist who is a perfect fit for you.

What is a Therapy?

Before we dive deeper into this topic, let’s first establish what therapy is. Therapy is a form of treatment that addresses mental health. It is a process; a journey of growth, change, and processing, often involving adjustments and behavior modification. Its goal is to empower individuals to understand themselves better and navigate life’s challenges more effectively. Whether addressing neuroses, struggles, or personal growth, therapy aims to empower individuals to work on themselves and evolve. Therapy encompasses a variety of approaches, depending on the professionals involved, such as counselors, psychologists, or doctors.

Therapy is essential to help individuals work through life and struggles. In my practice, I focus on the now and present. This approach has been proven to work better for my patients compared to the trauma approach. I put emphasis on creating a safe space and a supportive environment for my clients. I guide them to explore their emotions, thoughts, and concerns. It’s a journey marked by flexibility, empathy, and a dedication to meeting people where they are, here and now.

Do You Trust Your Counselor?

When I used to work in a hospital setting, my sessions with patients lasted between 20 and 30 minutes. In that short timeframe, I had to figure out ways to build rapport. Making patients feel safe and heard was a vital step in the process. This approach applies to group settings as well. Encouraging questions and dialogue made sessions more interactive and beneficial. All this is to say that establishing a solid connection between the therapist and the patient is crucial.

Trust is a vital element. Trusting your counselor is vital in selecting a therapy and personalized approach that fits an individual’s needs.

Used since the mid-fifties, the term “therapeutic alliance” describes the collaborative relationship between a therapist and their patient. The therapeutic alliance between a therapist and client is essential for successful treatment outcomes. It establishes trust, encourages teamwork, and reinforces realistic expectations that enable clients to achieve their therapy goals.

The therapeutic alliance is a process that requires creating a positive rapport, which leads to mutual agreement on goals, setting expectations, and sharing responsibility.

For many clinicians, including myself, the therapeutic alliance holds significant importance as it cultivates trust and creates a safe and nurturing environment, ultimately helping explore self-autonomy.

In therapeutic alliances, the client’s determination and strength are the most vital elements for implementing successful strategies. The strength of the therapist-client relationship is the second most important parameter.

Three Steps to Finding a Therapist Who Is a Good Fit

Now that we know what therapy and therapeutic alliance are, it is time to uncover my three easy steps to help you find the counselor who matches your personal needs.

Training and Licenses

The first thing you want to know about your therapist is what license they hold and what kind of formal training they completed. Here is a brief guide.

A Medical Doctor (MD) or a psychiatrist is the only medical doctor trained to perform psychotherapy. Most psychiatrists, however, prescribe medication rather than act as therapists.

A PhD tends to have more research than a clinical focus.

A person who holds a Master of Science or Master of Arts degree does not necessarily have a license to be a counselor. On their own, these degrees do not enable the professional to perform psychotherapy.

The Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) are two titles for the same type of degree. A person must first hold a master’s in counseling, after which they must undergo 2,000-4,000 hours of supervised clinical counseling experience.

Additionally, we have Licensed Marital and Family Therapists (LMFT) and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW/LISW). The first group of therapists will likely focus on working with families and couples. Like a LPC, they must undergo thousands of hours of supervised experience and pass an exam to obtain licensure. The second group performs the same duties as other master’s level clinicians, but they begin by receiving a social work degree. Looking at problems from a social work background may give them a community perspective on people’s issues.


The second aspect to consider when selecting a therapist is their approach and whether it fits your needs. A therapist may use one or a combination of approaches, so you have to decide which one is the best.

Let’s review the top five clinical approaches that are widely used and popular in various counseling settings.

The first is the so-called Person-centered approach, also known as the Rogerian approach. This theory was developed by psychologist Carl Rogers in the 1940s and 1950s. This relationship thrives on mutual trust, respect, open communication, and thorough processing. Reflective listening is a go-to technique with this approach. For instance, if you share that you’re feeling angry, as a therapist, I won’t just nod along—I’ll dig deeper. “What’s causing that anger?” I’ll ask, aiming to understand the root of your emotions. Then, we’ll brainstorm together on how to address it, setting goals tailored to your needs. But it’s not just about solutions; it’s about how you feel talking about these emotions, too.

Cognitive Behavioral Approach (CBT) or a Directive is another approach that works in multiple situations and has been proven to work effectively with various populations and conditions. Here, the therapist and the patient are dealing with irrational thoughts. In cognitive behavioral therapy, the notion that you must do certain things is often challenged, questioning why you feel compelled in the first place. This aims to alleviate unnecessary stress and anxiety caused by self-imposed expectations. Conversely, behavioral therapy takes a more directive approach, focusing on modifying behaviors through techniques like extinction and behavioral change.

Freudian and psychodynamic approaches dive into the unconscious, exploring past experiences and underlying motivations that may influence present behavior.

Each therapy modality offers a unique lens through which to understand and address individual concerns, ultimately striving to create a safe, supportive, and nurturing environment for personal growth and healing.

Here is an example of the approach I am using with my patients. “My approach is integrative and collaborative, using evidence-based therapeutic modalities to facilitate meaningful change, develop new insight, and achieve desired goals. I have over 15 years of experience working across a variety of treatment settings. I maintain a general practice serving children/adolescents, adults, and families.”


Now that you have found a therapist with a suitable license and an approach that you think may be a fit, it is time to consider their background. Do your due diligence and research the counselor. In what areas are they experts? In what kinds of settings are they usually practicing? You can find out a lot about it on their website or personal page. Consider conducting thorough online research. Don’t forget to review the testimonials from their current and previous clients.

8 Tips to Finding the Perfect Counselor for You

Tip # 1: Figure out what you need help with.

This is the first and pivotal step in the process. Understanding your current needs is crucial when seeking suitable therapy and the right counselor. Dedicate time to truly listen to yourself and gain an understanding of your requirements.

Tip #2: Ask questions.

Once you have selected a counselor, don’t be afraid to ask. Create a list of all the questions you might have, and don’t be afraid if it gets longer. Selecting a therapist is an important decision that needs to be made consciously.

Tip #3: Figure out financial options.

Therapy demands not only time and dedication but also some financial commitment. Explore all your payment options. Your insurance may cover some or all of the expenses, depending on the plan you’re enrolled in. If that’s the case, ensure the counselor accepts your plan. Ask the  insurance company to recommend at least three counselors to you. That way, you will be able to interview all three of them until you find the one that fits your needs. If not, you may want to consider private pay options, depending on the situation. Ensure you plan accordingly to avoid any unexpected bills.

Tip #4: Research the individual’s background.

We already covered this one. Knowing what the counselor’s background is will help you determine if their experience and approach are the best.

Tip #5: Research the individual’s clinical approach.

Now that you are familiar with the therapist’s background, research their clinical approach. Use the cheat sheet provided above, which guides you through an array of approaches.

Tip #6: Assess if they are a good fit.

Using the guidelines above, determine if this particular counselor is a good fit for you. You can also consider factors such as proximity to your preferred location, clinical setting, and appointment availability, among others.

Tip #7: Ask for a Behavioral Health consultation.

Before committing to future appointments, consider requesting a consultation first. Some counselors may offer free, quick consultations, so be sure to take advantage of those if available. While there may be a fee associated with others, trust me, it’s worth it. This initial meeting allows you to decide whether the counselor you’ve chosen is the right one. It’s an opportunity to experience their personality and therapeutic approach firsthand.

Tip #8: Try at least 3 sessions.

You’ve completed all the steps outlined above, but there’s one more thing to do before committing to the long-term with that therapist. Give the therapist you’ve selected a try for at least three sessions. This will assist you in deciding whether or not you feel comfortable with them. Remember, it’s perfectly acceptable to switch therapists if you think they’re not meeting your expectations.

Finding a therapist who is a good fit for you may seem like a long and challenging endeavor. However, by utilizing the guides in this blog post, you will have a structured approach to finding the care you need.

Share this post

Skip to content