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How to Find a Therapist

writtenByWritten by: Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)
Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Melissa Dowd received her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University of CA and is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. In addition to her work as a clinical therapist, Melissa is passionate about promoting emotional wellness through leading workshops, guest appearances, and across social media platforms.

Read more posts by this author.

December 10, 2020 Read Time - 7 minutes

How to Find a Therapist

Deciding to seek professional treatment for your mental health is not an easy decision. Reaching out for help requires courage, but you have to know you’re worth it.

Finding the right therapist can be tricky. What issues should I go to therapy for? How do I know what kind of therapist is right for me? What’s the difference between a therapist and a psychiatrist?

There are so many questions to answer, whether you’re moving to a new city, switching therapists, or trying out counseling for the very first time.

Here, we’ll help you create a game-plan for finding the right therapist for you. We’ve also included a quiz at the end to help determine if you may benefit from therapy.

Is Going to Therapy Worth it?

Do therapists actually help? If you’ve never received counseling before, you might be skeptical about the benefits of therapy.

However, if you suffer from any of the following mental health struggles, therapy is a proven tool which can help guide you through your challenges.

  • Grief: The sorrow of grieving is a natural human emotion and most commonly experienced after the loss of someone or something) close to you. The emotional loss of having someone or something you love taken away from you is something everyone goes through, and you don’t have to do it alone. Professional counseling can help you manage your grief, and learn to live with it in a healthy way.
  • Anxiety: Generally, anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. However, for many, high levels of anxiety can inhibit a daily routine and make ordinary tasks a source of excessive worry. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives.”
  • Depression: Depression is marked by a persistent feeling of sadness and lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. Symptoms range greatly, and a few key ones to look out for include irritability, fatigue and feelings of guilt or emptiness.
  • Trauma: Deeply disturbing events can change the way we think and act forever. Those who experience trauma can be left in shock, disbelief, or even denial. No traumatic event is the same, and one event experienced by many people can have considerably different effects from person to person. Like many mental illnesses, trauma can not necessarily be cured, however, professionals can help those suffering work through their trauma so that they can peacefully coexist with the events of their life. 
  • Addiction: The condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity can seem impossible to break. Addictions range vastly in both their type and their level of harm, however, a serious addiction of any kind can be tricky to kick without the right help. 
  • Relationship Problems: Relationship counseling is a common tool used by those who want to improve their bonds with those close to them. From couples to families, relationship counseling comes in many forms to suit many different needs.

While the reasons above are why many people seek therapy, they are by no means the only reason to see a therapist. Even happy and healthy individuals can benefit from having a professional listener to talk to!

Read: Medication for Anxiety and Depression

Different Types of Therapists

When it comes to finding a therapist, the first step is the hardest, especially if you don’t know where to start!

How do I choose a therapist or counselor? First, you have to understand the difference between the variety of mental health professionals. This will help you narrow down your options. 

Professional therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists are all trained in psychotherapy (talk-therapy), but each title says something unique about their education, experience, and approach.


Therapists provide mental health counseling with a particular style.

Using a collaborative approach, your therapist will help you make goals, strive towards behavioral change, and improve mental health.

The word therapist can also be used as an umbrella term for anyone licensed to give counseling, including psychologists and psychiatrists. 

There are many different types of therapists who rely on different methods of therapy to treat their clients. Some common types of therapy are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive analytical therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Couples therapy
  • Solution focused therapy


A psychologist specializes in behaviors and mental health, and the relationship between the two.

Psychologists are typically the type of therapist who performs psychological tests such as IQ tests and personality tests. 

Rather than obtaining an MD or DO, most psychologists have a PhD or a PsyD.


A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD or DO) who focuses on the relationship between physiology and mental health.

A psychiatrist is the only therapist who can prescribe medications for patients.

And although they are qualified to provide counseling, they may recommend you to a psychologist or therapist for talk therapy, depending on their practice.

Read: How to Speak to a Psychiatrist Online

5 Ways To Find The Best Therapist For You

How do I find a therapist in my area? Finding the right therapist shouldn’t have to be a daunting task, so we compiled 5 tips below to help make the process easier for those looking to find help.

1. Ask friends or family members for recommendations. This is usually the first resource people utilize in their search for a therapist. A referral from a trusted source is great because you’ll receive a first-hand review of the therapist in mind. 

2. Use resources at work or school. Many places of employment have some form of an employee assistance program that exists to provide emotional support or counseling. Your employer may have such resources in-house, or they may be outsourced, but as mental health awareness continues to grow, more and more employers are including mental health services in their employee’s benefits packages. Likewise, most schools and universities have a health center, which may house mental health services, or can provide referrals to nearby therapists. 

3. Use a known therapist as a resource. Therapists refer clients to one another all the time for a number of reasons.

4. Search online. Therapists and other mental health counselors will most likely have a website where you can find a list of services offered. Psychology Today has a great search page you can use to find therapists in your area.

5. Try online therapy. Online services range greatly in both product and cost. At PlushCare, we offer multiple options for mental health services. Our platform makes it simple, convenient, and affordable for you to book the appointment you want. 

If you’d like to talk to a licensed therapist online, just click here to get started. Keep in mind, online therapists are not licensed to prescribe medication. If you believe you need medication, please make an appointment with one of our primary care physicians.

If you’d like to speak to one our trusted doctors about medication click here.

Find a Therapist Online

Did you know that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy for mild to moderate mental health conditions? Not only that, but 97% of people say online therapy is more convenient than traditional therapy. Online therapy is more accessible and more affordable, making finding a therapist who’s right for you, easier than ever.

PlushCare is now offering online therapy in the state of California (more states coming soon!). Our top online therapists can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, provide emotional support for those going through loss, or life transitions, and can help you develop healthy coping strategies for stress and emotional hardships.

Give online therapy a try and book an appointment with our trusted therapists today. Remember, mental health conditions are 100% treatable and the sooner treatment begins the easier the recovery is.

Quiz: Do I Need Therapy?

Answer the following questions as accurately as possible to find out if you may benefit from therapy or mental health support.

Mental health disorders are extremely common and very treatable. The earlier treatment starts the better, so don't hesitate to reach out to a medical professional if you're struggling. For many mental health disorders talk therapy combined with medication therapy is the first line of treatment.

This quiz is not a diagnostic tool but can be used to help determine tendencies associated with mental health disorders and recommend the appropriate treatment.

If you'd like to speak with a top online therapist about your mental health, book an appointment here.

I am concerned about a behavior, feeling, or something I am doing.
I find it more difficult to cope with things than usual.
I have trouble concentrating at work or school.
I read books or go on the Internet to discover more about the behavior or feeling that’s troubling me.
Over the past year, I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping because of all my worries.
I feel that there's something wrong with my body even though doctors tell me I’m fine.
I'm scared and nervous in public, and this is a big problem in my life.
I relive a terrible event that happened to me a long time ago.
I use more and more alcohol or drugs so I can deal with my problems better.
My drug or alcohol use causes problems in my job or relationships.
It’s hard for me to feel happy doing things I used to enjoy.
I eat a lot of food all at once and then make myself throw up.
I harm myself on purpose or do risky things without thinking.

Read More About How to Find a Therapist


PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information. What Are Anxiety Disorders? Accessed  November 11, 2020at Mental Health In Schools. Accessed  November 11, 2020at What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? Accessed November 11, 2020 at

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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