The First-Timer’s Guide to Finding a Therapist

therapist guide

Please note that any of my tips are just suggestions and not professional, legal, or medical help. If you are struggling with mental health, trauma, abuse, or any other difficult situation,  I strongly encourage you to seek help. Check out this page for some mental health resources. Reaching out for help can feel scary, but it is one of the most important acts of self-love you can do.

Seeking out the help of a therapist for the first time can be nerve-wracking. Have depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses can make it difficult to reach out to anyone, let alone a therapist.

I’ve totally been there. Throughout college, I did my best to ignore my anxiety. My friends encouraged me to consider therapy, but I didn’t listen to them. The notion of talking about my thoughts and feelings to someone terrified me, and going to therapy felt like admitting defeat. I didn’t want to believe I needed help, so I bottled it up as best I could. I was also extremely focused on losing weight at the time instead of treating my body with love. By the time I was a senior, symptoms of depression were added to the mix. It was a painful existence that was hidden with a plastered smile.

My depression-anxiety combination was at its’ worst when I graduated in 2015. By this point, I was crying every day. Even a month-long trip through Europe, a dream abroad experience I had planned as a graduation gift to myself, wasn’t as amazing (or distracting) as I had hoped. When I returned stateside, I finally admitted to my parents that I was struggling and needed help.

I visited a psychiatrist first and was given a prescription, but she told me to quickly find a therapist as well. While Lexapro could alleviate some of my symptoms, I still needed to truly figure out my issues and learn coping mechanisms. Taking a pill wouldn’t heal me like therapy could.

So I embarked on my mission to find my first therapist. How did I end up finding one? My aunt, who is an administrator at a psychological hospital, sent me a few suggestions. I ended up picking Hannah Starobin, LCSW from her list. Hannah was an excellent match for me: she was LGBTQ+ friendly, experienced with food issues, and had a great understanding of the theatre industry (I was fully committed to my theatrical career at the time.) I booked my first session and began my first dive into therapy.

Three years later, I’m thankfully in a much better place. I can manage my symptoms more effectively using the tools I learned in therapy (meditation, grounding, paying attention to my thoughts, for example). I now talk to a therapist from semi-regularly and still find my sessions to be quite helpful.

I was lucky enough to find my first therapist with the help of my aunt, but there are other ways to find a therapist if you’re seeking one for the first time:

Use an Online Directory

The internet is your friend in terms of finding a therapist. There are numerous online directories that can help. Here are a few I’ve explored before:

Once you find a couple that pique your interest, visit their websites (or profiles) and try to get a better feel for them. Let your intuition guide you through the search. If someone looks friendly or their writing just clicks with you, then reach out. Just make sure to find a few possible options: some therapists book up quickly.

Use Available Community Resources

If I could change one thing about my college experience, it would be to actually use the mental health resources that were provided. Why didn’t I go to therapy when it was freely available to me?? Hindsight is a drag.

If you’re a student, I suggest looking into the services your school offers before looking off campus. I can’t promise that all campuses provide the best mental health support, but you may be surprised to find a counselor you really like.

Some companies also provide mental health support for their employees (though not nearly enough businesses do.) Even if they don’t, check in with your human resources department. They may prove helpful in your search.

There are also community, city, and state resources that could help you find a local therapist. I’ve visited the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in NYC in the past and know they have great information and numerous support groups running. Your local community center may also host support groups.

Try Online Therapy

I honestly doubted that online therapy could be helpful, but I’ve had a great experience with it this year.

This could be an option for anyone who would prefer email/messaging/text-based therapy rather than talking face-to-face with someone, but there are also video chat options. Another benefit is that some of these services offer instant, 24/7 therapy. No more waiting for next week’s session! Online therapy can also be more affordable than in-person sessions.

My friends have used the following online counseling tools and recommend them:

  • BetterHelp – Offering messaged-based and video chat therapy that I’m currently using. They’ll match you with a counselor based on your needs, and you’re able to switch counselors at any time. Services start at $35/week, but they do offer financial aid to those in need!
  • TalkSpace – This service focuses on 24/7 text therapy, but audio and video options can be added at an additional cost. They also offer couples therapy
  • Doctor On Demand – Video chat with any type of doctor through this site and app, including mental health care professionals. More expensive than the services above, but your insurance may be applicable depending on the professional
  • Lantern – Based in cognitive behavioral therapy, this app matches you with a professional life coach who sends you exercises related to your personal needs. The most affordable option on this list

Searching for your first therapist can be intimidating, but taking that first step will be so worth it!

Please seek help if you are experiencing a mental health crisis. Check out this page for hotline resources

The First-Timer's Guide to Finding a Therapist

41 thoughts on “The First-Timer’s Guide to Finding a Therapist

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  7. LiveArtisticLifewithAnchal

    This is really informative and worth sharing. I just shared it in my close friends group.

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  9. Hiking Singh

    Be useful peace of information. One should always seek help. In today’s era you really need to talk so as to help you out. Anxiety and depression are worst !

  10. Ioana Minciu

    from where I am, therapist are not seem that good and people think you are crazy if you go see a therapist. But actually sometimes you really need to talk to someone from the outside.

  11. Alynda Long

    Thank you for helping people navigate the murky waters of help for mental health. Having anxiety and depression can be so isolating and it in encouraging to have someone “hold the hand” through the process. Blessings to you!

  12. ayanaaden

    Great read. I started dabbling in therapy, and I think I should take it more seriously.

  13. Novel Blondes

    Great post of how to find good resources and help. You’ve provided something of real benefit to the community!

  14. thishalcyonlife

    I actually had no idea that there were online directories of different therapists! I had gone to a therapist back in 2012. She was the therapist my brother was using for some issues he was having, but she wasn’t quite right for me. It’s definitely important to find a therapist who you can connect with and feel comfortable talking to.

    1. George Simon

      Yes, it’s absolutely essential to feel like you can be truthful with your therapist. Thanks for the comment!

  15. joleisa

    Useful post, once one has admitted they actually do need help. Thanks for talking us through the process and I hope to definitely share snippets of this to help others. My son suffered with anxiety although sadly, I didn’t find out until it was too late.

  16. familytalksweekly

    Mental help online! I love that! I have a friend who was too embarrassed to see someone and I’m so worried about him. Thank you!

  17. Mane

    Very informative. Thanks for sharing. I have a friend who suffered from anxiety and depression I will definitely share this to him.

  18. Crisly

    It is always great if you can find a resources likd this, other people’s experiences can always help someone decide on what to do next or where to go.

  19. jesssaul1422

    Thanks for adding the online resources. Living in a rural area, we don’t have therapist locally. These are some great alternatives to face to face

    1. George Simon

      Oooh good thought! I hadn’t thought of the benefits for those living in rural areas. Thanks for the comment.

  20. Lisa

    Great information to help people find someone to talk to and help them sort out any issues in life. I always like to get recommendations from people I know and trust for guide me in choosing my medical caregivers.

  21. Ingrid

    Thanks for sharing about how to find a therapist. I knew about Psychology today but I have noted the ones you shared like Talk Space, Better help Doctor on Demand and Lantern so I could share with others. I pray that you enjoy the vest of health on all levels from this point and into the future.

  22. Anissa

    This is very informative. I always recommend therapy whether you think you need it or not . It’s a non judgmental space to vent and sort through difficult issues. My experience was great and my therapist was a complete opposite of what I would have requested. I’ve heard a lot about talk space . Glad you mentioned it here.

    1. George Simon

      I agree that therapy can help you even if you don’t think you need it. Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it!

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