How to Find a Good Therapist: Questions to Ask

by | Jul 28, 2023 | Therapist, Parenting, Therapy

Written by Dr. Erica Dashow

Erica Dashow, Ph.D., BCBA-D, is a licensed psychologist and board-certified behavior analyst at the Center for Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Dr. Dashow specializes in evidence-based treatment of feeding disorders, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, challenging behavior, and autism spectrum disorder.

Sometimes children can struggle with overwhelming emotions or difficult problems. These may feel too big for them to handle on their own, and parents might also reach a point when they aren’t sure what else they can do to help. Whether you feel as though you are at wit’s end, or if you just want to get ahead of something that could become a bigger issue down the road, therapy for your child is an option you may want to consider. Finding a good therapist for your child can help them feel more confident, strengthen your relationship, and set them up for social-emotional success.

With so many different types of therapies and providers to choose from, finding the right fit can feel daunting. To start your search for a therapist on the right path, we’ve outlined some tips to help you find someone who can meet your child’s treatment needs.


Figure Out What You’re Looking For in a Therapist

Before reaching out to a therapist, ask yourself the following questions to help yourself understand your treatment goals and needs:

  • Goal-Oriented or Insight-Oriented? Goal-oriented helps you work towards a specific goal, like reducing anxiety or coping with specific stressors. Insight-oriented helps you learn more about your past experiences and how they have impacted your development. Depending on the challenges you are looking to address, a combined approach may be beneficial.
  • Short-Term or Long-Term? Treatment is a unique experience for every person, and the duration can vary depending on a number of factors. Some challenges may take more work to overcome. Consider what you are looking to address, and how long you are willing and able to commit to treatment. Most treatments start out with weekly sessions that can be increased or decreased to best support your needs.
  • Individual or Group Therapy? Each of these approaches has a different structure and goal, and some evidence-based treatments may recommend both. When seeking treatment for your child, it’s a good idea to find a therapist that enables you to be involved in their care. Consult with a care provider to learn more about the specific details of their programs.
  • In-Person or Virtual? There are a lot of variables to consider related to scheduling flexibility, travel time, and effectiveness of treatment. In many situations, telehealth has been shown to be equally as effective as in-person therapy. Read our earlier article to learn more about these options and find the right fit.
CBT Therapist

Start the Search for a Therapist

Once you have a clearer idea of what you are looking for your child to get out of therapy, you can begin researching what options are available to you. Consider these resources and suggestions to help narrow your search:

  • Psychology Today. This website has an extensive list of providers with filters to help you refine options based on location, insurance and rates, areas of specialization (e.g. anxiety, depression, CBT, DBT) and more. Each therapist has a profile listing their expertise and approach that you can review, along with contact info. Start your search here.
  • Trusted Referrals. Your pediatrician, school counselor, or another trusted care provider may keep a list of referrals. Consult with them to discuss the therapy needs for your child, and research the names they share to find a good fit. You may also consider recommendations from close family or friends who have previously undergone this process.
  • Health Insurance Website. This resource is unlikely to offer detailed information about a therapist’s specialization or approach, but can help you find a list of names that may be in-network with your plan. It’s worth noting that these websites may not always be up to date, so be sure to verify insurance, fees, and areas of specialization directly with the therapist’s office.
  • A Healthy Dose of Skepticism. When searching for a therapist, be cautious of therapists that say they specialize in everything. Therapists can receive specialized training in working with children or adults, and focus on various areas (e.g. mood disorder, ADHD, feeding disorders, suicidality, anxiety, OCD, tics, etc.). A large list of specialties may indicate that they are practicing out of scope or have limited expertise in some of these areas.


What to Ask

Most therapists will offer a free 10-15 min phone consultation. This gives you the opportunity to ask specific questions to help determine if the therapist will be the right fit for your child. Some questions to ask may include:

  • What is your level of expertise in addressing my child or adolescent’s specific concerns? Are you experienced in working with this age range?
  • What is your general approach to treatment? Is it evidence-based?
  • Do you provide the type of therapy I am looking for?
  • Do you work only with my child or do you provide parenting strategies as well?
  • What is the cost of therapy, and do you accept insurance?
  • How frequently would we meet for therapy?
  • What days and times are you available? How soon is your next availability?
CBT Therapist

Deciding What is Right for You

Finding the right therapist for your child is a personal choice. In addition to the clinical and logistic factors outlined in this article, it’s also important to make sure you are comfortable with the therapist your child sees. Building a level of trust and rapport with a therapist is a process that takes time. A good therapist will educate you and your child about your treatment options and effectively support you to address your concerns. If you think that your current therapist isn’t a good fit, it’s okay to discuss this with them – and even let them know you want to explore other options. Feeling comfortable and connected is crucial for therapy success, and a good therapist will understand if you need to move on.

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