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How to choose a therapist you connect with

It's normal to feel confused about how to find a therapist, especially one who understands you.

Eliana Reyes, Content Strategist
Eliana Reyes, Content Strategist

Eliana Reyes is a content strategist and writer at UpLift.

10

min read

Opening up about your inner life can be scary, especially when it’s with someone new. It’s common for people to care about who their therapist will be. 

We want someone who understands us. A therapist should be someone you can connect with on some level who can also balance understanding with guiding towards progress. Sometimes we talk about it as finding a therapist who is “a good fit” for you. 

Just like with other people, you won’t connect with every person. It’s okay and perfectly normal if you don’t connect with the first therapist you meet (or second or third, and so on). Sometimes, finding a therapist who is a good fit might take a few tries. 

Don’t be discouraged. We’ve put together some advice on finding a therapist you connect with that can support you, which hopefully makes that process easier.

What does a good fit feel like in therapy? 

Find someone you feel you can be honest with. 

The thing about therapy is that you need to be open and honest. If that seems like a really big thing, that’s because it is! When you open up about yourself, you can feel vulnerable. It’s important to find someone you feel comfortable being honest with.

The therapeutic process depends on what you share. Despite stereotypes about therapists and psychologists psychoanalyzing every single move you make or tone you use, they aren’t mind readers. Your therapist needs information from you to know how to best support you. 

You don’t feel judged but also feel like you can make progress. 

Opening up can be a vulnerable experience. You should also feel emotionally safe to talk with your therapist. There are times the therapeutic process can surface unsafe emotions, such as if you’re working through a traumatic event or learning to do something outside your comfort zone. 

It’s crucial to have a space to process these emotions, memories, and your mental health without judgment. 

Feeling accepted by your therapist doesn’t mean accepting the way things currently are in your life. Therapy is about change—and that will look different for everyone. Whether it’s a change in your behavior, boundaries, perspective, how you feel about yourself, or something else, a good fit supports your progress. 

You have good rapport. 

There’s a reason it’s called a “therapeutic relationship.” Along with honesty and positive regard, find someone you can talk to. Your therapist shouldn’t feel like your friend—that’s a different kind of relationship—but should be someone you feel comfortable speaking with. 

It’s important that you have someone who can help frame the world and your perspective in a way that you understand. Therapy often relies on conversation, so rapport and comfort are critical. 

How do I find a therapist who is qualified to help me? 

Besides the personality fit, there’s the actual clinical parts of therapy to consider. Not every therapist does the same kind of work. An easy example is that a therapist who works with individuals may not be open to doing couples therapy—nor are they capable of doing it. 

Finding a good fit for you should also take into consideration a therapist’s: 

  • Specialties. If you already know some of the reasons you want to start therapy, it helps to search for a therapist who specializes in that area. For example, some therapists specialize in depression and anxiety. Some therapists specialize in trauma. Some specialize in counseling couples or families. There can be overlap in the specialties that a therapist has but don’t be surprised if a therapist refers you to see a colleague because they aren’t qualified or trained to support you in a particular area, like living with cancer. 
  • License types. Knowing a therapist’s license can let you know more about what they’re trained for and their specialties. Some common license types are Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), and Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). If you want someone to help with substance abuse or addiction, it can be helpful to know you may want to find a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC) to narrow your choices. 
  • Approaches. Sometimes called “modalities,” therapists use different clinical approaches to supporting clients. You may have heard some of these terms before, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Person-Centered Therapy. If you already have an idea of specific approaches that work well for you, you can use that to find a therapist. But it’s okay if you don’t know. You can have a discussion during your first session with a therapist about their approach to see if it sounds right for you.

How do I find a therapist who understands me? 

We’ve gone over what a good fit feels like and the clinical aspects of finding a therapist. While there’s no surefire way to find someone who understands you, many people find these search criteria helpful. 

Some people search for a therapist who shares certain characteristics with them. It’s a good strategy for finding someone who understands your perspective and may have lived through similar experiences as you. They’ll search for someone who shares their gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, or age group. Shared characteristics and experiences can mean someone who understands your values or the things that shaped who you are. 

That’s not true for everyone: Because people are unique and have different needs, some people look for other things in a therapist. Sometimes clients want a therapist who is older with certain kinds of life experience. They might feel more comfortable talking to someone whose life resembles the experiences of someone else in the client’s life. 

Many people don’t think any of these characteristics are important. They just want someone who has a similar philosophy or approach to change. 

No matter what, feeling if someone is a good fit is up to you. Even if it can be hard, trust what your gut tells you about if you feel comfortable with a therapist or feel that they care about you. It’s okay to ask questions of your therapist or to ask people around you about how they found theirs. 

Referrals from people in your life are a common way to find a therapist. But if you need a little help, UpLift does also offer tools to search for and choose a therapist that matches your needs as well as matching specialists who can talk through it and help you.

About the author
Eliana Reyes, Content Strategist

Eliana Reyes is a content strategist and writer at UpLift.

Edited by

Meredith McClarty

Fact checked by
Our fact checking standards

Every UpLift article is created by our team or other qualified contributors, and reviewed for accuracy by clinicians.

Jack Sykstus, LMFT

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