5 Strategies to Find A Good Therapist  - Drew Ramsey MD

As a psychiatrist, I’m often asked how to find a good therapist. Psychotherapy is one of the main methods I employ in clinical practice, and has been essential to me personally. We receive a lot of inquiries about starting treatment, and as my team can’t be available to everyone, we wanted to review how to find a good therapist who is best qualified to address mental health concerns. 

One common feature of all psychotherapy or talk therapy that works is “fit,” or a solid alliance between the client/patient and therapist. Therefore it’s not only important that you find a good therapist, but you need to find the right therapist for you.

What’s a good “fit”?

In therapy terms,“fit” means that you feel your therapist “gets” you. You click with them and trust that they are on your team. In the beginning, you should find your therapist to be curious, thoughtful, and insightful. And over time, your relationship evolves and grows. However, it’s important to remember that there is a difference between feeling a therapist is the right fit vs thinking of them as a friend. A good therapist will limit personal disclosures and keep the focus on you. They will listen and be empathetic, and also push you and challenge you.

Because finding the right therapist, and building a therapeutic alliance is so important we’ve put together these  5 strategies that can help you find the right fit and get all the benefits that talk therapy can provide. 

1. Ask questions.

Just like a job interview, an initial consult with a therapist is for both of you to determine if it’s a good fit. It’s perfectly ok to ask a therapist about what they do, what kind of therapy they practice, how often they meet with patients, about their training and how they think they might help you. These are all great questions to initiate a meaningful conversation.

2. Pay attention to how you feel.

Worth repeating: Fit is crucial for finding the right therapist. Everyone feels a bit awkward during the first consultation. Therapy can be scary and nerve-wracking in the beginning, but over time you ease into it.

After several sessions ask yourself: Do I feel uncomfortable or at ease? Maybe you feel like your therapist is silently judging you; perhaps he or she seems empathetic toward your growth. Is the communication style compatible with your goals toward self-growth? This is the real litmus test to determine if you and your therapist are the right match. It’s imperative to be able to communicate honestly with your therapist. If this is a personal struggle for you, it is something you can work on together. If you don’t feel like you can be honest because of something the therapist has done or said, then it’s best to try a new therapist.

3. Determine how you’re going to pay.

Therapy doesn’t need to cost a fortune and finding a therapist through your insurance company could mean a co-pay or even free consultation. If you’re going to use insurance, your plan will provide a list of providers. Contact your insurance company to determine what out-of-network benefits are available to you, too. If the therapist you prefer doesn’t take insurance, ask if he or she offers sliding-scale consultations.

Often psychiatry, psychology, and psychotherapy training programs offer free or deeply discounted sessions with trainees. In fact, the first three years I was a therapist, I saw many patients for free. Remember, therapy is an investment, and it’s important that you find a treatment option that isn’t going to cause you financial stress. Like a good investment, a good treatment should increase your ability to work and many of my patients improve their financial situation based on what they learn about themselves in therapy. 

4. Know what you’re looking for.

There are many different kinds of professionals who do talk therapy. These include: 

  • People with a background in social work (look for a LCSW or MSW credential) 
  • Mental Health Counselors (MHC) and Marriage and Family Counselors (MFC)
  • Counselors with a background in spirituality such as a pastor or other clergy
  • Psychologists with a doctorate in psychology (Ph.D and Psy.D) 
  • Physicians who specialize in mental health (psychiatrists M.D. or D.O.) 

Sometimes practitioners cater to a specific population and if you have specific concerns like addiction, an eating disorder, or a mood disorder, look for a therapist familiar with the treatment of these conditions. That said, experienced clinicians have often treated a wide variety of patients.

Some considerations:

  • 18 or under? Try looking specifically for a practice or provider that treats adolescents or children.
  • Interested in couples therapy? A marriage and family counselor may be your best bet, or a social worker or mental health counselor that specializes in working with couples. 
  • Interested in a longer-term approach? Look for someone who specializes in psychoanalysis or psychodynamic psychotherapy. Want a short-term treatment for a specific issue, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) may be your best bet. There are specific modalities of CBT that focus on insomnia, trauma and other psychological concerns. 
  • Finding a Group Therapy can be both cost-effective and provide an environment to hear many perspectives on your concerns from people with similar challenges.
  • What about a holistic approach that includes the mind and body? you may want to look for someone who takes a somatic approach or someone that brings another specialty training into their practice like meditation or nutrition. 

Depending on how severely your symptoms are impacting your life, you may want to start out by speaking with a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are the only type of therapist that are able to prescribe medication as needed. Because they are also physicians, they will have the most experience with ruling out medical conditions. While some psychiatrists do not provide therapy, many do. 

Luckily, in this digital age, you can read about different kinds of therapy online. It’s often smart to read articles, blogs, or listen to podcasts with different therapists to get a taste of their style before reaching out. 

It’s also a good move to ask friends for referrals, read reviews online, read Psychology Today profiles and talk to any current medical providers you have to get their feedback and referrals. You might also contact the department of psychology, psychiatry, or social work at the nearest academic medical center or university. 

5. Find someone that can work with your schedule.

Convenience is key to sticking with therapy. Think about when you joined a gym or a group meeting. You were probably more likely to attend regularly when the location was convenient, right? In a pre-COVID world, I’d recommend finding someone whose office was close to your work or office. These days, we have much more flexibility because most therapists are practicing over zoom. It’s still important to make sure your therapist has availability at a time that works for you so you don’t need to rush, add more stress to your day or skip sessions. 

Whatever your goal or situation, congratulations on considering therapy! I know firsthand that therapy benefits so many people, including myself, and I truly believe this can be a path to more self-compassion and understanding, better functioning and living with a sense of confidence, mental-wellness and contentment that you deserve.

Eat Complete

Winner of a 2017 IACP Cookbook Award  •  Finalist for a Books for a Better Life Award

Named one of the top health and wellness books for 2016 by Well + Good and MindBodyGreen


From leading psychiatrist and author of Fifty Shades of Kale comes a collection of 100 simple, delicious, and affordable recipes to help you get the core nutrients your brain and body need to stay happy and healthy.

What does food have to do with brain health? Everything.

Your brain burns more of the food you eat than any other organ. It determines if you gain or lose weight, if you’re feeling energetic or fatigued, if you’re upbeat or depressed. In this essential guide and cookbook, Drew Ramsey, MD, explores the role the human brain plays in every part of your life, including mood, health, focus, memory, and appetite, and reveals what foods you need to eat to keep your brain—and by extension your body—properly fueled.

Drawing upon cutting-edge scientific research, Dr. Ramsey identifies the twenty-one nutrients most important to brain health and overall well-being—the very nutrients that are often lacking in most people’s diets. Without these nutrients, he emphasizes, our brains and bodies don’t run the way they should.

Eat Complete includes 100 appetizing, easy, gluten-free recipes engineered for optimal nourishment. It also teaches readers how to use food to correct the nutrient deficiencies causing brain drain and poor health for millions. For example:

• Start the day with an Orange Pecan Waffle or a Turmeric Raspberry Almond Smoothie, and the Vitamin E found in the nuts will work to protect vulnerable brain fat (plus the fiber keeps you satisfied until lunch).

• Enjoy Garlic Butter Shrimp over Zucchini Noodles and Mussels with Garlicky Kale Ribbons and Artichokes, and the zinc and magnesium from the seafood will help stimulate the growth of new brain cells.

• Want to slow down your brain’s aging process? Indulge with a cup of Turmeric Cinnamon Hot Chocolate, and the flavanols found in chocolate both increase blood flow to the brain and help fight age-related memory decline.

Featuring fifty stunning, full-color photographs, Eat Complete helps you pinpoint the nutrients missing from your diet and gives you tasty recipes to transform your health—and ultimately your life.


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The Happiness Diet

For the first time in history, too much food is making us sick. It's all too apparent that the Modern American Diet (MAD) is expanding our waistlines; what's less obvious is that it's starving and shrinking our brains. Rates of obesity and depression have recently doubled, and while these epidemics are closely linked, few experts are connecting the dots for the average American.

Using the latest data from the rapidly changing fields of neuroscience and nutrition, The Happiness Dietshows that over the past several generations small, seemingly insignificant changes to our diet have stripped it of nutrients--like magnesium, vitamin B12, iron, and vitamin D, as well as some very special fats--that are essential for happy, well-balanced brains. These shifts also explain the overabundance of mood-destroying foods in the average American's diet and why they predispose most of us to excessive weight gain.

After a clear explanation of how we've all been led so far astray, The Happiness Diet empowers the reader with simple, straightforward solutions. Graham and Ramsey show you how to steer clear of this MAD way of life with foods to swear off, shopping tips, brain-building recipes, and other practical advice, and then remake your diet by doubling down on feel-good foods--even the all-American burger.


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Fifty Shades of Kale

Kale gets sexy in Fifty Shades of Kale by Drew Ramsey, M.D., and Jennifer Iserloh, with 50 recipes that are mouth-wateringly delicious and do a body good.
Release yourself from the bondage of guilt and start cooking meals with the ingredients you love: meat, cheese, and yes—even butter. Nutrient-rich kale provides essential vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy, happy, and lean—so you can indulge in your most delicious desires. Whether you’re a cooking novice or a real kale submissive, you will undoubtedly succumb to Kale’s charms.

From Mushroom and Kale Risotto to Kale Kiwi Gazpacho, Fifty Shade of Kale offers simple ways to have your kale and eat it, too, as well as nutritional information, cooking tips, and a tutorial on kale in all her glorious shades.
Indulge your culinary passions with Fifty Shades of Kale: 50 Fresh and Satisfying Recipes That Are Bound to Please.


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