Search IconSearch

Everything You Need To Know Before Starting Therapy

Research types, find a therapist who fits you and remember — therapy isn’t a sign of weakness

Person stepping through a tranquil window.

If you’re thinking about starting therapy, you may feel excited about the opportunity to work on yourself … but also a bit stressed. The choices can feel overwhelming — deciding what type of therapy you need or who’s going to be the perfect therapist for you. You may not be sure where to start.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

So, let’s take the first step together and navigate the various information that can help make the decision to start therapy simpler.

Know that it’s not a sign of weakness

Sometimes, even admitting you need to start therapy can be the hardest step. This may be because you’re letting certain stigmas against therapy hold you back. For example, maybe you’ve been taught that seeking any sort of counseling is a sign of weakness. Or maybe your instinct is to bottle up difficult emotions instead of letting them out.

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not you need to start therapy, know that each session (no matter how many you need) will be focused on any anxieties, conflicts or mental stressors you’re dealing with. For example, if you’re having a specific fear that’s affecting your day-to-day life, a therapist can help find the root cause of that issue and then gradually give you the tools to work at it.

Find the right type of therapy for you

Therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. From psychotherapy to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychologist Dawn Potter, PsyD, explains how each type uses different approaches and strategies. If you’re just starting out, take time to understand the types that are out there to help you decide which one is right for you.

How to know if you need trauma-informed care

A big topic that gets tackled in therapy sessions is trauma. It’s often the leading cause of a lot of issues, including depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Another aspect of trauma is that it’s a part of you, so it needs to be handled in a delicate way. If you’ve experienced trauma, a trauma-informed therapist can offer you the best care.

How to know if you need to switch

You’ve probably heard of the saying, “breaking up with your therapist.” Well, it doesn’t need to be as daunting as that sounds. In fact, finding a therapist that fits your needs may take some trial and error, and that’s totally normal. If you feel like you might need to make the switch, there are ways to know when it’s time to have “the talk” and find a better option for you.

Couples counseling is also an option

Sometimes, the issues we’re facing can become intertwined with our relationships. According to clinical psychologist Adam Borland, PsyDmarriage counseling and couples counseling are good ways to figure out any emotional issues you and your partner may be facing together. Not only can it make your relationship stronger and healthier, but it can also help with any issues each of you may be having individually.

What if my child needs therapy?

Even parents who seem to have all the answers need some extra advice at times. Pediatric psychologist, Kristen Eastman, PsyD, points out that it’s normal for your child to go through a certain amount of ups and downs as they grow up. But there are also signs that might indicate they may need some counseling as well. This doesn’t mean there’s anything “wrong” or that you’ve done a bad job as a parent. It just means there might be additional tools out there to help them (and you) navigate their world and their emotions.


So, where do I start?

Luckily, there are many ways you can start your search for a therapist. Psychologist Dawn Potter, PsyD, suggests going through a healthcare provider, a referral from a friend or just start by looking around online. Even before you set up your first appointment, you can ask any questions about the therapist beforehand — like whether they’re specialized in the type of care you’re looking for or if they fit your schedule.

Taking steps to start therapy can be intimidating, but allow yourself patience and grace — after all, you’ve made the brave decision to take the first step — and with these tips and a little diligence, you can find the therapist who’s right for you.


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

People sitting in circle at group therapy
July 18, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Chronic Hives and Mental Health: Self-Care Tips

Combat stress and anxiety — common chronic hives triggers — by focusing on sleep, staying active and leaning on others for support

Couple in bed, one asleep, the other typing on their cell phone
July 18, 2024/Sex & Relationships
How and When Emotional Cheating Crosses a Line

Fostering romantic and/or sexual feelings for other people outside of your relationship can lead to long-term consequences

Female painting a still life of a vase and fruits on canvas and easel
Self-Care Is Important When You’re Living With HER2-Negative Metastatic Breast Cancer

Taking care of yourself extends beyond symptom management and includes things like passion projects and meaningful moments

Person crying with heart-shaped hole in their chest
July 9, 2024/Mental Health
How To Overcome an Existential Crisis

Connecting with loved ones, keeping a gratitude journal and reframing the situation may help the dread dissipate

Group of women sitting in chairs in circle, some holding brochures, at cancer support group
HER2-Low Metastatic Breast Cancer: Finding Community

Support groups, financial assistance and survivorship programs are all readily available

Silhouette of person, with brain as four puzzle pieces
The Mandela Effect: How False Memories Trick Your Brain Into Believing

Our collective misremembering of events comes from a surplus of false memories

Silohuette of person, with light aimed at their eye and brain
June 20, 2024/Mental Health
Feeling Stuck? Brainspotting May Help

This alternative brain-body therapy focuses on unlocking pent-up feelings, memories and tension that may be stuck in your brain and body

Older person smiling, taking in the outdoors
June 13, 2024/Mental Health
Put Intention Behind Your Walking Meditation

While walking, be mindful of your body, your mind, your place in the world and all five of your senses as you pave a path forward, one step at a time

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims