Many people only consider the cost and their insurance coverage when choosing a therapist, but it is important to find someone who is a good fit for you as it will determine the progress you make in healing.
A core part of the change that is made in the therapy process relates to the quality of the therapy relationship, for the greater the trust between therapist and client, the safer the environment, allowing the client to challenge themselves securely to change, grow, and explore emotions deeply. If you do not trust in your therapist and feel emotionally safe in session, you will be less able to address the reasons you entered therapy. Make sure you feel that you can trust the therapist you choose. This means taking into consideration the traits in others that you feel are trustworthy, and seeking a therapist with those traits. This also means taking into consideration the kinds of support you need and types of challenges that you find motivating. Some people want more empathy and support, while others want confrontation and straightforwardness in their interactions (a good therapist should be able to balance both). If you know yourself in your relationships, it will help you to know the kind of personality style your therapist should have.
The other thing to consider is your therapist’s theoretical orientation, or how they view emotional concerns. Some therapists consider childhood and the psyche only, some therapists focus on thoughts and behaviors, some family and relationships, some therapists incorporate eastern techniques like meditation, some role playing and confrontation, and others art therapy, nutrition, or narration. There are many schools of therapy today, and it can be helpful to know how your therapist will view and treat your concerns before you meet with them. A list of therapies and their philosophies can be found here: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_psychotherapies.
So where then would you start the process of looking? I think many people find therapists through word of mouth and online. Web sites like psychologytoday.com have therapists listed by area, specialty, orientation, and usually have a biography attached so that you can get a feel for the therapist. Some people may choose to go to a mental health clinic, health clinic, or counseling school for free or sliding scale services and often in these situations you will not have the ability to choose your therapist, however you will be able to request a different therapist if you do not feel the fit is right. Attached to this is a list of mental health and medical clinics that will be able to assist you if you either do not have health insurance and need low fee services, or will accept city insurance.
If your concerns are urgent and you are thinking of harming yourself or someone else, than you will want to contact your local Crisis Response Center or call 911. There is a list of CRC’s attached to this as well.
Once you find a therapist who you are interested in (this is in many ways like dating) you will want to reach out to them via phone or email to express your interest in meeting. Many therapist will offer a free consultation at this point, to allow you to ask questions and to get a feel for the therapeutic dynamic. Some clients feel comfortable enough with the initial email correspondence that they do not need the phone consultation, but feel free to get as much information as you need to make the decision about who you feel most comfortable with helping you with your emotions.
Going to therapy can be a very scary process for people (for so many reasons!) and it is important to find a therapist who knows this and can help you to feel less afraid. That said therapy can be a difficult thing (exploring painful emotions), and can take its time, but the healing achieved is often more than worth it, and clears blockages to future progress. Therapy is as much the responsibility of the client as it is of the therapist, and if you are not willing or ready to be fully honest and trust in the process than it will be hard for much progress to occur and last, no matter the talents of your therapist.
So choose your therapist wisely, but first and foremost know yourself, where you are in your process of emotional healing, and if you are ready to go further.