How you prepare

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You might decide on your own that you want to try cognitive behavioral therapy. Or a doctor or someone else may suggest therapy to you. Here's how to get started:

  • Find a therapist. You can get a referral from a doctor, health insurance plan, friend or other trusted source. Many employers offer counseling services or referrals through employee assistance programs (EAPs). You can also find a therapist on your own — through a local or state psychological association or by looking through the phone book or on the Internet, for instance.
  • Understand the costs. If you have health insurance, find out what coverage it offers for psychotherapy. Some health plans cover only a certain number of therapy sessions a year. Also, talk to your therapist about fees and payment options.
  • Review your concerns. Before your first appointment, think about what issues you'd like to work on. While you can also sort this out with your therapist, having some sense in advance may provide a starting point.

Check qualifications

Before seeing a psychotherapist, check his or her background, education, certification and licensing. Psychotherapist is a general term, rather than a job title or indication of education, training or licensure.

Trained psychotherapists can have a number of different job titles, depending on their education and role. Most have a master's or doctoral degree with specific training in psychological counseling. Medical doctors who specialize in mental health (psychiatrists) can prescribe medications as well as provide psychotherapy.

Examples of psychotherapists include psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed professional counselors, licensed social workers, licensed marriage and family therapists, psychiatric nurses, or other licensed professionals with mental health training.

Make sure that the therapist you choose meets state certification and licensing requirements for his or her particular discipline. The key is to find a skilled therapist who can match the type and intensity of therapy with your needs.

Feb. 21, 2013