Mar 2024

Choosing a Counsellor: 6 Factors to Consider When Finding a Therapist

Published in General on March 14, 2024

Let's face it: choosing a new therapist you enjoy (or at least feel comfortable) talking to is hard. From psychodynamic psychotherapists to psychoanalytic psychiatrists, the overtly complex terms and phrases of each discipline don't make it any clearer. But at the end of the day, it is crucial to carefully select someone who truly understands you and your needs; failure to do so can make or break the relationship. For those who can afford to choose, you want to ensure your investment is well spent. Yet, it's not just about money; it's an investment of your time and often a significant emotional endeavour to open up to another person.

Whether you're already an expert in the field or feel an affinity for the broad and fascinating spectrum of psychological practises, there are a range of psychology courses online to satisfy your curiosity and help build a valuable knowledge base upon which, one day, anyone could become a pro.

Look into what’s available

The elephant in the room – cost, yet there are often so many untapped resources already in our communities. Medicare funds or supports a range of programs, so you may well be eligible for subsidised appointments, rebates, free schemes, etc. Check with your state and, crucially, talk to your GP. They are often the gateway to further care and can refer or support you in finding a therapist.

Set your goals

As with so many endeavours, setting some goals first can be incredibly valuable. People choose therapy for so many reasons; you might be looking for a way to alleviate anxiety, depression or stress. You might be looking to better family relationships, improve marital satisfaction or raise well-adjusted children. What do all these have in common? A therapist can certainly help. The distinction lies in what type of therapist will help meet your goal. A mother looking to improve the dynamics with her family may well benefit from a therapist focused on the family, like a family systems therapist, while a teenager with depressive symptoms may well benefit from a cognitive behavioural therapist's interventions.

Select your therapeutic approach

There is such a broad range of practices within psychology that just sifting through them to choose one can be a daunting task. However, it is crucial to do a bit of research on the specific methods they may use. The larger distinction is between psychotherapists and counsellors,  the former being a title given to psychologists who are certified members of the Psychology Board of Australia, having completed a master's, PhD or internship to join. The term counsellor is used rather loosely as there is no entry requirement in Australia to be one.

Psychiatrists vs Psychologists

There is an important and often overlooked distinction between theses: psychiatrists are trained medical doctors who have further specialised after their medical degree in psychology. Psychologists are not medical doctors, so they (probably) can’t fix a broken arm. In certain situations, one may be more useful than the other, for instance, when prescribing meds. A psychiatrist usually has a licence to prescribe, while Australian psychologists cannot prescribe.

Reviews and recommendations

While your next therapist is not a well-used couch on Marketplace or an overpriced Airbnb in Noosa, reviews matter. Try to dig a little into the experiences of others who've worked with the counsellor you're considering to gain insight into their results and level of satisfaction, empathy, and overall approach. Where possible, seek recommendations from friends, family, or healthcare professionals for a personal touch in your decision-making. Trusting the collective experiences of those who've faced similar mental health challenges can guide you to a practitioner that better suits your needs.


At the end of the day, you could have the most qualified, smart and best-reviewed therapist in town and still dislike every session. That is okay; sometimes our personalities simply don't gel – it is neither parties fault, but it is good to quickly recognise you can find the person you feel most comfortable talking to.

Getting your needs met

With so many resources available, it should be easier than ever to sort through potential candidates (my shark tank pitch would be a Tinder-like app for therapists) to find that special someone who will put in the work for you. Take your time and consider what it is you want at the end and work backward, considering all the factors we have discussed so that you get the service you deserve.