Looking for a therapist in New York City? Many people start their therapist search on health insurance websites, but find much of the information outdated and inaccurate. In fact, less than one-third of individuals who contact therapists on their health insurance website receive an appointment. In a big city like New York, despite the thousands of therapists to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start.
But don’t give up! Knowing what questions to ask and what resources to use can significantly speed up the therapist search process. Read below for tips on how to find the best therapists in NYC.
1. Find a therapist in your therapy budget
To get started, figure out your financial and insurance boundaries. In NYC, the average therapy session costs between $175- $200 per session, making it one of the most expensive cities for therapy. Examine the rest of your expenses and income to figure out what money can be used for therapy. This may involve moving some financial priorities around or changing small daily habits so you can afford it (trust us, it’s worth every dollar!).
If cost is a constraint for you, start by looking for an in-network therapist. This may be an arduous task, but the financial benefit could make the effort worth it in the long run. When you see an in-network therapist, you typically only pay a copay of $10 - $50 per session; this may apply before or after your deductible, depending on your plan. In NYC, there are many therapists who are in-network with the following health insurances:
- Aetna therapists in NYC
- Cigna therapists in NYC
- Blue Cross Blue Shield therapists in NYC
- United Healthcare therapists in NYC
- Oscar Health therapists in NYC
Other health insurances with smaller provider networks may be harder to find in-network therapists for (you can try searching here).
Beyond the task of the search itself, many people have high deductible insurance plans: the deductible is the sum total of annual medical expenses that you need to pay out of pocket before insurance starts to cover therapy. If you have a high deductible plan and few other medical expenses, you might be unlikely to meet your deductible in the calendar year, which means your out-of-pocket therapy fees could be effectively the same, regardless of if you see a therapist in-network or out-of-network.
If you are struggling to find an in-network therapist, consider expanding your search to out-of-network therapists. If your health insurance is a PPO Plan, you may have generous out-of-network benefits that can cover your sessions with a therapist who doesn’t take your health insurance (sometimes up to 80%).
High deductible and/or no out-of-network benefits? Not to worry. Here are a few ways to make therapy affordable for you:
- Look for therapists who offer sliding scale fees. If you have a high deductible insurance plan and limited financial means, sliding scale therapy may be a good option. Here are 100+ therapists who offer therapy under $100 per session in New York City.
- Take advantage of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). If relevant, many employers offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that partners with providers for a few free sessions. Check with your Human Resource department to see if this is an option to get you started. Note though, that these are typically limited to a few sessions per year, so you may wish to find a therapist outside the EAP system if you’re looking to establish a longer-term relationship with a provider.
- Use affordable therapy options. There are many lower cost therapy options in NYC, including therapists who offer sliding scale fees as low as $60 per session. Consider these different options if you are prioritizing affordability in your therapy search! For immediate mental health help, you can utilize the free NYC Well hotline to speak or text with someone 24/7. Their number is 1-888-692-9355 or text WELL to 65173.
2. Find a specialist in your primary concerns
If you are seeking therapy for the most common mental health concerns of anxiety, depression, relationship issues, stress, and life transitions, almost all therapists will be able to support you through your challenges with the knowledge and training they've received.
For other more niche or specialized areas, consider looking for a therapist with particular education and training. In particular, it may be important to find specialists for the following concerns:
- Eating disorder - Most therapists will see mild disordered eating but for diagnosable eating disorders (e.g. constant restricting of food, purging) a specialist is going to be able to better support because this is a condition with high risk to your physical health
- Trauma - For therapy seekers who want to address and gain support for traumatic events, a therapist trained in trauma-informed care is important. These specialists understand and utilize strategies such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing which is a technique designed to help process and reduce stress related to traumatic events. While revisiting events or memories, a therapist will simultaneously direct lateral eye movement to assist the brain in completing the processing and reassociating of these memories.
- Personality disorders - Therapists who specialize in personality disorders can assist in understanding and handling these specific mental health challenges. They may employ a variety of therapeutic treatments including DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) which is a skills-focused therapeutic method that equips people in therapy to learn and apply new skills in productive, effective ways.
- Addictions - Some therapists have received training in supporting people’s recovery journeys from a wide-range of addictions. For drug or alcohol addiction, look for providers with expertise in “substance abuse.” They should use techniques like motivational interviewing and be well-equipped to guide you to the right resources. For other specific addictions, keep in mind this is separate from alcohol or drug addiction and you should find specialists that fit the needs of your journey.
- Couples counseling - If you are seeking therapy with a significant other, you may want to find a therapist who provides meditation and perspective. There are many techniques but most important is to find someone that both partners feel comfortable with and can open up to.
3. Find the right personal fit
The personal nature of therapy makes finding the right therapist for you a major priority. Your therapist is someone with whom you will work through very personal events, memories and experiences. Make sure you feel comfortable to share with this provider, that there is mutual respect, and that you see the potential for your own personal growth with them.
Shopping for a therapist may take a few initial calls. These should be used to confirm basic information (is this the correct phone number for the provider I am looking for?) as well as getting a better professional picture of the provider. Here’s what to ask on the initial call with a therapist.
Being able to communicate well with a therapist is an essential part of establishing trust and allowing the therapeutic relationship to blossom. Based on your initial conversation with them over the phone, how do you feel? Did you feel comfortable asking questions? Keep your initial conversation with them in mind and do a self-check to see how you feel about how your relationship is developing.
For many folks, seeing a therapist with experience working with identities that shape your existence and the nature of your concern can be hugely helpful as well. If you are a person of color (POC), identify as LGBTQ, or find religion plays a significant role in your life, try to find someone who shares your identities. Fortunately, NYC is one of the most diverse cities in the country, making this endeavor much more possible than other cities:
- Black therapists in New York City
- Latinx / Hispanic therapists in New York City
- Asian therapists in New York City
- Therapists of color in New York City
- LGBTQ-identifying therapists in New York City
- Christian therapists in New York City
- Jewish therapists in New York City
- Buddhist therapists in New York City
- Hindu therapists in New York City
It should be noted that one person’s great (or horrible) experience with a particular provider does not mean that you will have the same experience. Read reviews, take advice, and feel things out for yourself. They’ll be your therapist after all; make sure the fit is personal and feels good.
4. Check that all other logistics work
In addition to the financial and professional boundary criteria you’ve made, you want to also take a look at how therapy will fit into your day to day life. This includes office hours, location, and service offerings.
- Time: As a New Yorker, your time is precious. Ensure that a therapists’ hours work with your tight schedule. Check to see if there are weekend or late appointments available. Be honest about other obligations when scheduling therapy to avoid tardiness and no-show appointments.
- Remote Services: With the pandemic forcing more online options for health care services, almost all therapists now offer teletherapy, either as the only method of sessions, or as an addition to in-person sessions. On Zencare therapist profiles, you can check whether the therapist is offering online or in-person sessions at this time.
- Insurance and Financials: Double check that the therapist accepts your insurance plan. Call their office for the most up to date information, as websites do not always have the latest insurance information.
5. Continue assessing after your first session
Once therapy starts, you should feel comfortable and start making progress. You may not see results immediately, and adjusting to a new therapist may take a few sessions. However, your therapist should be working with you to establish a trusting relationship and provide an environment to feel comfortable to share. Making progress is not a one size fits all experience, and your progress can take many forms, including both subtle and overt changes. Be on the lookout for these shifts or other markers of progress while noting the work you are doing outside of therapy that is contributing to your progress.
If you are not making progress, know that it’s okay and encouraged to let your therapist know. Self-advocacy may feel challenging, especially in such an intimate relationship as the one you build with your therapist, but it’s an important part of the therapeutic relationship. Communicating what you see and feel may be beneficial for the therapist’s own growth, but more importantly, for your own! Finally, while it may be tempting, it’s best practice not to ghost your therapist -- it may help to maintain the relationship in case you want to resume sessions down the line or if your therapist has suggestions for other therapists. After all, it is their job and profession to put your wellbeing first and foremost.
Therapy can be a great space for growth, healing and personal optimization. Consider yourself, your needs and unique life journey as you seek a new addition to your support system. New York is full of talented, experienced therapists who often share the trains, parks, and hustle of the city with you. With the right search and a few calls, you can be well on your way to finding the right therapist for you.