An Expert Explains How to Find a Therapist in College, Plus the Questions You Should Ask

Starting college is an exciting milestone, but if you've been in therapy before — or you find that you need some help navigating these new challenges — it's important to get a game plan in place once you arrive on campus. Not sure how to find a therapist? Here are some steps you can take to get settled into a practice as soon as possible.

Jeanette R. Bergfeld, PsyD, who practices clinical psychology at Therapy Group of DC in Washington, DC, told POPSUGAR that the single best place to start is your college's counseling center. "They're a great resource for short-term individual therapy, group therapy, and referrals to therapists and psychiatrists in the community," Dr. Bergfeld said. "They usually have long lists of community providers who they know and trust to refer you to." She added that another benefit of counseling centers is that they have close working relationships with other departments on campus, so they can help you navigate the system and connect you to resources.

Although the short-term individual therapy and group therapy sessions offered by counseling centers are enough for many students, others require long-term therapy or a therapist who specializes in a specific type of disorder or both. If you fall into the latter category, the counseling center can help you connect with a qualified therapist off-campus. "It's best to set up initial intake appointments with multiple providers and see who you feel the most comfortable with," Dr. Bergfeld advised. "The strongest predictor of positive outcomes in therapy is the relationship between the client and therapist. So picking someone with whom you feel comfortable and have a good rapport is key."

Dr. Bergfeld recommended asking specific questions when you first meet with a therapist. For example, after you've outlined your goals, ask the therapist if they think they're the right fit to help you reach them. Another good question to ask is, "How do you approach therapy?"

Then there's the matter of dealing with logistics — for many people, insurance plays a key role in whether or not they can work with a therapist and for how long. If a particular provider doesn't take your insurance and you can't afford to pay out of pocket, you'll want to find a therapist who does. "It's also helpful to get a clear idea of the logistics of their practice, such as the best way to contact them and what hours they offer for scheduling," Dr. Bergfeld said. After all, you have classes to attend, too, and it's essential that you make time for both.