Mental Health Help: Finding the Right Therapist

Author: Karissa Kelley

So You Know You Want Therapy…Now What?

When you are ready, TAPS is here to help you locate a therapist who can meet your needs. Call our 24/7 helpline to request information about counselors in your area. Our phones are staffed with caring professionals who are equipped to gather whatever information is needed to locate the best-fit provider for your unique circumstances.

If you would prefer to research independently, these tips may help point you in the right direction. Therapy is not a “one size fits all” kind of service. In order for it to really work, it is important to find someone who matches your needs, both in their training and in their personality.

women in conversationPhoto: Unsplash

First Ask: Does this practitioner have the right set of skills?

Complicated grief is a unique therapeutic issue. Unlike most traumas (like a car accident) where the therapy goal is to process and move on, grief work is not so simple. 

Successful Grief Therapy

In a nutshell, successful therapy with grief is three fold:

1 – Work through the trauma and leave that in your past.

2 – Process the pain and loss of death.

3 – Find ways to carry your loved one’s memory and legacy with you as you learn how to live again.

Locating a Therapist
It is very important to locate a therapist who is able to navigate this journey with you.
  • Most therapists will offer a 15-30 minute consultation. Use this time to ask the therapist questions about their experience and training.
  • Look for a therapist who is comfortable with your questions.
  • It’s ok to ask direct questions about how they treat clients with complicated grief and how much experience they have working with grief.
  • Grief work takes a long time; there is no way to speed through your emotions or pain. Therapists who emphasize “brief,” “accelerated,” or “solution focused” therapies may not be the best fit.
  • Look for a therapist who seems knowledgeable enough to help you and flexible enough to welcome your individualism. Remember, you are the expert on you.


Second Ask: Is this practitioner the right fit for me personally?

  • How does the therapist make you feel about yourself? In a good fit, you will feel liked and valued. You will feel validated and heard - like you have someone in your corner. You will not feel judged, put down, or minimized.
  • Try talking to the therapist if their approach feels off base to you. If they are defensive or argumentative, it is probably not a good fit. If they can’t change the things you don’t like, it is also likely not a good fit.
  • Give it a month. Try a new therapist for about 4 sessions. During this trial period, do not feel pressured to be overly vulnerable. Use the month to find out if you start to feel more comfortable with the therapist. At the end of the month, if you don’t feel safe and comfortable, it may be best to try a different therapist.
  • Trust your gut. If the clinician doesn’t feel like they are the right fit for you, then they probably aren’t.

Even though no one can take away your grief, you do not have to grieve alone. Finding the right therapist can be tricky, but TAPS is here to support you through this process. Having a safe and well-trained professional can make a big difference in helping you to navigate grief.

If you are grieving the death of a military or veteran loved one, no matter your connection to the hero or how they died, and feel that you could benefit from counseling or therapy, TAPS is here to help. Call TAPS to connect with our 24/7 Helpline, in order to get help locating a qualified professional in your local area, at 800.959.8277. More information about TAPS, counseling and other resources, can be found at

You can also refer to Part 1 of this series, “Mental Health Help: Is it the Right Option for Me?

Karissa Kelley, LPCCTis the surviving sibling of Air Force Airman First Class Caleb Justin Kelley, and serves as the Family Resource Liaison, TAPS Survivor Services.