Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Home PTSD Finding and Choosing a Therapist

Finding and Choosing a Therapist

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These resources can help you locate and choose a therapist who is right for you. A special section for Veterans is included.

Finding a therapist

There are many ways to find a therapist. You can start by asking friends and family if they can recommend anyone. Make sure the therapist has skills in treating trauma survivors.

On the phone

One way to locate a therapist is to make some phone calls. When you call, say that you are trying to find a therapist who specializes in effective treatment for PTSD, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

  • Contact your local mental health agency or family doctor.
  • Call your state psychological association.
  • Call the psychology department at a local college or university.
  • Call the Anxiety Disorders Association of America at (240) 485-1001 to access their referral network
  • Call the National Center for Victims of Crime's toll-free information and referral service at 1-800-FYI-CALL.
  • Call the Sidran Institute's Help Desk at 410-825-8888 for help finding a therapist who specializes in trauma treatment. You can also email Sidran at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
  • If you work for a large company, call the human resources office or employee assistance plan to see if they make referrals.
  • If you have health insurance, call to find out about mental health providers the insurance company will cover.

Some mental health services are listed in the phone book. In the Government pages, look in the "County Government Offices" section. In that section, look for "Health Services (Dept. of)" or "Department of Health Services." Then in that section, look under "Mental Health."

In the yellow pages, therapists are listed under "counseling," "psychologists," "social workers," "psychotherapists," "social and human services," or "mental health."


Information can also be found using the Internet. Some organizations have databases that allow you to search for therapists near you. These databases include profiles of therapists with their areas of expertise and the types of therapy they provide. Search online for "find a therapist." Websites you can try are:

Help for Veterans

All VA Medical Centers provide PTSD care. Or you can use this online VA PTSD Program Locator to find a VA PTSD Treatment program at a VA facility near you. You can also go online to read more about services at Vet Centers.

Other resources include:

VA Medical Centers and Vet Centers are listed in the phone book. In the Government pages, look under "United States Government Offices." Then look for "Veterans Affairs, Dept of." In that section, look under "Medical Care" and "Vet Centers - Counseling and Guidance."

Finding a support group

Many VA Medical Centers and Vet Centers have various types of support groups. Use the information in the "Help for Veterans" section above to find out more.

Choosing a therapist

There are a many things to consider in choosing a therapist. Some practical issues are location, cost, and what insurance the therapist accepts. Other issues include the therapist's background, training, and the way he or she works with people.

Here is a list of questions you may want to ask a possible therapist.

  • What is your education? Are you licensed? How many years have you been practicing?
  • What are your special areas of practice?
  • Have you ever worked with people who have been through trauma? Do you have any special training in PTSD treatment?
  • What kinds of PTSD treatments do you use? Have they been proven effective for dealing with my kind of problem or issue?
  • What are your fees? (Fees are usually based on a 45-minute to 50-minute session.) Do you have any discounted fees? How much therapy would you recommend?
  • What types of insurance do you accept? Do you file insurance claims? Do you accept Medicare or Medicaid insurance?

These questions are just guidelines. In the end, your choice of a therapist will come down to many factors. Think about your comfort with the person as well as his or her qualifications and experience treating PTSD. And keep in mind the importance of evidence-based, trauma-focused treatments like Cognitive Processing Therapy, Prolonged Exposure, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

Paying for therapy

If you have health insurance, check to see what mental health services are covered. Medicare, Medicaid, and most major health plans typically cover a certain number of mental health counseling sessions per year, though you may have a small additional amount you will have to pay called a co-pay. Call your insurance company to see what they cover so you won't be surprised by a big bill.

If you don't have health insurance that will cover your therapy, you may still be able to get counseling, even if you can't afford to pay full price. Many community mental health centers have sliding scales that base your fee on what you are able to pay.

Who is available to provide therapy?

There are many types of professionals who can provide therapy for trauma issues.

Clinical Psychologists

Clinical psychologists focus on mental health assessment and treatment. Licensed psychologists have doctoral degrees (PhD, PsyD, EdD). Their graduate training is in clinical, counseling, or school psychology. In addition to their graduate study, licensed psychologists must have another 1 to 2 years of supervised clinical experience. Psychologists have the title of "doctor," but in most states they cannot prescribe medicine.

Clinical Social Workers

The purpose of social work is to enhance human well-being. Social workers help meet the basic human needs of all people. They help people manage the forces around them that contribute to problems in living. Certified social workers have a master's degree or doctoral degree in social work (MSW, DSW, or PhD).

Master's Level Clinicians

Master's Level Clinicians have a master's degree in counseling, psychology, or marriage and family therapy (MA, MFT). They have at least 2 years of training beyond the 4-year college degree. To be licensed, master's level clinicians must meet requirements that vary by state.


Psychiatrists have a Doctor of Medicine degree (MD). After they complete 4 years of medical school, they must have 3 to 4 years of residency training. Board certified psychiatrists have also passed written and oral exams given by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Since they are medical doctors, psychiatrists can prescribe medicine. Some also provide psychotherapy.


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Did you know?

A veteran’s family must request a United States flag.

A flag is provided at no cost to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran. Generally, the flag is given to the next of kin. Only one flag may be provided per veteran. Upon the request of the family, an “Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes” (VA Form 21-2008) must be submitted along with a copy of the veteran’s discharge papers. Flags may be obtained from VA regional offices and most U.S. Post Offices.