Finding a therapist can be challenging — but it doesn’t have to be.

While it may be tempting to approach finding a therapist in the same way you would scout a new thai restaurant in your neighborhood, Google searches and Yelp queries tend to be inadequate when it comes to finding the right healthcare provider. What works for a cis straight male may not work for a trans man — and it’s important to gauge how a therapist’s approach will accommodate your unique experiences.

The right therapist for an LGBTQ patient doesn’t necessarily need to identify as LGBTQ themselves. However, it is necessary for your provider be well-versed in specific LGBTQ-related mental health concerns and terminology. The last thing anyone needs is to be misgendered by their own therapist.

We’ve compiled a five-step guide to help walk you through the process of finding the right LGBT-friendly therapist:

1. Determine whether you need a specialist

A few important questions to ask yourself before beginning the LGBT-friendly therapist search are:

  • Do you need a combination psychiatrist-therapist (i.e. someone who is able to prescribe medication)?
  • Do you need someone who specializes in anxiety and depression?
  • Do you have an eating disorder?

Each therapist specializes in certain issues, and not all providers will be able to address your individual needs. If you have a specific mood disorder or other issue that you would like to work through, make sure any therapists you talk to specialize in your area of need.

2. Identify traits that matter to you

It’s okay to want your therapist to share certain identity traits with you.

Ask yourself what common identity traits you are seeking before you begin your search. Does your therapist’s gender identity matter to you? Do you have a preferred sexual orientation? Would you prefer to share a racial background? You don’t necessarily need a lesbian therapist just because you yourself are a lesbian, but there’s no problem with wanting one. Lighthouse helps take the work out of your search, and gives you the option to filter potential providers based on their gender identity, sexual orientation, and area of expertise.

Read More: A GNC Therapist Debunks 5 Myths About Gender

3. Figure out what you can afford, and if you’d like to use insurance or pay out of pocket

Call your insurance company to find out what mental health services they cover to avoid getting hit with a massive, unexpected bill. If you plan to use insurance, make sure that your LGBT-friendly therapist accepts your insurance before you begin seeing them.

In New York City and other major cities, most private therapists are not in-network with insurance companies — but they can often submit receipts for out-of-network reimbursement on your behalf. This means that if you have out-of-network benefits as part of your plan, you can get reimbursed for about 70 percent of the therapist’s fee. Again, call your insurance company to find out if you have out-of-network benefits, as they greatly expand your range of therapists.

Many therapists also offer sliding scales in terms of payment, especially for younger people or those from marginalized communities. Be honest with your therapist about what you can pay, and if they can’t accept what you can afford, keep looking.

4. Connect with your LGBT-friendly therapist on the phone before going in to see them

Before committing your time and money to an in-person appointment, talk to potential therapists to gauge whether their approach will work for you. Make sure to ask about specialties and how comfortable and experienced they are with aspects of your sexual orientation and gender identity.

Write out questions you would like to ask beforehand to ensure you hit all of your points during the phone screening. Pay attention to the vibe you get from them — it’s okay to keep searching if you don’t immediately like someone.

Read More: How Minority Stress Drives Drug Use in the LGBTQ Community

5. Decide if there is a specific theoretical orientation you are looking for

Different therapists take different approaches based on their theoretical orientation, training, and preferences. For instance, a cognitive behavioral therapist would focus on changing the way you think, whereas a psychodynamic therapist would try to identify the subconscious motivations driving certain behaviors. Do a bit of research, talk to therapists with different approaches, and decide which one is right for you. Remember — you are not locked in with any therapist. If you feel like you chose the wrong one, there are plenty more fish in the sea.

With Lighthouse, you can filter your search for a therapist by the provider’s gender identity, sexual orientation, and their specific areas of expertise. Because we believe it should be easy to find the right care.

Click here to find an LGBTQ+ AFFIRMING Provider In your Area

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