When you consider trusting someone with your secrets and working with them to improve your life and mental health, you deserve to know they are legitimate. That’s why finding out if a therapist [psychotherapist] is licensed is worth it. If you use the advice and steps we’ve outlined below, you’ll have more peace of mind before you start therapy.
Skip the Verification Work — Use an Online Therapy Network
When you sign up for an online therapy network such as Talkspace, you don’t need to check any therapist’s license. To provide clients the best care possible and avoid legal issues, online therapy networks conduct thorough license and background checks on all therapists they work with.
Therapists you find via health insurance directories and therapy firms are also more likely to be legitimate. When entire organizations need to provide legitimate care to stay in business, the people running those organizations work harder to verify licenses.
If you are considering working with a therapist who is not associated with any organization or health insurance — or you want to be extra careful — keep reading!
Use a Trusted Third-Party to Verify the Therapist
One quick and easy way to verify a therapist’s legitimacy is using a trusted third-party source.
Here are some of those sources and instructions for using them:
- Visit the therapist finder section of Psychology Today
- Search by “Last Name” (the default is “City or Zip”)
- Select a state (you’ll need to know what state they practice in)
- Browse the profile
This profile should offer you plenty of information about the therapist such as the license number.
If the therapist’s profile does not appear on Psychology Today, try another therapist database such as GoodTherapy.org (use the instructions above).
If you still can’t find a legitimate third-party profile, be patient. There are hundreds of quality therapists who do not list themselves on sites like Psychology Today. Some don’t want or need to pay these databases to list them.
Even if these databases work, they might not provide the level of detail and information you are looking for. These databases are great for fast and simple verification, but they don’t tell you much about the license. Those who want to verify the license as meticulously as possible, keep reading!
Step 1: Ask the Therapist for the License Information
If you ask a therapist for their license information, they should give it to you. If they don’t, that’s a red flag.
Asking them may be uncomfortable, but it might be the only way to obtain the license number (assuming you couldn’t find the license number using other methods such as the ones above).
Here is a script you can use to politely ask the therapist:
Hi (insert name of therapist),
Would you mind sending me the information I would need to verify your license? I am interested in working with you and want to ensure my investment will be worth it. I hope you will understand.
All the best,
Here are some of the pieces of information you might need to look up the license:
- Full name as it is listed on the license
- License ID number
- State, city, country and zip code in which the license was issued
- Date on which the license was issued
- Expiration date of the license
You might only need some of this information. Unfortunately, the amount of information you need varies by state.
Step 2: Find the Licensing Board for the State the Therapist Is Registered In
There is no official federal licensing board that links to all states, so you will need to Google search the licensing board based on your state.
Here are the steps for doing that:
- Here is the formula you should use for searching on Google: name of state + board of (behavioral sciences, psychology, counseling, etc.) + license verification
- Check the search results. You might need to refine your search because the language is not consistent between states.
- Browse the sites until you find a search engine that allows you to verify the license. These are poorly-designed government websites with no consistency, so you might need to click around before you find what you want.
- Nonetheless, make sure the URL is https and .gov.
You can use this unofficial directory to find the resource for your state if you are comfortable with that and want to save time.
Step 3: Verify the License
Now you’ve found the search engine for verifying the license. If you followed our earlier advice, you have the information you need. It’s time to punch that in and search!
Try typing in the minimum amount of information first. If that doesn’t work, enter more.
Here is a sample of what the results or license profile should look like:
This is where the value of these time-consuming searches comes into play. Notice how you can see the following pieces of information sites such as Psychology Today don’t offer:
- The status of the license
- Whether the therapist is an approved supervisor (someone who supervises people who are in the process of gaining a license)
- The expiration date of being an approved supervisor
- The expiration date of the license
- Whether the board needed to discipline the therapist for misconduct
If you see any red flags here, you might be able to save yourself from a potentially harmful therapist. Receiving disciplinary action from an organization is the biggest warning sign.
If These Steps Didn’t Work
If you tried your best to use these search engines but can’t find the license, don’t jump to conclusions. The therapist might be legitimate.
Here are some issues that might make it difficult to find the license information for a licensed therapist:
- Poor design of licensing websites
- No website language consistency or design consistency between states
- Search engines might not work well
- It’s difficult to know how the search engine wants you to enter the license number.
- Some sites are down or slow
The Last Resort: Contact the Licensing Organization and Request License Verification
If the above steps didn’t work and you’re absolutely determined to verify the license, try contacting the government organization that licensed the therapist. All of them have contact addresses, although there is no consistency in information or structure between states. The therapist might also have advice.
Want to Save Yourself the Hassle? Try Online Therapy!
If you’re open to online therapy, trying it will spare you the hassle of verifying a license. It’s not for everyone nor is it trying to replace traditional therapy, but it has helped millions of people and has benefits far beyond taking care of the license verification for you.