How To Find a Therapist in Toronto

Last updated on: Apr 15, 2024
A landscape view of downtown Toronto at sunset

Therapy is hard work. Finding the right therapist shouldn’t be. At First Session, we believe the fit between you and your therapist is the most important factor for a positive therapy experience and improved mental health.

This guide aims to demystify the process of finding a therapist in Toronto, offering practical steps and supporting you in starting this exciting new chapter. 

Things To Consider When Looking For A Therapist In Toronto

  • Toronto has more therapists than any other city in Canada – Over 5,000 therapists work in private practice within the GTA
  • Toronto is the most culturally diverse city in Canada – resulting in a greater need for therapists with diverse lived experiences and specialized training
  • Toronto is one of the most expensive cities in Canada the cost of therapy can feel like a barrier and is reflective of overall financial stress
  • Torontonians spend more time stuck in traffic than any other city in North America – online therapy can save you from the time, money and stress of commuting to appointments

Public Mental Health Resources In Ontario

Typically, publicly-funded mental health care in Canada is focused on helping people in an acute mental crisis or with complex diagnoses. You may have to wait months or even years before being seen by a publicly-funded therapist, with little to no choice in therapist or schedule and a limited number of sessions.

Even though sessions with private-practice therapists are not covered by OHIP, they are often covered in extended health plans through your employment.

A list of publicly-funded mental health resources in Ontario is available at the bottom of this page.

The 3 Stages to Finding a Therapist in Ontario:

First Session has helped over 8,000 Canadians find the right therapist. Over the thousands of therapy journeys, we’ve noticed three stages to starting (or re-starting) therapy:

Stage 1: You’re unsure what kind of therapy - or therapist - you’re looking for

Stage 2: You know what you’re looking for - you just need to find it

Stage 3: You’ve found a potential therapist, and are ready to take the next step

So let's dive in.

Stage 1: You’re Unsure What Kind Of Therapy – Or Therapist – You’re Looking For 

What prompted your interest in starting therapy?

Do you have a specific issue or concern in mind? For example: improving a relationship, reducing frequency of panic attacks, or developing emotional regulation skills. For some people, having a clear goal with a tangible outcome is very important, but you don’t need to have a specific concern to benefit from therapy. 

Think about what feelings or outcomes you are hoping therapy can provide– relief from talking to someone about what’s been weighing you down, motivation from clarifying your values and life goals, or a consistent practice of self-care that helps you stay balanced during the week. 

Why is “right fit” so important?

The most important factor for success in therapy is your connection with your therapist. Decades of research have shown that finding the right therapist for you reliably predicts therapeutic success even across different modalities, mental health diagnoses, and therapeutic settings1

We know that being the ‘right fit’ can make or break friendships, job prospects, and potential romantic partners, yet we can overlook the importance of compatibility when searching for a therapist. 

When you and your therapist have established a meaningful human connection, you can be vulnerable, feel heard, and trust the process.

Therapist Traits

Everyone will have a different combination of traits and characteristics that are important to them when choosing a therapist. 

Here are a few that might feel important to you:

  • Age: you might want a therapist around your own age, or perhaps someone older with more lived experience 
  • Gender: Your therapist’s gender may not matter to you at all; for some people they may feel more comfortable working with a therapist of a particular gender (or agender)
  • Lived Experiences: All therapists receive training in the most common issues their clients face, but not every therapist has personally experienced it 


Therapists may choose to specialize in:

  • specific diagnoses (e.g. borderline personality disorder, PTSD, autism, OCD)
  • client concerns (low self-esteem, sleep issues, grief, work or professional challenges)
  • client demographics (such as BIPOC, couples, children, caregivers)

If you don’t have a specific concern, you can work with a therapist with a more broad client base. Often, First Session clients will start therapy with a broader scope, and over time might identify more specific areas they’d like to focus on.

However, some conditions require more support from the therapist to navigate or have specific treatment methods, including: trauma/PTSD, eating disorders, and gender and sexual identity. 


A therapy modality is a specific method or approach used by therapists to help people deal with mental, emotional, or physical issues. It acts as a tool, tailored to help individuals heal or improve their well-being in a way that works best for them.

What are the most common modalities?

It’s easy to get caught up in searching for the most promising modality or be influenced by current trends or buzzwords, but evidence shows that therapist-client fit affects therapy outcomes more than the specific modalities used2

Objective Criteria:

Cost & Payment

Therapy sessions in Toronto can cost between $100 - $225+ per session, and most sessions last 50 or 60 minutes. Some therapists may charge more based on their level of education, specialization(s), and overhead costs. 

Many workplace and student health benefits cover therapy services – but there will likely be restrictions on which therapist designations will qualify. Check out your policy details and very which designations and credentials qualify for reimbursement, such as “social worker”, “MSW”, “psychologist”, etc.
Log into your health benefits online portal: Manulife, Sunlife, Blue Cross and Pacific Blue Cross.

In-Person vs Virtual Therapy

In-person therapy has been the traditional format since the beginnings of psychotherapy. For many, having the feeling of a separate physical space for therapy can also help you create a separate mental and emotional space during sessions. Some people need to feel the energy of the person they're speaking to, and can get a better intuitive sense of body language when they are in the same room. But the requirement to travel to and from the therapist's office can make therapy even more of a time commitment and is more of a challenge to fit into your schedule.

Virtual therapy become exponentially more popular since the pandemic. You have even more options for potential therapists (and most First Session therapists are licensed to serve clients across all of Canada). Joining your therapy sessions from the comfort of your own home can make you feel safe and secure, especially when working through tough topics. While there's no commute time, it's important to still leave time before and after your session to decompress before launching back into your busy schedule.

Therapist Availability

Here are some questions to consider when reviewing a potential therapist's availability:

  • Are they available in the time window you’re looking for? (mornings, afternoons, evenings, weekends)
  • Do you want to meet at the same day and time for each session or do you need flexibility?
  • Do they require you to book weeks in advance or can you take it one week at a time?
  • Do they offer appointments on short notice? 

For in-person therapy you also need to consider the location of their office, which will impact your commute and parking.

Stage 2: You Know What You Want/Don’t Want, But Need To Find Them!

PsychologyToday has over 5,000 therapists listed in Toronto alone - where do you even start digging through to find your next therapist?

Our goal at First Session is to connect Canadians with the right therapist the first time. Our directory of qualified therapists has been curated to make it easier for you to find the right fit. Explore therapist profiles and get started by booking your first session today. 

How to Assess a Therapist’s Profile Page

Images and video: Knowing what a potential therapist looks like is a necessity for most people. First Session also includes video on every therapist profile so you can get an even better sense of what to expect during an actual session. Note your gut reaction to exploring these videos – your connection not only to what they’re saying, but how they say it. 

Keywords and phrases: this includes words or phrases that resonate with you – for example: “spirituality”, “those seeking growth and transformation”, “self-compassion”, “mind-body connection”. 

You may also connect with the language they use to describe your concern – such as the way a therapist describes how depression can manifest in daily life makes you feel that they truly understand what you’re going through. 

Objective criteria: this includes availability, cost, designations required for health benefits, and location

Take Advantage of Free Consultations

If you’ve found a therapist profile or video and you’re ready to dive into a full session, that’s great! You do not have to go through a consultation appointment and can go ahead and schedule a regular therapy session. 

Free consultations are great if you want to test the chemistry over a short, no-commitment conversation. If you have any specific questions or hesitations, a consultation call is the time to address them. Decision fatigue is real: start with 1-3 free consultations at most, spread out over at least a week. 

Stage 3: Making A Decision & Booking Your First Session

By this stage, you have found one (or more) potential therapists that you feel drawn to, and all that’s left is to take the leap and officially start your therapy journey. 

Some words of wisdom when choosing your next therapist:

  • If you’re really struggling to choose between more than one potential therapist, then both options must be equally good – in which case, whatever decision you make will be a good one.
  • There isn’t a therapist “soulmate” out there for you to find. Statistically there are many good therapists out there that would be a great fit for you. 
  • Ask yourself: are you unsure about the therapist or are you unsure about your ability to pick the right therapist?
  • If you struggle to listen to your intuition or trust your own judgment (which therapy can address), the decision to schedule the first session with a therapist that feels right for you is progress in and of itself.

People usually feel better after booking their first therapy session, even before they’ve met with the therapist. The decision to prioritize your mental health, invest in yourself and act on what you want is empowering.

How Can I Tell If Therapy Is Working?

Firstly, you don't have to track your progress. In fact, for people with ruminating tendencies, OCD or perfectionism, trying to measure the return-on-investment of therapy can do more harm than good. For you, therapy may function as the one safe space where you don’t have to live up to expectations or achieve anything. 

But trying to figure out if therapy is working doesn't require Excel Spreadsheets or math formulas – integrating a few simple self-care practices can also serve as a check-in on how far you've come:

about your therapy sessions and the insights and challenges that surfaced during sessions can act as a time capsule and re-reading your experiences from weeks or months earlier can remind you how far you’ve really come.

Checking in with your partner, loved ones or close friends can reveal moments they've noticed a shift in you since starting therapy, reminding you not only of your inner progress, but that other people are picking up on it, too.

Congratulations on starting this new chapter of your mental health journey. If you’ve read this far, whether you’re excited or nervous (or both), you’re ready to start. Let’s find your next therapist. Visit our directory and explore our therapist profiles. The only commitment is to yourself. 


1Horvath A. O., Luborsky L. (1993). The role of the therapeutic alliance in psychotherapy. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 61, 561–573

2Horvath A. O., Symonds B. D. (1991). Relation between working alliance and outcome in psychotherapy: a meta-analysis. J. Couns. Psychol. 38, 139–149

Publicly-Funded & Community Mental Health Resources in Toronto:

Distress Centres of Greater Toronto offer free, 24/7 support to individuals in crisis and/or experiencing emotional distress. Services are available via hotline, online chat and text. 

Local Toronto offices for the Ontario Structured Psychotherapy (OSP) Program offers free, publicly-funded, short-term cognitive behavioural therapy to adults (a8 years and older) dealing with depression and anxiety. 

The City of Toronto’s Mental Health Support Strategy partnered with 31 organizations to connect residents to free mental health support. 


The government of Ontario lists a range of mental health resources available to residents:

BounceBack Ontario is a free, guided self-help program for people aged 15 and up who are experiencing mild-to-moderate anxiety or depression

ConnexOntario offers free and confidential information and resources to people experiencing problems with alcohol and drugs, mental health and/or gaming and is available 24/7.
Call: 1-866 -531-2600 or 

AbilitiCBT is an internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy (iCBT) program that is free to anyone in Ontario and can be accessed from any device, any time. 

Ontario Structured Psychotherapy (OSP) Program offers free, publicly-funded, short-term cognitive behavioural therapy to adults (a8 years and older) dealing with depression and anxiety.

211 Ontario is a helpline that easily connects people to the social services, programs and community supports they need.

Ready to talk?

Use First Session to find the right therapist for you.

Meet your new therapist

The first time I had a therapist who identified with my background, I was like, whoa, this is wild. I feel like you understand me at a level like we can skip certain steps of explanation and go right to the root of the problem.

- Hamza Khan, award-winning marketer, best-selling author, and global keynote speaker

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I see a therapist?

The frequency of sessions depends on your needs, goals and availability. It’s a great idea to start with weekly sessions as you build familiarity and trust with your therapist. You can stick to a weekly schedule, or adjust over time based on your progress and therapist’s recommendation.

Will my therapist keep everything I say confidential, even from insurance companies?

Yes, therapists are bound by confidentiality laws and ethics to keep your information private. Information shared with insurance companies is limited to what's necessary for billing, without revealing the details of your sessions.

Can therapy help even if I'm not sure what my issues are?

Absolutely. Therapy can be a space to explore your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours to uncover underlying issues. Therapists are skilled at helping you articulate and address what's troubling you, even if it's not clear at the start.

Do I need a doctor’s referral to see a therapist?

No. You do not need a doctor’s referral to see a therapist, and sessions can be booked directly online. 

Can I see a private therapist while I’m on the waitlist for publicly-funded therapy?

Absolutely - the publicly-funded and private-pay systems are not mutually exclusive, and seeing a private therapist does not change your eligibility for publicly-funded services. 

While relying solely on the public mental health system can mean long wait times and little to no choice in therapist, treatment plan or schedule, the public mental healthcare system can be a great addition to private-practice therapy, such as:

  • Beginning private therapy while waiting for a waitlist spot to see a publicly-funded psychologist, therapist or counsellor
  • Supplementing your 1:1 therapy sessions with free peer support groups in your community
  • Continuing psychiatric medications under the supervision of your family doctor, community clinic, or psychiatrist in partnership with a private-pay therapist to build the mental and emotional skills to cope, recover, and thrive. 
About the Author

First Session Editorial Team

The First Session Editorial Team, composed of seasoned researchers, writers, editors, and therapists, focuses on providing content that helps​ Canadians find the right therapist.