Alec Wilson, PsyD, Individual and Couples Therapist - Portland Oregon

Therapist Portland Oregon Individual Couples

Portland Therapists—Find a Great Match.

portland therapists

Portland Therapists.

As of 2018, there are over 1000 Portland therapists in our city to choose from.  In this article I discuss:

1)  The concept of a good therapy match. How do you know if you’ve found the right therapist for you? Plus three helpful interviewing strategies. 

2)  Popular search engines useful for researching Portland therapists in your area. Who has the right expertise and whose office can you walk to from work or from home?

3)  Portland therapy centers and clinics. Which Portland therapy centers and counseling clinics do you have access to?

4)  Portland therapists in private practice. Why do many people choose to work with individual practitioners?

5) Pros and cons of using health insurance, and the difference between in-network and out-of-network coverage for therapy sessions.

Hi, I’m Dr. Alec Wilson, a Portland psychologist in private practice.  I’ve worked as a therapist, consultant, and coach since 2008, with a focus on couples therapy and relationship issues, lifestyle design/self-actualization, communication training and assertiveness, small business development, career advancement, and overcoming tough transitions.  To learn more about me and my approach to counseling, explore my Portland therapy practice website at, or my blog site at —the latter hosts my book on lifestyle design by the same name.

Let’s dive into the five topics outlined above.

#1:  How to find the best Portland therapist for the issues you’re interested in.

These days, most people searching for a therapist know they’re supposed to find a “good therapeutic match.”  But what is a good match?

From the client side, I assess a good match in three ways:  Expertise, Archetype, and Vibe. 

  • Expertise means the therapist has specialized training in the area you’re looking for help with. You don’t hire a painter to roof your house, and you probably shouldn’t hire a child psychologist to help you improve your relationship, recover from a breakup, or get your new business off the ground.
  • Archetype is an interesting one. Here’s an easy way to think about it:  When you imagine a great therapist for you do you think of them in a Peer Role, a Parent Role, or a Grandparent Role?  The Peer Archetype is supportive and the teaching aspects of therapy are collaborative.  Therapy tends to move quickly.  The Parent Archetype is supportive and teaching aspects are didactic.  Therapy tends to move at a medium pace.  The Grandparent Archetype is supportive and the teaching aspects are gentle.  Therapy tends to move more slowly.  Note:  There’s no right or wrong when it comes to archetypes, and archetypes have nothing to do with the therapist’s age!  They have to do with the therapist’s style and dynamics.  Each of the archetypes is supportive.  If you want an interactive and collaborative experience with a fast pace, you might benefit from a therapist with a Peer style.  If you’re recovering from a trauma, for example, and need a softer, slower approach, the Grandparent Archetype might work best for you.
  • Vibe may be the most important quality for therapeutic match. Vibe is your felt sense that your therapist gets you as a person.  You might not feel perfectly relaxed upon first meeting your new prospective therapist, but you should have some sense that the two of you operate in a similar reality.  You should sense, at a minimum, that they are authentic and warm.

Here are three interviewing strategies that will help you find the best Portland therapist for you:

  • Don’t shop for a therapist like you shop for a used car. In other words, don’t get online, make a list of the 20 best Portland therapists, call all of them, and set up 20 consults.  This will wear you out, you’ll second-guess yourself, and you won’t know a good match when you find one.  After all, you have 15 consults left on your calendar, why stop now?  This is similar to the problem people encounter with online dating sites.  Decision fatigue and comparison traps keep them from making connections.  Instead, make a list of your top 5 therapists and schedule one consult at a time.  You will know a connection when you feel it.
  • Meet in person for your consult whenever possible. If you’re willing to invest in real personal growth, don’t do your consults over the phone unless you absolutely have to.  I know you’re busy, and I know blocking out time for a 15-minute in-person consult can feel like a hassle, but seriously, therapy is an investment in yourself.  Talk to prospective therapists face-to-face.  Shake their hands, get a feel for their offices, look them in the eye.  You’ll be glad you did.
  • Remember that the concept of therapeutic match works both ways. Good therapists don’t take every client that walks through their door, they take the ones they feel a match with.  So do your 50% of the work to make a human connection.  I’m not saying you have to be perfect for your therapist!  One of the first things I teach my own clients is that they don’t have to be anything for me.  They can be sad, angry, powerful, afraid, successful, however they feel.  What I’m saying is, go to your consult with your questions ready, and having put some quality thought into what you want to work on.  Go with an idea of what a great therapy outcome looks like for you.

#2: Popular Search Engines for Finding Portland Therapists. 

There are two major online search engines for locating Portland therapists in your neighborhood, and in my opinion one is head and shoulders above the other.

The two big engines are and You can check them both out, but the one I recommend is  In terms of membership, it’s the most comprehensive.  Both sites allow you to search by zip code so you can find a therapist that’s close to work or home.

To find Portland therapists in your area you can also do a simple Google or Bing search, just as you would for anything else.  However, it’s important to keep in mind that this search will yield exclusively large clinic websites (on page one, at least) as search engines rank those big sites as the most important.  As I’ll discuss below, there are some great reasons to consider working with an independent practitioner in private practice, rather than an employee associated with a hospital or clinic.

#3:  Portland Therapy Centers and Clinics. 

There are many Portland therapy centers and clinics to choose from, ranging from community mental health centers to therapy clinics that specialize in specific issues like couples therapy or treatment of anxiety. 

  • Lifeworks Northwest
  • Columbia Community Mental Health
  • Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare
  • Wise Counsel and Comfort
  • Portland Therapy Center
  • Portland Psychotherapy Clinic
  • Family Ties Counseling Center
  • Portland Anxiety Clinic
  • Portland Therapy Solutions
  • Portland Couples Counseling Center
  • The Couples Clinic of Portland

#4:  So, with all these clinics and therapy centers available, why do many choose to work with individual Portland therapists in private practice?

 For three main reasons:

  • Private practice selects for the best practitioners. As in any field, the first thing many talented therapists do is cut out the middleman. They want to set their own schedule, choose their own office, work with their client population of choice, and make the principle payment rather than a cut.  As a client, this is exactly what you want!  You want the best therapist your money can buy, and when half of your payment is going to the clinic owner, that’s not happening.  The therapy market is competitive, private practitioners without real skills don’t last long.  And just like any other business, the therapy business is measured by the value provided to the client.  Good value results in good client outcomes, trust, and referrals.
  • Therapists in private practice are less likely to be overworked and are frequently less stressed than their peers in clinics and counseling centers. You’ve heard the truism, “See your therapist on Monday.”  This is often said and commonly believed for good reason:  Overworked therapists who see too many clients get empathy fatigue and are no longer able to do good work, especially toward the end of the week.  Therapists can’t make a connection with you and concentrate on your issues, if they’re worn out and concentrating on their own.  Personally, I see four clients a day.  Two, an hour break for lunch or dinner, and two.  That’s a great schedule!  Imagine working with a therapist who routinely sees six, seven, or even eight clients a day.  That’s the business model at many clinics.  It’s not sustainable to do good work under those conditions.
  • Therapists and psychologists in private practice can give more personalized service. Many therapists in private practice work 1-2 evenings a week to accommodate clients’ schedules.  In addition, you may find your private practice therapist amenable to phone or video-chat sessions if you’re out of town and need a meeting. 

#5:  Health insurance. Pros and Cons, and the difference between in-network and out-of-network coverage for therapy sessions. 

The pro of using insurance for therapy is obvious, it can help cover the cost of your sessions.  However, if you use insurance it’s important to be aware of these facts:

  • Insurance companies require a mental health diagnosis to cover therapy sessions.
  • Your mental health diagnosis becomes part of your permanent health record that all your current and future medical practitioners can see.
  • Your insurer has access to your therapy file, should they request it.

In-network providers are those who have signed up to work with the insurer’s administrative/bureaucratic back-end, typically an online system used to submit claims and case notes, track billing, etc.  Out-of-network therapists provide a receipt to clients that contains all the info they need to fill out a simple, one-page insurance form to submit for reimbursement.  It’s important to know that most insurers have coverage for out-of-network therapists, especially out-of-network psychologists.  Check with your insurer to learn the specifics of your plan.

If your search is for a Portland therapist with expertise in one or more of these areas:

  • Relationship Issues:  Couples Therapy, Couples Communication, Single Life, Dating, Navigating Productive Separations, Breakup/Divorce Recovery, and Affair Recovery.
  • Self-Actualization/Lifestyle Design:  Work/Life Balance, Passive Income Development, Travel and Adventure, Small Business Development, Creativity, Leadership, and issues of Meaning and Freedom.
  • Overcoming Tough Transitions:  Location Change, Career Change, Situational Depression or Anxiety, and issues related to Life Arc or “Next Chapter.”

Please feel free to email me.  Email is the best way to schedule with me, I can usually respond within a few hours.  We’ll set up a free consult or first session, and I look forward to meeting you.


Phone: (503) 757-6259

Office:  3050 SE Division, Suite 260, Portland, OR  (In the ‘D Street’ building.)