Picking the right therapist for your specific concerns can feel daunting. This list is designed to help you assess your therapy experience and feel more confident in who you choose to move forward this. While counselors are humans and make mistakes all the time, there are some people who practice as therapists who aren’t professionally prepared or emotionally ready to be in the role.
Here are some helpful indicators for assessing whether or not a therapist is a good a fit for you or not:
While it’s important to have a good connection with your therapist, if it feels more like a friendship than a professional relationship, you may want to ask yourself: do I need another friend, or do I need a guide?
From time to time, it can be effective in therapy for a therapist to share a story from their own life. (This is professionally called self-disclosure.) Be aware that this type of intervention needs to be used sparingly.
Specific issues certainly require specific training. It’s important to know if your therapist has received specific training beyond their masters or doctorate degree in the issues you are addressing.
While therapy is certainly a supportive environment, support alone rarely produces the change that clients are seeking. If your therapist doesn’t directly (also respectfully and kindly) challenge you, they may not have the strength and insight to help you.
A good therapist never tells people what to do or judges them for it. They work with the client to face the reality of their life and they support them to incorporate the changes they can make.
If you are seeing a therapist who you feel doesn’t listen to you, they probably don’t. Certainly if they are texting/emailing in session, clock watching, or seem preoccupied, you know they aren’t listening. Similarly, if after a few sessions, they don’t recall major things you’ve shared with them, they likely can’t help you.
One of the cornerstones of therapy is confidentiality. Outside of some very specific situations, (all mandated by the law) a therapist should never break your confidentially.
If your therapist consistently starts late or can’t end a session on time, or even forgets your appointments, this is a sign of a lack of professionalism or worse, unhealthy attachment. It’s also a great sign that you need to find another person to help you.
Part of receiving good therapy is being in a safe and professional environment. When this doesn’t happen, it can be disruptive and become a roadblock to the change you are seeking.
If your therapist finds it hard to talk with you directly about money/insurance needs, this is a sign of a lack of experience or professionalism.
If you have confronted your therapist about any of these things and they were defensive, you need to be on guard. It’s always okay to tell your therapist what’s not working for you. If they cant adjust their approach and or take the feedback you are giving, then you know you need to move on to someone else.
Stephen James, MA, LPC-MHSP, NCC, is the Executive Director of Sage Hill Counseling in Nashville, TN. He is also a best-selling author of five books, including Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys. He is active in training other mental health professionals as well as to speaking to audiences around the country on the topics of living fully, servant leadership, family relationships, and spiritual authenticity.