Almost half of all Americans will suffer from mental illness at some point in their life. Finding a good therapist can be a lifeline in times of need and it could be one of the most important, personal decisions you will ever make.
Mental health services, especially psychotherapy is not a “one-size-fits-all” service. So how can you be sure you found a good therapist?
Well, there are a few signs that can tell you whether the therapist you are seeing, is right for you. Read on to see if you have got the right professional in your corner.
1. Do you feel listened to?
Do you feel like the therapist focuses intently and listens to what you are saying? Do they consider what you are saying and process it in a way that makes you feel understood? This is perhaps the most important element in finding a therapist that truly listens to you and your needs. If you do not feel heard and seen, you will be less likely to open and process difficult emotions.
2. Do you feel safe?
During your first three-sessions, have you noticed your body reacting in any way? Have you felt uneasy at any time? Do you feel anxious about meeting with them again after three sessions? In all fairness, some patients do have post-traumatic stress disorder which can make you feel unsafe around your therapist and other people in general. Do not use this as a barometer for whether you should move forward. Instead, look towards any signs that you do feel safe, before deciding.
3. Do you feel like they really care about you?
This is more fundamentally important than you can imagine. A good therapist really connects with their client. Therapy is a relationship and a good therapist will make you feel like you matter, and you are important. If you have a therapist that cannot do that, I am suggesting they may not be the right person to work with.
4. Do they answer your questions?
It is not reasonable to assume a therapist can answer every single question you may have, but they should be able to answer most of them. If you feel like for the most part your questions are answered to a satisfactory level, even if you disagree with their answers, then it is a safe bet you can continue working with them.
5. Do they become unnecessarily defensive?
This is a huge red flag. Defensiveness in a therapist could indicate covert narcissism. However, it could also mean they are new, inexperienced, dealing with insecurities, or have other problems. Keep in mind, not everything is pathological. If a therapist gets unnecessarily defensive or seems angry, it might be a good indication you should continue your search.
6. Ask them to do something for you and see how they respond.
If you say to your therapist, “I really want you to listen to what I have to say and help me understand why so many people seem to treat me like I am invisible,” they should answer with compassion, but pay attention to their response. You should also feel confident and unafraid when asking them a question. If they pull the, what we would call the Carl Rogers response (the father of client-centered psychotherapy), and say “Well, how do you feel about it, what do you think?” that is the standard response. However, it could make you feel even worse. So, be sure to ask plenty of questions and listen up to how they respond and feel your reaction to it.
7. Ask them to consider reading a book and see how they respond.
I think it is completely reasonable to ask your therapist to consider reading a book. I also think it is legitimate for a therapist to say, “Well, I do not have time to read another book, but thank you for the suggestion anyway!” What is more important is how they react to the question. The reason for this is if you subscribe to a person’s work and it is core to your understanding of yourself, then your therapist should show genuine interest in learning more. A better answer might be, “Well, that sounds interesting, while I might not be able to read the book, I would love to find out more about the book through your point of view.”
8. Flexibility and availability with their schedule.
Schedule flexibility is important in any therapist-client relationship. Sometimes timing is not the fault of the therapist but simply is an inability to meet your needs. If your therapist cannot give you any scheduled meetings that work with your schedule, it might be a good idea to move forward. While off times are important for any professional, if they consistently take time off for holidays or vacations, it might not be the right fit for you. The more acute your situation is, the more time you will need to work with your therapist.
9. Over-charging or too high of fees.
This one is tough money and costs are a sticking point.
Good therapists are worth their weight in gold, and there are reasonable ranges of costs for good therapists. Some therapists who do not accept insurance will range from $100 to $200, at least in Illinois. And the cost goes lower in some parts of the United States and higher in others. But sometimes people get ahead of themselves and they charge more than they should be charging. And if they charge too much and do not deliver the quality of therapy they profess to offer, their business is likely to go nowhere.
10. When the therapist discloses too much personal information.
Do they talk too much? Or, do they disclose too much personal information? Do they relate to what you are saying by including their own stories, with statements like “oh yeah, the same thing happened to me”? Self-disclosure is often used as a strong therapy technique because it can make the client feel understood and connected too. However, when it is overused, it is a boundary violation. It is very important that therapists have appropriate boundaries. Therapy is a relationship, but not a friendship.
Use these signs to figure out whether a therapist is a right fit for you. Your healing could depend on the choice you make.
To learn more about how to find the right psychotherapist for you, check out the video seminar: The Buyers Guide to Psychotherapy.
For more information on Ross’s resources visit: Self-Love Recovery Institute
Ross Rosenberg M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, is the owner of Self-Love Recovery Institute. He is a psychotherapist, educator, expert witness and author. Ross is known globally for his expertise in codependency (Self-Love Deficit Disorder™), Pathological Narcissism, Narcissistic Abuse and Trauma Treatment.
He is a keynote speaker and educator who has presented in 30 States/70 cities and abroad. Ross has been regularly featured on national TV and radio. His “The Human Magnet Syndrome” books sold over 120K copies and are translated into 10 languages. His YouTube Channel has amassed 19 million video views and 210K subscribers.