Finding a mental health therapist can be daunting.
You may have already met with a few therapists and none of them were a good fit, so you’re nervous to start over again. It’s understandable to feel worn down by the process, but finding a therapist you resonate with is truly life-changing, so the search is worth it.
The best way to know if a therapist is a good fit for you is to experience at least one session with them. Therapists are human, just like you, so they bring their unique personality and style to their therapeutic approach.
Beyond personality, all great therapists demonstrate the following eight qualities.
1. A Great Therapist Rarely Gives Advice
It may come as a surprise, but great therapists rarely give advice. This is because telling you what to do would make you dependent on their advice every time you face a challenge. Instead, great therapists create a trusting therapeutic relationship that encourages growth and processing, so you can build the awareness needed to make your own decisions.
2. A Great Therapist is Present
Great therapists give you their full attention. They are not distracted with the clock or their phone. You can tell that they are paying close attention to what you say, and they keep the discussion focused on you, not them.
3. A Great Therapist Spends Time On Your “Why”
Before teaching you techniques for managing your struggles, a great therapist will spend time helping both of you better understand the root of your issues. Rather than quickly suggesting strategies that serve as band-aids, they help you see why your struggles arose in the first place, which will help both of you determine strategies that bring long-term healing, not just symptom management.
4. A Great Therapist is Structured Yet Flexible
Some weeks you may need a session that’s simply 50 minutes of venting. That can be healing and necessary at times. However, a great therapist will guide your conversations most of the time, so the conversation is rooted in your treatment goals, to keep you on track.
5. A Great Therapist Gently Challenges You
Once a great therapist has created a trusting relationship between you two, they will gently challenge you when necessary. For example, if there is a contradiction between what you want in life and how you’re behaving, your therapist will gently point this out and help you begin to change, so you can reach your goals.
6. A Great Therapist Helps You Feel What You Need to Feel
It’s not necessary (or even helpful) to feel good after every therapy session. A great therapist will help you express and manage any emotions in a safe way, whether that is grief, anger, joy, or any other unacknowledged feelings. Experiencing a wide range of emotions means you are digging deep during your sessions and getting to the root of your struggles. This isn’t easy stuff, so it’s natural to feel unpleasant at times, but if you leave most sessions feeling unpleasant, it may be time to find a different therapist.
7. A Great Therapist’s Goal is to Help You No Longer Need Therapy
A great therapist knows that their job is to help you grow so much that you no longer need their guidance. After all, the point of therapy is not to continue forever! The point is to facilitate change, help you establish and maintain healthy relationships, and build the skills necessary to confidently handle challenges moving forward.
8. A Great Therapist Respects and Supports You
Most importantly, a great therapist will make you feel heard, supported, respected, and loved unconditionally. Trust your gut here. Do you feel safe being honest with them? Are your feelings treated with care? Do they help you see things in a new perspective? If the answer is yes, then you have a terrific therapist.
If you haven’t found a great therapist yet, keep these eight signs in mind during your search. Start by setting up an initial appointment with one or two therapists and see how comfortable you feel with them. Don’t rush the process. There are plenty of great therapists out there who would love to help you!
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