A great therapist generally won’t be like the stereotypical psychologist character that is often portrayed in movies. Therapy involves much more than venting to a listening ear, and your therapist should offer more feedback than repeatedly asking you, “So, how do you feel about that?” If you’ve been “shopping around” for a therapist or you’re wondering if your current therapist is right for you, first ask yourself two questions:
If you find yourself hesitating to answer yes to either question, it would be best for you to find a different therapist. Even therapists are imperfect, so they may not communicate well with you, your personalities can clash, or you may simply not like them--and that’s OK. However, if you answered yes to both questions, you’re off to a good start! Keep reading to see if your therapist is the perfect fit for you.
Most people would assume that all therapists are naturally good listeners because it’s such a huge part of their job. Sadly, some therapists can be distracted or unfocused when talking to their clients. Some patients have even reported that their therapist fell asleep during an appointment! If your therapist makes phone calls, texts, or eats meals during your session, these are warning signs that they’re not entirely focused on you.
You will know your therapist is a good listener if:
Accepting and Non-judgemental
You should never feel ashamed or afraid of being judged during therapy. Your therapist shouldn’t make you feel like you need to lie about your feelings, or cause you to fear disclosing “too much” during your appointment. If your therapist makes hurtful or judgemental comments that leave you feeling worse, it’s time to find a more compassionate therapist.
A good therapist will help you feel accepted by building trust with you, and approaching sensitive topics carefully. They should display empathy and be able to understand things from your point of view. Once you’re comfortable with opening up more to your therapist, they should ask you non-judgemental questions about the event to fully understand what happened so they have the knowledge they need to help you cope and heal.
Help You Implement Change
Making changes in your thinking habits or daily life can be really challenging, which lots of people might not realize. Therapy isn’t just a weekly appointment to update your therapist on how your week is going! A good therapist will give you the tools you need to start making positive changes in your life. For example, if you’re dealing with a mental illness, your therapist should work with you to identify specific goals you want to reach (i.e. challenge a negative thought daily), and teach you healthy coping skills. Your therapist should give you “homework” to do every week and ask you how it went at the following session.
If a few sessions go by and you haven’t talked about setting goals yet, ask your therapist to help you begin setting reasonable goals for your treatment. But remember: your therapist shouldn’t be telling you what to do, either. They can offer their advice or perspective, but in the end, all goals and decisions should be up to you.
Knowledgeable About Current Research
A good therapist should be up-to-date about the latest breakthroughs in treatments, new terminology, or changes in the DSM. Their sessions should be based upon proven scientific studies that have been shown to help people, such as using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Great therapists usually read books about psychology, attend conferences, or even take more training courses to stay knowledgeable.
The ways a therapist helps you should all be based on facts. Noam Shpancer, Ph.D., writes, “Good therapy does not contradict or ignore sound scientific data, knowledge, or evidence.” So if your therapist promises that the treatment is guaranteed to help you or says they can “change” your personality, it would be wise to look for a new therapist.
Where to Find a Good Therapist
At Oakville Wellness Center, we understand how frustrating it can be when you can’t find the right therapist for your needs, so we made the process easier for you. On our website, you can view the profiles and specialties of qualified therapists before scheduling a session, and you can even book an appointment online.