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How to tell if your therapist is any good; 5 policies of good therapists

A few weeks ago I friend asked me for a referral for a therapist. I was happy to provide a few recommendations and it got me thinking. How can people tell if their therapist is any good? Every therapist is a little different. So here’s a overview of the 5 key factors that give a therapist the potential to be good.

Have you ever been in counseling or therapy and been unsure if things are going right?

Things just felt unclear and you weren’t sure why. It could be that dealing with the difficult issues was harder than you thought and you’re avoiding them. Maybe you and your therapist just don’t click. Sure, she’s nice, but it doesn’t feel like she gets you. Or…. What if your therapist isn’t any good? How can you tell if he or she is why your therapy seems to be going nowhere?

Here are 5 things that effective therapist’s do:

1.)  Provide consistency. In therapy there are many unexpected turns. However, you therapist ’s fees, length of sessions, responsiveness to your e-mails, and policies should be the pretty predictable from week to week. Any changes are usually made known with ample notice.

2.)  Focus on you. Therapy is about the client and the client’s issues or concerns. Although some therapist use limited amounts of self-disclosure, it should be sparse and brief.  If a counselor is spending more than a few minutes talking about herself, she is not doing her job.

3.)  Demonstrate openness and comfortability with feelings. This means that if you cry or become upset your therapist allows you to sit with those uncomfortable feelings, rather than trying to get you to stop crying and reassure you.  (This also depends on how long intense the crying is: hyperventilating, etc.)

4.)  Let you set the pace. Some people are in counseling for a few sessions and others for a several years. Each person works at his own pace to heal or gain understanding in his life. You should dictate when it is time to make changes in your life, not your therapist.

5.)  Establish trust. In order for a helpful relationship to be established in counseling it is crucial that there is a strong sense of trust between the therapist and the client. Without trust therapy has little value. When you work with a good therapist you should feel safe, respected and accepted.

There are many other things that good therapist do to help people improve their lives. This is list just give the basics of what you to expect from a quality counselor. If your therapist is not doing one or more these chances are you won’t find therapy very helpful. On the other hand, if your counselor is doing all of these and you feel like your therapy isn’t going anywhere it may be time to consider the other two causes listed above: you’re not ready/open, or the two do you can’t seem to connect despite mutual effort.

What are the good or bad experiences you’ve had with a therapist?


  1. Hi Amber!
    You have five good things good therapists do, but I think you missed the most important factor as to whether or not a therapist is any good. Good therapists have had at least 5-10 years of their own personal therapy. Better therapists have had 10-15 years of therapy. The really great therapists have had 15+ years of therapy.
    Why does this make such a difference? Would you want to go to a service provider -of any kind -who didn’t believe in his or her own service enough to use it? Would you want to go to a therapist who was arrogant enough to believe he or she didn’t need therapy? I wouldn’t suggest it. When prospective clients call me and are “shopping” for a therapist, this is what I tell them. IMHO, the therapist’s own therapy history is the main factor in determining how well he or she will be able to help you. When you’ve experienced being helped, then you can help.
    All my best,

  2. Good list – while healing I tried a hypnotherapist plus 3 person centred-counsellors – all but 1 of the counsellors I found met those criteria; that lady was a bit over-challenging. The third counsellor I’ve stuck with for several years. At one time I had what was diagnosed as ‘complex OCD’; 27 obsessions; 14 phobias; panic attacks and depression. The most important thing I found through counselling was that someone else found what I was feeling acceptable to be around while it gave me the screaming heebie-jeebies. Gradually I thought ‘if she finds it acceptable maybe I can too’. And I also learned, through her mild challenges, I had been ignoring my earlier emotional signals which eventually led to my emotional disorders.

    In reply to Eddie’s comment I’d agree to an extent – but in the UK all person centred counsellors have to undertake regular counselling sessions themselves as a part of their professional development. If they don’t access counselling support they aren’t allowed to practice.

  3. I read this paragraph fully on the topic of the comparison of most recent and earlier technologies, it’s amazing article.

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