How to Choose a Therapist?

A good therapist:


  • Puts you at ease. The therapist should take responsibility for creating a warm, nurturing, and safe environment for therapy in which you feel supported and held. A good therapist challenges you when necessary, while maintaining a general environment of acceptance.


  • Encourages you to shop around for the right therapist. he or she knows the importance of feeling comfortable with your therapist and encourages you to look around for a therapist with whom you feel you can connect.


  • Provides you with clear office policies. These should include the limits of confidentiality, client rights, and what to do in an emergency. You should be able to ask for copies of all office policies.


  • Maintains clear and healthy boundaries. Although the therapist should be flexible, and approachable, it is important that they consistently maintain appropriate boundaries with every client. There should be no sexual overtures, no business offers, and no touching (hugging, etc.) that makes you feel uncomfortable.


  • Addresses the possibility of seeing you outside the sessions. The world can be a very small place, and it is likely, even in large cities, that you and your therapist will run into one another outside of the session. The therapist should hold your confidentiality and privacy as paramount, and give you specific information about how you can expect them to respond to these situations. It is important that you do not end up feeling uncomfortable due to accidentally running into him outside of the session.


  • Is Emotionally Healthy. You want a therapist that feels good about himself/herself. Look for someone who appears to feel at ease and confident. Although look out for arrogance, depression, or nervousness. These can impede the therapeutic relationship and impact the benefit of therapy.


  • Presents as professional, knowledgeable, and experienced in what they do. A competent therapist can guide you as you deal with really difficult issues facilitating the process for you.


  • Does not see themselves as better than you. The therapist should always be respectful and decent, and never condescending. You want a therapist who does not demean or belittle, but treats you much as an equal.


  • Has the training and education to treat you. It is important that you choose a therapist who has been through the relevant educational and training process that provides them with the skills and the resources needed to help you with what you are going through. Look for those trained in both theory and practice of “talking therapies”.


  • Fits the clinical approach to the client. The therapist should not try to fit the client to his preferred clinical approach. No matter how great one approach works, it will not work for all clients. A good therapist is flexible and works to figure out what works with each person and move forward from there.


  • Is engaged in the session and interested in what you have to say.  It is important that you don’t feel like your therapist is aloof and disengaged.


  • Lets you explain your issues as you experience them. He or she will respect your feelings, limits, thoughts, points of view, beliefs and goals. They will show you that they are interested in getting to know you and how you think and feel rather than believe they know you already.


  • Listens to your thoughts about your therapy. Your therapist should be open to your feedback regarding the therapy. Therapy can be difficult, and at times you may become frustrated with the whole process, it is important that you are able to discuss these feelings with your therapist.


  • Reviews these issues without getting defensive. Therapists should be open to clients making informed decisions about their service providers. Someone who is reluctant to discuss these issues may not meet the criteria of being your therapist.


Taken from and slightly modified from Erin Johnston’s L.C.S.W article, former About.com Guide, “What to Look For When Choosing a Therapist” Updated April 15, 2007

About.com Health’s Disease and Condition content is reviewed by the Medical Review Board

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