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This article has been reviewed for accuracy by John Cottrell, Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Medical Disclaimer: The information and recommendations on our site do not constitute a medical consultation. See a certified medical professional for diagnosis.
Attending therapy is perhaps the most common scenario for people experiencing psychological issues. Whether it be a past trauma or finding that their life is spiraling out of control, it is important to remember that therapy will not always solve everything. Sometimes, you might get a wonderful therapist for your needs, and sometimes you might get the polar opposite. However, detecting signs that things aren’t working out with your therapist will save you a lot of money and time.
You’ll know your therapist is a good fit if they are sympathetic with your problems; therapists are there to listen and give helpful insight. If you find that your therapist becomes disinterested with you and gives you extremely generic responses, then it simply isn’t worth pursuing further.
It can be frustrating to get a therapist that simply isn’t working out, especially with how much therapy can cost these days, but that’s why we are here today to discuss how you can tell if your therapist is a good fit or not in the early stages. We will discuss this topic’s ins and outs, so if you would like to learn more, we encourage you to keep on reading.
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What Is Therapy Supposed to Accomplish?
Before we understand how to detect a good therapist, we have to understand just what therapy is supposed to accomplish after everything is said and done.
Therapy is essentially a safe space where you can spill the beans about everything going on without worrying about whether you’ll be judged or be a burden to someone else. The therapists themselves are trained and there specifically to listen to everything you have to say for the amount of time scheduled, and so their full attention (is supposed to) be on you.
Going to therapy is supposed to help people learn new coping methods, take a weight off their shoulders, and receive advice on how to solve their problems. And if a client asks, they can get their therapists’ opinion on the matter.
The end goal of therapy is to be fulfilled and better equipped to handle what you are going through and perhaps tackle your goals. However long this takes varies from person to person, some see a therapist for 2-3 weeks while others see the same therapist for years.
How To Know If Your Therapist Is a Good Fit
Generally, clients will have a gut feeling in them if they feel like therapy isn’t working out for them, specifically if the therapist they are seeing is “off” to them. There are five questions to ask yourself to decide if you should cut ties with your current therapist or work through things. In the meantime, we suggest considering coping methods in-between sessions; it can be as small as drinking the right tea or taking some time in the morning for some mindfulness meditation.
Is Your Therapist Likeable?
This is perhaps one of the most important things to consider. If you are sitting in a room and discussing touchy topics with someone for an hour, they at least have to be someone who you are comfortable with and has a good personality. Otherwise, you are much less likely to discuss the important details in fear of judgment or a negative reaction.
Therapists are not there to judge you; in fact, part of the reason you are paying and going is to be in a judgment-free zone. If you are having intrusive thoughts, for example, and want to share what you are going through, your therapist is NOT supposed to make sly remarks about it, rather try to understand and help you.
A therapist that seems grumpy, irritated, or judgmental is not a good fit for anybody. And so, if you are uncomfortable with your therapist, that is a sign to cut things off.
Does Your Therapist Have the Expertise To Help Your Problems?
Sometimes a therapist might be thrown a wild card that they are not prepared for, this does not automatically mean that they are bad at their job per se, but therapists will listen to everything under the sun, and some issues can be much more complex than others.
Someone a bit newer to the field might still be exploring new problems that clients face and may not have the expertise for a specific topic, whether that be because it is very uncommon or an extremely severe and complex topic.
Unfortunately, some people discover this reality and have to bounce around through multiple therapists before landing one who’s right for their needs. But you can detect if things are working out or not early on if you find that your therapist is struggling to come up with good insight or seems disinterested in your topic.
How Does Your Therapist Approach Their Clients?
Therapists will approach clients differently than others, but this isn’t an indicator of how good they are. It’s just how they do things, and certain clients may not be compatible with a therapist based on this alone.
Some therapists are very active during sessions, meaning that they almost have conversations with their clients throughout the ordeal. Some people love this, while others want to talk about their issues with little interruption. It’s important to ask yourself which boat you fall in.
Many therapists are flexible, so if you would like your psychologist to engage with you more or sit back and listen, you can say so. If your therapist is trustworthy and likable, then it is certainly worth working with them to tailor the experience to your needs rather than starting from scratch.
How Available Is Your Therapist?
Some problems will require frequent therapy, particularly extreme problems in most cases. For this, you will need to be aware of the availability of your therapist. Most therapists are available for once a week sessions. However, some people might need frequent sessions, and thus bringing this up early on, the first day even, is crucial.
Are Their Rates Reasonable for Your Budget?
This isn’t discussed enough; it’s easy to say someone needs professional help, but don’t consider the financial aspect.
Therapists in the U.S charge on average $80 per session and most do not accept insurance due to how much time and paperwork they need to go through to accommodate clients that have it. The reality is that many people can’t afford the standard rates, especially if they are getting therapy for financial stress.
While therapy can be beneficial, if you find that weekly $80+ sessions aren’t within your budget, don’t hurt yourself financially. There are other ways to receive therapy for a smaller cost. One way that is becoming increasingly popular nowadays is online therapy, which can be quite cheaper depending on your needs. You can check out a comparison between two popular online therapy platforms here.
Additionally, you can look into sliding scale therapists—this method of therapy charges based on what the client can afford. The lower the income you take in, the less you will pay for each session.
Local support groups can also be an option for you if you are okay with forgoing traditional, individual therapy. Support groups allow you to connect with others who are experiencing similar problems to you. Depending on your issue and your comfort level of sharing with multiple people, this could be an excellent idea.
There are several questions to ask yourself to determine if your therapist is right for you; some of the major things to think about, such as if you are truly comfortable with your therapist, are vital towards your recovery. Therapy should feel like a safe space to confront your problems and work through them, and you are going to need a compatible therapist to make this a reality.
If you would like more insight into this topic, we’ve linked a video below exploring things from another perspective.
John Cottrell, Ph.D., is a yoga instructor and certified yoga therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. He has been teaching yoga since 2000. John is originally from Oakland, California, earning his Master of Science and Ph.D. from Pacific Graduate School of Psychology in Palo Alto, California. His clinical practice led him to child and adolescent psychotherapy, drug and alcohol treatment, psychological and neuropsychological testing, and group/couples therapy. John continues his devotion to sharing health and well-being through his business, mbody. He offers private and group yoga classes, yoga therapy, workshops, retreats, written yoga articles, and a men’s yoga clothing line.