12 Signs Of A Good Therapist (And 5 Red Flags To Watch For)

A therapist is sitting down writing notes

One of the hardest parts of going to therapy for me was just deciding when it was time and I felt I actually needed (read wanted) the help.  

I find that humans have this inherent need to want to be as independent as possible. So many of us are so resistant to asking for help when we really need it, that we just put our heads down and soldier on, after all, one of the largest things pushing us forward is our survival mechanism. 

But if you have made it past the stage of deciding you want to go to therapy, how do you really know that the therapist you have selected is a good one? 

Luckily there are several signs of a good therapist that you can be on the lookout for.

12 Signs of a good therapist

1) They hear what you are saying 

This one seems extremely straightforward, right? You are paying a therapist to sit there and listen to you talk. 

However, listening, and actually comprehending and processing what you are saying are two completely different things.  

There is nothing worse than pouring your heart out to someone, and having them constantly checking the time, zoning out, or just waiting for their turn to speak. 

For the most part, you can usually tell when someone is actively listening to you, and when they are just quietly letting you speak and waiting for their turn. 

A good therapist will let you know that not only are they listening to you, but they are making the effort to understand what you are saying, and why you are trying to say it. 

2) You trust them 

Studies show that trust is one of the most important factors when it comes to a good patient-client relationship. After all, how do you share the most vulnerable parts of yourself with someone if you don’t feel you are able to trust them? 

Some signs that you are starting to trust someone are: 

  • you feel safe around them 
  • you feel they acknowledge your boundaries 
  • you feel respected 
  • you feel comfortable speaking your mind around them 

3) They care about you and want what is best for you 

You can usually tell when people actually want what is best for you, primarily when it doesn’t serve their own interests.  

I remember during one of my first appointments, I could tell my therapist was so distressed by some of what I was telling her I had experienced. At the end of the appointment, she actually got up and hugged me and told me how strong I was for going through what I did.  

I could tell that she actually cared about me, and wasn’t just putting on some show. 

And I know if for some reason I told her I didn’t want to see her anymore, or that I felt I found another therapist that better supported my needs, she would support that too, even if it meant she was losing me as a client.   

4) They validate you 

There is something special about getting validation when you go to therapy. If you have been before, you will know exactly what I mean.  

Having your therapist validate your feelings, thoughts, and emotions is so comforting.  

That doesn’t mean they agree with everything you say or do, it just means they understand and acknowledge those things. 

5) They check in with you often 

A good therapist should be checking often to make sure you are still getting the most out of therapy, and that you are okay after previous sessions. 

They should be ensuring you aren’t getting too overwhelmed, and evaluating how you are feeling about your current treatments so that they know if they need to adjust something or try something new that may be a better fit for you. 

6) They are okay with being challenged  

This doesn’t mean that you feel you know more than your therapist, but if you speak your mind about something you feel isn’t working, or if you feel a boundary was crossed, or if there is something you don’t agree with, they should be able to take your criticism and listen to you.  

If it hurts their ego, or their feelings get hurt and you feel like you can no longer express yourself, they might not be the right fit for you. 

7) They are great at communicating 

While a good therapist should spend a considerable amount of time listening to you, they should also be an active participant in your therapy and should be able to explain concepts and strategies to you in terms that you can understand and take action on.  

They should also be asking questions to make sure they fully understand what you are saying, or to help you self-reflect in ways you haven’t before. 

8) They provide you with a range of useful tools 

Therapy is not easy. At times it is painful, exhausting, and a struggle.  

A good therapist should provide you with the resources and tools that you need to work through all of that and grow and heal in a healthy and positive way. 

9) They are okay with pivoting 

That being said, if something in therapy is not a good fit for you, or just doesn’t seem to be working, a good therapist should be able to try something else, and provide new techniques and solutions, until they find something that is a better fit for you. 

And if they are stumped, they should be willing to reach out to a colleague or educate themselves on something else to help you. 

10) You feel like they are on your side 

One of the best things I love about therapy is that no matter what I am going through, I don’t really feel like I am going through things alone. 

For example, if I had a stressful day at work, I know that my therapist will be there to listen and support me if I feel the need to talk to her about it. It is the same when I am facing challenges at work, she has been there to support me and actively be able to give me solutions. 

A good therapist should feel like they are a valuable team member that will not let you down. 

11) You can notice the positive changes from working with them 

Although it can take some time to notice a difference from therapy, especially if you have a lot to work through at first, you should eventually be able to notice a positive difference in yourself.  

According to the APA, for half of the people that seek therapy, it can take an average of 15 to 20 therapy sessions for them to see a resolution of their symptoms.  

But of course, that is completely dependent on the types of therapy, personal experiences, needs, and goals. 

12) You feel hopeful 

One of the most important signs of if a therapist is a good fit for you or not is if you feel hopeful about your sessions with them. 

Maybe you aren’t seeing instant growth, or a change in your symptoms right away, but do you feel positive about where you are headed? 

A good therapist will inspire confidence in you and leave you feeling hopeful for the future. 

Therapist red flags

Alternatively, I wanted to offer some therapy red flags as well: 

1) They don’t listen to you 

This is basically the opposite of one of the points above, but if you feel they aren’t listening to what you are saying, and are just letting you vent so they can get a pay cheque, and aren’t evaluating or retaining anything, it could be a sign it is time to look for someone else. 

2) They are making therapy about them too 

I had a manager like this once, every time I went to her with a problem that needed to be fixed, she would wait until I finished talking and then use that as an opportunity to unload her problems onto me, which was not appropriate.  

There are some therapists out there too, who could be guilty of oversharing as well. While it is okay to have a good and friendly relationship with your therapist, they shouldn’t take it too far and cross a line into oversharing or burdening you with their problems. You are there to seek their help and to focus on you for the majority of your sessions, not the other way around. 

3) They are unreliable 

This is a red flag for any professional, but if your therapist is constantly late, or has to reschedule a lot, that is not a good sign. 

It can be understandable that you might be feeling like they do not value you or your time. 

4) They rush treatment 

It is important to be on the same page as your therapist when it comes to your goals and expectations for therapy—and that includes your timeline of treatment and solutions. 

If you feel like your therapist is trying to rush you through something when you aren’t ready, that can be a red flag. 

5) They are unprofessional 

If a therapist is behaving unethically, then it is time to let them go and find someone else. Some examples could be: violating your privacy, violating your trust, or making inappropriate comments to you.  

You should never feel personally uncomfortable being alone with your therapist. 

6) They judge you 

A good therapist will not judge you for who you are, or your experiences. They aren’t supposed to let their personal biases interfere with their ability to treat you.  

If you are feeling judgment, or god forbid hostility from them, then it would be a good idea to search for someone who will be a better fit for you. 

7) They never remember what you say 

While most therapists have a lot of clients to look after and keep track of, they shouldn’t need you to remind them of the things you’ve said in past sessions all the time. 

They should be able to remember who you are, the important details about your life, as well as the important people in your life. That is the reason they are taking notes, and if they feel like they can’t remember these things, or it has been a long time between appointments, they should be refreshing themselves before your appointments so you can get the most out of your limited time with them. 

Choosing the right therapist, and then determining if they are the correct fit for you is an important step on your road to recovery and happiness.  

But a once you find a good therapist, they will become invaluable.  

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