Good therapists are out there, and we have some advice on how to find one. You’ll also want to feel out whether the type of therapy your therapist offers is appropriate for the issues you’re going through. But once you’ve gotten through the stage of getting to know each other, you may find yourself wondering: How do I know that I found a good one? Here are some questions to ask.
They should be professional about confidentiality and ethics
A good therapist will explain their policies and have you sign or verbally agree to an informed consent agreement. Not doing so is a major red flag, according to Psych Central. It is considered ethical for a therapist to disclose information in a small number of scenarios, including if they suspect abuse or if they have been subpoenaed.
A therapist also should treat clients as clients, not friends. Being friendly is fine; giving special treatment or taking on close friends or family members as clients is not.
If you aren’t sure what kind of behavior counts as professional, you can look up the code of ethics of the appropriate organization. Here are the codes of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, to name a few.
Their approaches should be evidence-based
You’re not here just to talk about your feelings, but to work toward solving the problems that brought you to the therapist’s office in the first place. A good therapist will use one or more established techniques, several of which we explain here. It’s OK to ask your therapist what types of therapy they’re using, and what science knows about the effectiveness of these types.
It’s also fair to expect a bit of a scientific process in the therapy itself: Has the therapy been working so far? Does your therapist give you realistic expectations, and are they willing to refine their approach if things aren’t going as expected?
They should make you feel supported and accepted
Therapy isn’t always easy or fun, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re being judged or like your concerns are being ignored. A good therapist treats you as an equal, rather than taking a doctor-knows-best tone, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They might express concern about decisions you’re making, but you shouldn’t feel like they are judging you or dismissing your feelings. If you leave appointments feeling insulted or ashamed, something is wrong.
They should challenge you sometimes
A good therapist can show acceptance and compassion for you as a person, while still helping you to work through things that may be uncomfortable. You may get “homework” that takes you outside of your comfort zone. That’s a good thing, so long as it happens in an appropriately safe and supportive way.
Good therapy encourages you to become more independent and to take more and more control of your own situation as you build the skills to do so. “All therapy, in a fundamental sense, is self-therapy,” says a guide at Psychology Today. You should feel less dependent on your therapist over time, not more.