Not All Therapists are Created Equal
Updated: Feb 27
Have you been considering going to therapy but don't know where to turn? Do you want to know that you are going to find someone kind and compassionate to talk to? Are you afraid of going to the wrong therapist?
Fears like this are justified, because not all therapists are created equal. Some of them are more well trained than others, some have a history of psychological problems themselves so they can understand you better, and some are new to their field without much experience. Some therapists can be burned out or overworked.
So, how do you find the best therapist for you?
You can start with your insurance webpage, to find a list of therapists that are covered by your insurance. This is just a starting point though. You can also learn to find out if they specialize in what you are struggling with. This should be listed on the insurance page as well.
Then, when you find several therapists that you are considering, you can find reviews on Yelp or something similar to find out testimonials for the therapists you are considering. This will allow you to see the experience of other clients who have seen them in the past.
Also, it is a good idea to find out if it is a private practice or a community organization. This will give you an idea about the caseload that they are managing, and how personalized of care they will be able to give you.
Then, when you go to your first visit, think of it as an interview. You can get to know them as much as they are getting to know you. You can always ask questions.
Just like with any relationship, a therapist might not just be a good fit. You may need to go to several different therapists to find the right one for you. This allows you to get a feel for different styles of therapy, and to find a relationship that is a good fit.
The therapeutic relationship
Remember, therapy is a relationship. You need to have a good rapport and a sense of trust to be able to open up to the therapist that you choose. So, it is important to find someone that you can relate to.
According to the Family Institute,
Since the relationship between the therapist and patient appears so crucial to treatment success, experts have tried to define a "good relationship." One pioneering expert, Dr. Edward Bordin, defined a good therapeutic relationship as consisting of three essential qualities: an emotional bond of trust, caring, and respect; agreement on the goals of therapy; and collaboration on the "work" or tasks of the treatment.
This means, these are the qualities that you should be looking for in a therapist. You can make sure that you are able to form a relationship of trust and openness with your therapist so that you are able to speak openly and honestly about your problems.
Do they want you to heal 100%
An important quality of a therapist is that they want you to get 100% better. They don't just want to put a bandaid on your problems and send you back out into the world. They want you to be fully healed.
I have had therapists in both categories over the years. After finding a therapist that really wants you to feel at 100%, then you will really start to feel better.
A lot of therapists just want you to get 'better enough' that you won't be in the depths of despair anymore. They just want you to be functional in society again. They don't need you to be happy and fulfilled. Just a little better.
So when you look for a therapist, make sure that you find someone who wants you to be all better instead of just a little bit better. This will allow a better sense of healing and peace where you really do get well.
Red flags of a bad therapist
There are some red flags that you can find that are signs of a bad therapist as well. If you feel like you can't trust them or that something is 'off' about the relationship, that can be a sign that the relationship is a bad fit.
However, some therapists also don't have clear boundaries either. If they get too personal about themselves, this can be a red flag too. It is important for therapists to maintain a professional relationship instead of trying to be too much of a friend.
According to Psych Central, here are 8 red flags that you may have the wrong therapist. Here are some things a therapist should not do:
Take you as a client if they don't specialize in your issue
Overshare about themselves
Leave you feeling worse after your session - regularly
Make you feel judged, shamed or emotionally exposed
Ask you to repeat or remind them of what you have said
Disrupt the session by divided attention
You just don't feel 'right'
If you start seeing a therapist and they have any of the issues on this list, then it is best to discontinue therapy with them and start looking for another therapist.
I have been to a bad therapist before and he was unethical in that he agreed to treat me and my ex (the narcissist) together in couples therapy even though he knew that there was a history of abuse. He had disregard for the law in this instance, but there are other unethical therapists out there.
They may think that they know better than the conventional wisdom, or just be in it for the money, or they may be overworked and distracted. If their client load is too high, they may forget your details or not be able to give you the best therapy possible.
When you find a good therapist who is right for you, it is a great opportunity to be able to heal from all that you have gone through in the past. That way, you have a supportive listening ear, and you can learn coping skills that you can use every day when you are feeling upset.
Having the right therapist will allow you to start feeling so much better, and to be able to get the right kind of treatment that you deserve.