Therapists are a dime a dozen, but not all therapists are the same. Some are experts who quickly and effectively help their clients move on to happier and more fulfilling lives. Others put little effort into their craft, practice unhealthy or unscientific approaches to therapy, or foster dependency and keep their clients in treatment for years. If you’re suffering now, you want help as quickly as you can get it, and that means finding a qualified, competent therapist. There are no guarantees in therapy, but here’s how to ensure you get the best bang for your buck.
Education and Training
At minimum, therapists must have a master’s degree, and psychologists need doctoral-level training. Check first to ensure your therapist meets these minimum educational requirements. If you’re working with a student therapist, ensure she’s supervised by a qualified and experienced professional. It’s also important to note that therapists tend to get better at their jobs with more years of experience. Particularly if you’re struggling with a very challenging issue, it’s wise to pick a therapist who has many years of experience with that specific challenge. You may also want to check the status of your therapist’s license with your state licensing board.
Modality is the approach a therapist uses to treat a mental health challenge, and most contemporary therapists combine several approaches. Your therapist should tell you what treatment modality she plans to use with you. Some methods are more effective than others, and some are completely discredited. Approaches such as energy healing and primal scream therapy are ineffective and potentially damaging, but modalities such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and family systems therapy can be highly effective. Research whatever treatment approach your therapist uses before you agree to continue with treatment.
A Clear Treatment Plan
Your therapist should have a clear plan for treating your condition, and should make adjustments to this plan as needed. He should be able to answer questions about how long treatment will take, how you’ll know you’re getting better, and what you can do to improve your results.
Signs of Healthy Therapy
After you start therapy, you should continue to track and evaluate your progress. Some signs of healthy therapy include:
- Your therapist questions your assumptions and negative self-talk, and points out problematic behaviors.
- Your therapist does not try to change your values or preach to you about a specific religion or philosophy.
- Your therapist protects your confidentiality.
- You notice that you are making progress.
- Your therapist does not attempt to undermine your relationships, and may even invite you to bring your spouse or significant other to therapy.
- Your therapist accepts criticism, and asks you to provide feedback.
- You feel comfortable sharing your feelings and thoughts with your therapist, and even if she provides feedback, she does not make you feel judged.
- Your therapist does not make you responsible for her emotions and does not demand comfort or support from you.
- Your therapist does not contact you outside of therapy, does not flirt with you, and does not suggest an outside friendship.