What You Should Look for in a Therapist

If you’ve decided to start going to therapy, congratulations! You’ve accomplished the first hurdle of your journey towards improving your mental health. Now that we’ve discussed some of the most common misconceptions about therapy, it’s about time we thought about what to look for in a therapist.

However, if you're still unsure of whether or not you want to go to therapy, that’s fine too! It’s an important decision to make, and you want to make sure you’re doing the right thing. With that said, choosing a therapist is also just as important. Some therapists work well with different clients, so ensuring that you’ll work best with a certain type of therapist is good to mull over.

I was able to gain some wonderful insights from both AJ Requilman, one of Empath’s clinical psychologists, and Aly, a mental health advocate. They are the same people that helped me debunk the myths on therapy and have now provided excellent insights on some of the best qualities of a therapist.

What to look for in a therapist

While each therapist has certain qualities that are suitable to certain people, I believe there are some universal characteristics that all therapists and counselors should have in order to help their client. After interviewing both AJ and Aly, they listed several things to look for in a therapist:

  1. Authenticity - Being genuine means having a warm demeanor, having an authentic concern for the client, and generally being a good listener. While these are all great things to look for in a therapist, they must also be able to directly communicate any inconsistencies they see in your behavior. Their ability to notice small details and nonverbals shows that they are actively listening to you and are paying attention, and this means that they genuinely want to help.
  2. Unbiased and Non-judgmental - With reference to the previous point, therapists are humans too. They have biases and their own personal beliefs that may influence how they see their clients. A good therapist is someone who is able to control their reactions or their judgments, regardless of how they feel about their client. It also means being able to remain professional despite any preconceived notions.
  3. The ability to avoid dual-relationships - Remaining professional also means distinguishing boundaries and being able to communicate these boundaries. Some people might see their therapists as a mother figure or as a friend, but sometimes, having this kind of relationship can bring about unrealistic expectations. It can also affect the quality of treatment that the client receives since they don’t see them as a therapist, but also as someone more than that.
  4. Updated with current technology and counseling methods - Here in the Philippines, mental health and psychology has only just recently become more acceptable to discuss. With that said, new information is coming out everyday, so it’s important that therapists and psychologists must be updated. That way, they can provide quality service and ensure that their methods can help their clients.

Why a match with your therapist is important

Given all these characteristics, there is also one more characteristic that I believe should be exhibited in a therapist no matter who they are—empathic listening. AJ expressed that when it comes to therapy and counseling, therapists have to deal with human emotions all the time, so they must be able to show their client that their feelings are valid. It is the role of your therapist to listen and guide you, regardless of their own personal values.

Having said that, therapists also cater to clients based on their expertise and comfortability in taking on certain mental health concerns since they subscribe to different theoretical approaches towards psychology and mental health.

It’s important to remember that therapists are humans too. They have their own personality and that can also affect the therapeutic relationship. You may find yourself wanting to try a different approach with a different therapist and that is okay.

This is why it’s important to know what type of therapist matches your needs. Some people may prefer someone more gentle and tactful, while others may prefer a direct and unfiltered therapist—it entirely depends on you! Your therapist can also refer you to another one who could better help you if the concerns that you have is not within their expertise. Just remember that when considering your options, think about what you think is best for you.

Finally, as we move on from what to look for in a therapist, it’s crucial to know what actually happens in therapy. For those that are about to embark on their journey towards improving their mental health, the first therapy session can be quite daunting. With the help of AJ and Aly, I will be discussing how to prepare for your first therapy session in the next article.

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