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12 things to look for in a therapist if you're seeking mental health therapy

Updated: Jan 3, 2023

You're struggling with mental health issues and have decided to seek therapy. So now what? There are a lot of questions that must be resolved before you can decide on whether you need a psychologist or therapist and which psychologist or therapist to choose. What to look for in a trauma therapist, depression or anxiety therapist, etc. Begin by looking for a list of qualifications, educational and training experience, licenses, certifications, and more. Your counselor should also fully disclose any potential conflicts of interest they may hold in their field before you enter into treatment. And if you're struggling with substance abuse issues or other mental health disorders not related to your mental health disorder itself, seek out a counselor who specializes in those aspects as well.

What to look for in a therapist?

Have you ever thought about what do you look for in a psychologist or therapist? Before opting for any therapist or psychologist, here is a list of 12 things that you should look for in a mental health therapist/psychologist:

1. A patient and understanding demeanor.

You can see a lot in the eyes, especially when they're looking you in the eye while you're speaking. If eye contact is rare or if the therapist seems to be staring at his or her watch, scurry away immediately! Remember, feelings and emotions will be stimulated every once in a while during therapy, so don't misunderstand behavior that seems odd at first glance as rude or unprofessional. The therapist should be kind, patient and understanding.

2. Willingness to listen and ask questions.

This is very important especially when you're sharing with your therapist/psychologist. They are the ones listening to you, after all! They are your sounding board in which you can explore the things that are preoccupying your mind and anxious, making you feel anxious about yourself and about other people. Hearing what their opinion is of you and what they see as their duty to help you out makes a therapy session a little less awkward than if the therapist just sits back, does not say anything, or gives off vibes that they can't wait for the clock to strike 5pm so they can leave.

3. A sense of professionalism.

Professionalism can be defined as a consistent, strong and unwavering dedication to the professional goals of the mental health therapy field. If a therapist seems to have their head in the clouds or just keeps on fishing for compliments about themselves, you might want to find someone else. A therapist should stick true to their profession and act as if that's all they're interested in.

4. Patience and non-judgmental attitude.

This is especially important if your issues are connected with anxiety or depression, but is also applicable if the problem at hand concerns dysfunctional relationships that have been ongoing for years, but cannot be brought up due to shame or fear of rejection from loved ones. Your therapist should be understanding and not bring up things that make you feel uncomfortable.

5. The ability to hold a conversation with you on your level.

No, this does not mean that the therapist should have a deep knowledge of every single aspect of your life, but that they're listening to what you have to say without interrupting, judging or blatantly lying about it in order to make themselves look more important. Basically, it's the therapist just trying to hear out what the problems are at hand while being patient enough and able to work together with you on solving them.

6. Good communication skills.

Whether you need someone to talk to or just need to vent, it's important that the therapist has good communication skills as well. If you keep on asking yourself and your therapist if they're listening, they should respond accordingly and be willing to help you out and do so in a confident manner, while also being willing to listen when appropriate. Basically, good listening skills are the key here.

7. Good organizational skills.

Therapists are people, too, and all people have their own way of keeping things organized. This is where the therapist's organizational skills come into place. The therapist should be able to organize information, keep accurate records as well as treat all information that reaches them in a confidential manner. If your therapist looks like they're in the midst of a mental breakdown just by looking at his desk or notepad while writing down important information necessary to your therapy sessions, then it might be time to look for someone else.

8. Professional grades and good feedback history.

A therapist should display an adequate number of credentials along with any certificates and awards received throughout his or her career in therapy. They should also display some kind of feedback history, especially if they are in their field for a long time and have a great deal of customers to serve. The best way to check all this out is by visiting their website or personal portfolio, should that be available.

9. Technology and media friendly environment.

A therapist's office should be an organized environment with plenty of space for all your needs. It shouldn't be too small or too big. It should be clean and free of clutter. When you come in, you should see that the therapist's work area is properly organized and clear of clutter. That way you'll be more comfortable working with them.

10. Location accessibility.

This is important especially if you're traveling a lot for work or school so that it's easier for you to make the time to go to therapy appointments. It also does not hurt if the location offers a parking space or nearby public transportation hub for convenience sake or for someone who might need it when they come in late from work.

11. Appropriate space.

It is up to the individual therapist on whether they want their appointments to be conducted in their office or at a space that has more privacy for you as well as for them. For example, you might have things you want to talk about that are very personal and could be embarrassing if someone were to hear. The other reason why it's best if your therapy sessions are conducted in private is because some people get too distracted by outside noises and sometimes feel awkward about what they're saying. Other times, some people might work better with their privacy. However, this does not mean that a therapist does not want to be involved at all. In fact, if you're working with a therapist, you should view them as a partner in your therapy sessions.

12. Good reputation.

Being a therapist is more than just expertise in the field, it's also a life-long commitment to helping people through the best way possible with no strings attached. So if your therapist does not have an established and good reputation in the territory you're moving to, it might be best to move in another direction or at least find someone who you can get acquainted with and see if they can become your new therapist.


Now, you might be wondering how to tell if a therapist is the right one for you, or even just how to find a good therapist in general. You can start by finding a new place that is less than ideal, but has several therapeutic qualities that you can consider. You should think of what direction your therapy needs are going in and see if your current therapists can help you get there. If not, then it's time to find someone new who does have these qualities and more.


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