There are many ways to tell you have found a quality mental health therapist who is able to help you with your needs.
A qualified mental health therapist does more than give advice; a good therapist will closely listen to you to develop an intimate understanding of you and the issues you are facing. He or she must be sincerely interested in helping you but does not try to be your friend. The right therapist should act as your guide, providing you with practical actions you can take in your daily life to start feeling better and working toward improvement.
Although many people have qualifications to become a therapist, those who wish to be considered a good therapist must make sure to help clients make real and proactive changes in their lives. If your therapist fails to provide the genuine therapy you require and are paying for, there is a good chance it may be time to seek out a new mental health therapist. Whether you are happy with your therapist may depend on a number of factors, but you should consider whether the following situations apply to you to help decide if you need a new therapist.
Going to therapy should not feel like a chore. If it does, you are not getting a therapeutic experience. If you dread going to therapy, ask yourself why. Is it too far away or do you just not like your therapist? In either case, it is probably time to seek a new one, but by knowing your reasons for dissatisfaction, you can also increase your odds of finding a therapist who better matches your emotional needs. Perhaps your current therapist does not provide helpful advice due to personal values and judgements. For example, if your therapist shames you for your sexual orientation or a personal decision you are seeking help with, this can severely impact your feelings and willingness to go to therapy. When thinking about your experiences with your current therapist, consider the following questions:
Asking yourself these questions can help you determine if you truly need a new therapist. The importance of mental health means you should persevere and find a therapist who helps you maintain your mental and emotional health, even if it takes a few tries.
If your condition is not improving, you may feel little motivation to continue down the path you have begun. If your conversations with your therapist feel like talking in circles or repeating yourself endlessly, then you may have reached the limits of what this particular therapist is able to offer you. Even when you may not be feeling any progress, you should at least have a constant sense of direction regarding your process and goals. It is important to keep in mind how long you have been seeing your therapist. It may take multiple sessions before you begin to feel a sense of guidance from your therapist. If you have been seeing your therapist for many months with little to no progress, it may be time to select a new therapist. Alternatively, perhaps your therapist does not have enough experience with your particular needs, even if he or she works for other patients. For example, if you are diagnosed with an eating disorder but your current therapist does not offer helpful advice, you may need to find a specialist who deals primarily or exclusively with eating disorders.
If you cannot even trust your therapist enough to tell him or her what is really going on with you, what is the point of seeing this person? What is the reason you are not being forthright with your therapist? Do you feel judged by your therapist or worry what he or she will think of you? If so, you may lack sufficient emotional trust in your therapist or you feel too close to him or her to maintain the objectivity for a proper and healthy patient-therapist relationship.
Does your therapist seem perpetually distracted whenever you are speaking? Does he or she fail to look you straight in the eyes when you talk? Does your therapist show up late to appointments or cancel them without any notice? You are paying, whether directly or through your insurance, for your therapist’s complete attention for the time you are together. Anything less is as good as a breach of contract.
A therapist should help you to confront problematic behavior and thinking, not avoid or perpetuate them. If it feels like all your therapist does is validate your thinking and behavior, then your therapist may not be doing enough to help you. While you should feel comfortable talking with your therapist, a therapy session should not always feel comfortable. Your comfort in your therapist should allow you to feel safe with him or her as your guide while going to less comfortable places to confront the behaviors holding you back. Otherwise, you will not be confronting your issues and ultimately make no progress from your therapy sessions.
Sometimes, the reasons to switch therapists are less subtle and relational. There are times where a therapist may cross a line with his or her patient. This line may be physical, emotional or sexual. The therapist may have insulted or offended you beyond repair or betrayed your trust. If you ever feel this way about a therapist, even if the feeling is unfounded or unjustified, it is probably time to move on from this therapist. Both trust and safety are necessary for you to heal during a therapy session, and a therapist who crosses any lines will not be able to prove this safety.
Perhaps it is you who have crossed the boundaries of the therapeutic relationship. It is possible you have grown too dependent on your therapist. If you feel you need your therapist to survive from day to day, you may need to separate from him or her for your own mental health and progress. Another issue is if you have started developing personal feelings for your therapist. If so, it will be hard for you to be as straightforward with your therapist as you need to be.
Why do you still go to your therapist? Are you still gaining value from your sessions or are you simply going out of habit? If therapy has become merely habitual for you without a sense of value or purpose, then you may be wasting both you and your therapist’s time. Similarly, if you find you only go to your therapist to complain about other people and your life, then your therapy sessions may have lost their therapeutic value for you.