How to Find a Good Therapist and Know You Are Making Progress
Table of Contents
There are various forms of therapy.
If you would like to discover some of the most effective forms of therapy, check out the in-depth article we wrote, titled “Which Therapy Is Right for Me? Learn the Different Kinds of Therapy”, to learn more about the different therapies and how to find one that suits you.
Many of the therapies we mentioned have shown incredible results in treating mental health problems brought about by stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, etc.
The effectiveness of therapy, however, not only depends on the method, but also on the therapist’s skills and abilities.
Before we talk about how to know if you are making progress in therapy, let us start off this article by first learning about how to find a good therapist.
1. WAYS TO FIND A GOOD THERAPIST
The great thing about this day and age is that we have the internet, which has made a lot of things easier and much more convenient—such as finding a therapist.
Google and Google Maps are a great first step to find a therapist. Simply search for “therapist” or “psychologist” and the area where you live. If you’ve read our other article on the different therapy methods, try to search more specifically for a therapist specializing in the kind of therapy you are looking for.
The handy thing with Google Maps is that you can also see any reviews others have provided about a therapist. Google Maps also shows helpful information like the website and phone number of the therapist so that you can easily get in touch with them.
There are also great online directories where therapists have listed their services.
Besides Google, Google Maps and directories, you could also make an appointment with your doctor.
Doctors are connected with a network of other health professionals and can certainly recommend a good therapist.
When you do ask your doctor, it would be best to give them some context of the issue you are struggling with. This way, they can help you better by guiding you to a suitable therapist.
Last but not least, you could also ask friends. However, take note of a couple of things before you do this:
First and foremost, ask someone you trust. Second, be sure this person understands that the right therapist for him or her might not be the right one for you. Some people can take offense if their therapist doesn’t work out for you the way it worked out for them.
When you ask a friend for a recommendation, ask them what they liked about their recommended therapist. This will help you see if that therapist could be a match for you.
Alternatively, what you could also do is ask your friend to ask their therapist if they can give some good referrals to other therapists whose methods jive with what you are looking for.
Finding the right therapist is very personal. Therefore, you don’t want a convenient therapist—you want a good therapist. And yes, this might require some searching.
Now, once you’ve found someone through Google, Google Maps, directories, friends’ recommendations, etc., here are three steps you can take to better understand the therapist and to find out if he or she is the right fit for you or not.
2. THREE STEPS TO FIND OUT IF YOU’VE GOT THE RIGHT THERAPIST
1. FIND A THERAPIST WHO PRACTICES EVIDENCE-BASED THERAPY
To put it quite bluntly, a therapist who can’t tell you how many patients have gotten well from the kind of therapy they practice does not truly care if you get well or not.
It’s therefore of foremost importance to know the therapy methods that are evidence-based. This simply means the kind of therapy where the therapist can track the efficacy of treatment plans, with the goal of providing clients with treatments that have solid evidence to back their effectiveness.
The article we wrote on the different kinds of therapy lists all the methods that have proven effects.
Therefore, in your search to assess if you’ve found the right therapist, be sure to check first if they perform the kind of therapy that has proven results.
2. GET TO KNOW YOUR THERAPIST
To know your therapist better, ask them some questions first. You can do this either through the phone or by email.
Here are some of the questions you could ask to find out if this is a potentially suitable and qualified therapist for you:
- – What kind of training have you undergone
- – What do you do to keep up with the research for treating my condition
- – How do you know that what you do in treatment works?
- – What data can you show me about your outcomes?
3. PAY ATTENTION
Now, once you have some insights about the therapist and it feels right to you, go ahead and make an appointment. Once you are in the same room with the therapist, the best thing to do to truly know if you’ve found the right person is to pay attention.
Pay attention to how you feel when you are in the room with your new therapist. Do you feel heard when you speak? Pay attention to how you feel in that person’s presence. Notice everything.
It is important to know that, unless you truly do not feel right in the presence of this therapist, you shouldn’t immediately decide on the first session if he or she is good for you or not. Connection, trust, and safety take more than one session to build. It might be challenging in the beginning to talk openly about your struggles, but if you feel heard and understood in general, you should allow yourself time to build connection and trust with the therapist. The safer you feel, the more open you will be about yourself, and the sooner healing can start.
Therefore, try to go to at least three sessions before making a permanent decision. If you eventually find that your therapist isn’t a good match, which can happen, it’s best to tell the therapist what it is you’re looking for and why he or she isn’t the best fit for you. The therapist might know someone who would be more suited for you and give you a referral.
Otherwise, you can simply repeat the previous steps you learned in this article to find a different therapist.
3. HOW TO KNOW IF YOU ARE MAKING PROGRESS
First, there isn’t one definite answer for the length of time it would take to make progress in therapy, as this greatly depends on the individual’s needs and circumstances. However, a good therapist should at least have a clear structure and treatment plan in place.
Remember that progress takes time, and not every session should feel like you have made that big jump you’d been hoping for. That being said, you should at least feel you are working towards something with your therapist.
Understand as well that good therapy doesn’t always feel good, because it often requires you to look at and change long-standing patterns of behavior or deal with things you have been avoiding—such as topics, emotions, people—that can cause a “spike in painful emotions.”
Therefore, successful therapy isn’t merely about feeling good. There may be sessions when you’d feel worse. However, if it is because you are working through something, then it is, in fact, a good thing.
Now, it can be difficult to determine progress as this can be very different for each individual, depending on the reason why you are going to therapy and the kind of therapy you are undergoing. Still, there are a couple of obvious signs that show you are making progress and that the therapy is having its positive effects on you.
1. Your moods and emotions have improved.
If you went into therapy to deal with, for example, anxiety issues, you can look at whether your symptoms have decreased, or if they are interfering with your day-to-day activities less frequently. For example, you might be feeling less anxious, you might be having less frequent panic attacks, or you might be sleeping more hours a night.
2. Your behaviors have changed.
Another measure of success is behavioral change. For a person with depression, for instance, behavioral changes that may be noticeable include getting up and out of bed more often, the ability to socialize and not remain isolated, and/or, depending on the severity of the depression, the ability to function more regularly and consistently through daily tasks like showering, eating, and getting dressed.
3. Your thinking has shifted.
Another indicator of progress in therapy is if there are changes in your thinking. You have, for example, less negative or destructive thoughts and more positive, constructive thoughts.
Rather than fantasizing about things that aren’t attainable, you’re engaging in more realistic thinking and developing reachable goals. Thoughts lead to actions; so, as your thinking shifts, your behaviors will shift as well.
4. Your relationships with others are better.
And the last indicator is if there are relationship improvements with your spouse, partner, or other loved ones.
If a relationship that used to be filled with conflict before therapy is now calmer, then it is a good sign that your therapy is working. It also shows that you’re using conflict resolution skills effectively.
While there are more signs of improvement, these are a few of the more obvious ones that you can track.
Ultimately, successful therapy means that you seem better able to manage your symptoms or that they are decreasing; it also means you feel that you’re accomplishing your current goal(s) or raising your self-awareness outside of therapy.
Question about this article: What new things did you learn in this article on how to find a good therapist and how to tell if you are making progress?