How Do I Know If My Therapist Is Effective?

How Do I Know If My Therapist Is Effective?

It can be a challenge to find the “right” therapist for you. You might come across someone who has a degree from an impressive school, writes extensively on psychology and mental illness, gives lectures and talks, and still isn’t an effective therapist. And while it is important for therapists to be educated, trained and up-to-date on current practices, there is so much more to a good therapist than just their background and education.

Because the science of therapy is subjective, it can be challenging to tell if your therapeutic relationship is truly “working.” Here’s a list of how effective therapists practice to help you determine whether you’re receiving the best possible care.

Do They Guide You To Your Goals?

Be wary of any therapist who makes promises like: “I can get you to recovery in six months” or “I can help you get rid of your anxiety.” Therapists should guide you towards reaching your goals, not make guarantees about when and how you will reach them. How you improve should be at your own pace. Additionally, they are not there to set your goals for you. This is your treatment—you’re in the driver’s seat.

Do They Show Acceptance And Compassion?

It’s one thing for your therapist to show concern or recommend against certain behaviors, but you shouldn’t feel judged or ashamed after a therapy session. Christine, a young adult living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), tells a story of when she felt shamed by a therapist:

“I went to a therapist to talk about a relationship I was having a hard time getting over. I told her I would do outlandish things to keep this relationship alive, even though this guy made it clear he wanted nothing to do with me. This therapist responded by saying, ‘Christine, men don’t like clingy women. You need to be coy and play hard-to-get.’ She completely invalidated that my fear of abandonment had been triggered; to her, this situation had nothing to do with BPD, I was just making myself too available.”

The most effective therapists make you feel accepted and validated, showing understanding and sympathy/empathy for whatever you’re going through. They will approach you with compassion and kindness, and build enough trust for you to share your darkest thoughts and memories with them.

Do They Challenge You?

It’s important to recognize that therapy is not synonymous with friendship. An effective therapist will challenge you and help you see things from a different perspective, even if it’s hard to hear. They will give you homework that you may not like. For example, when I feel anxious, my reaction is to try to get rid of that anxiety any way that I can. So, my therapist often tells me to “sit with anxiety, accept that anxiety has visited you and observe how you feel.” She pushes me out of my comfort zone to help me overcome my fears and work towards my goal of managing anxiety.

Do They Check-In With You?

It’s important for your therapist to check-in with you about how you think therapy is going. After giving me challenging homework, my therapist will often ask me how it went or if I found it helpful. Since each session is tailored to you, a good therapist should adjust treatment based on your feedback. For instance, if you feel like they pushed you to do something you weren’t ready to do and you say you want smaller, more achievable steps, your therapist should take this into consideration for future exercises.

Do They Help You Learn?

An effective therapist offers different ways to help you learn skills (such as managing difficult emotions, handling stressful situations or practicing acceptance), understand yourself better and encourage healthy communication with the people in your life. “One therapist helped me see that when I like a person, whether it’s a relationship or a friendship, I have a hard time seeing red flags,” says Christine. “She helped me realize this about myself, and now I push myself to see people in a more realistic way.”

At the same time, this doesn’t mean telling you what to do each step of the way. Rather, they help you learn how to handle the stressful situations life throws at you. It’s problematic if you feel dependent on your therapist.

Do They Practice Cultural Competence?

Therapy should be tailored to your specific culture, background and needs. A good therapist is understanding of any cultural barriersyou face and should keep those in mind while advising you. “When I met with my therapist in the first couple sessions, they were interested in learning about my culture and how it has impacted my experience,” says Ryann, a person with lived experience. “Culturally competent therapists say validating statements rather than questioning my upbringing.”

Do They Treat You As An Equal?

An effective therapist works with you and supports you. They’re your partner in bettering your mental health. They’re not the teacher instructing the “right ways” to behave or the parent asserting discipline over a child. There shouldn’t be any kind of power struggle or “doctor-knows-best” attitude in their demeanor. While it is important to respect their wealth of knowledge, you shouldn’t feel inferior to your therapist.

Therapy is one of the few parts of life that is all about you. Therapists are not there to express their own needs—they are there to help you reach your goals. Like any other worthwhile endeavor, the benefits of therapy don’t happen overnight, but over time you should feel like your therapeutic relationship is nothing but beneficial to your well-being.

By Laura Greenstein

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/February-2018/How-Do-I-Know-If-My-Therapist-is-Effective

Recharging Your Self-Care Battery: Support for Caregivers

Each person has their limits as a caregiver. The work can be emotionally and physically exhausting, especially as you expend energy. If you do not have opportunities to “recharge”, you will become depleted.

Summer De-Stressing with a Therapist

Teachers, professors, school administrators, student support… those who directly interact with children in an educational setting know the joys and challenges that are present at the end of the school year.

7 Reasons Summer

School is out and summer is right around the corner. The responsibilities and pressures of many young people look very different this time of year. Students may seem happier and more relaxed, as stress lessens, and emotions appear regulated. However, adolescents and young adults may struggle to adjust and engage in maladaptive coping strategies.
broken plate

Broken, Yet Whole

If your life can be best described as “a mess” and you feel like your sense of self is shattered, there is hope.

The Power of Explanatory Styles

Often the everyday moments in the present do not get much attention, while regrets of the past and worries of the future take center stage. You may miss out on a big chunk of life when it is hard to move forward.

10th Anniversary: Announcing our 10th Location

2024 is an extra special year. CARE Counseling is celebrating our 10th anniversary as a clinic and we are opening our 10th location in the Woodbury area!
Mental Health Factors Impacting Celebrations

Mental Health Factors Impacting Celebrations

Celebrations often come up in therapy due to having a mixed range of emotional experiences on celebratory dates depending on the person.
Understanding CARE Coordination

Understanding CARE Coordination

Care coordination is an important aspect of your treatment; understanding this service can help ensure you receive the best care possible.
gaining independence

Gaining Independence and Finding Yourself After Being in an Unhealthy Relationship

It can be hard to adjust to a new norm after relationships end. It can also be tough to cope with the thoughts and feelings that come up after no longer being in a relationship you didn’t think would ever end.
Death Anxiety (Thanatophobia)

Death Anxiety (Thanatophobia)

While fear of death is a common existential fear, some people have intense fears of themselves or a loved one dying. An extreme fear of death or the dying process, known as thanatophobia is considered as a specific fear, or phobia that is under the broader category of anxiety disorders.
Understanding Fear: Questions to Ask Yourself

Understanding Fear: Questions to Ask Yourself

If you are experiencing significant discomfort or find that there are things that you want to do, but are unable to do because of fear, then talking with a mental health specialist is recommended. Fear that becomes persistent can take a toll on both your physical and mental health, so it is important to take preventative measures.
Sexual Violence Prevention

Sexual Violence Prevention

What (or who) do you turn to amid suffering? How about when faced with situations that seem beyond your own control? As strong as you are, you may feel weak or helpless. Adverse childhood experiences, community violence, and sexual violence are just a few of many serious public health problems that impact communities.
The Importance of Learning about Trauma (Psychoeducation) for All Ages

The Importance of Learning about Trauma (Psychoeducation) for All Ages

Psychoeducation can be provided in many forms including printed and web-based materials such as facts sheets, psychoeducational videos, books, and conversations with professionals in the field. Hearing stories from those who have experienced similar events can also be helpful. All these methods help normalize the reactions to traumatic events and can reduce feelings of guilt and shame through sharing of information and common experiences.
Learning How to Love Yourself & Living with Bipolar Disorder

Learning How to Love Yourself & Living with Bipolar Disorder

Did you know that seeking help for your mental health is an act of self-love? While bipolar can significantly impair functioning, many individuals are living with bipolar disorder and thriving!
3 LGBTQ Hotlines You Need To Know

3 LGBTQ Hotlines You Need to Know

Having access to resources to help deescalate emotional distress and manage (or prevent) states of crisis can help empower individuals to take control over their mental health and well-being.
Providing Affirmative Mental Healthcare: 6 Things You Should Know blog cover photo rainbow sky with two hands reaching out

Providing Affirmative Mental Healthcare: 6 Things You Should Know

Healthcare professionals play a necessary role in supporting the LBGTQ+ community, by providing affirmative relationships that don’t perpetuate attitudes of ignorance or discrimination.
3 ways to help children with school anxiety blog cover image school auditorium lecture hall

3 Ways to Help Children with School Anxiety & Somatic Complaints

School refusal and reluctance to go to school due to frequent complaints of aches and pain can be a challenging topic for parents and caregivers to manage.
supporting your gut graphic

Supporting Your Gut “the Second Brain”

If you ever had a “gut feeling” experienced as intuition, “butterflies” feelings of dread, disgust, anticipatory anxiety, or an instinctive urge to respond with action, these are all examples of your brain communicating with your gut.
bullying prevention

Bullying Prevention: The Role of Parents, School Staff, and Adults in the Community

Bullying is among the top concerns for parents, especially related to worries about their child struggling with anxiety, depression, and the fear of suicide.
Talking about women's rights

Talking about Women’s Roles & Rights (Human Rights) in Therapy

It is important to consider the impact of gender and other aspects of identity when exploring discrimination and privilege related to human rights and the emotional, psychological, and social implications on one’s mental health.
Body Appreciation / Body Neutrality

Body Appreciation / Body Neutrality

Reducing body dissatisfaction is an important topic. Oftentimes, one’s self-esteem is tied to physical appearance, with emphasis on body shape and size. How you feel about your body is going to directly impact your thoughts and the choices you make.
Coping with Stress and the Impacts on Eating

Coping with Stress and the Impacts on Eating

We all have our go-to strategies for coping with stress, and some strategies are healthier than others. I’d like to explore each area in detail, and share how certain strategies impact our eating and provide resources for hope.
Consent Before Sexual Activity: 6 Things You Need to Know

Consent Before Sexual Activity: 6 Things You Need to Know

Consent is an agreement of sexual activity, with clear boundaries discussed before, during, and after engaging in sexual behaviors.