Signs you found a good therapistBrowse all therapists
People start and continue with therapy for a variety of reasons. Often, the factors leading us to seek help often intersect. In other words, more than one aspect of our lives will be relevant to finding the right therapy and therapist that works for us.
One person may have a diagnosed anxiety disorder and then suddenly find themselves needing additional support through grief. Another might not yet know what they need but they just know something is off. Someone else may not be fully self-aware of their challenges yet, but they heard from a loved one that they need to try speaking to someone about an issue.
Whatever your entry point to therapy, finding the right therapist fit is one of the most important steps of the process.
It’s important to understand that there are different therapist types (psychotherapist, social worker, counselling therapist, psychologist, etc.), they use different therapeutic techniques called modalities. Therapists will usually have a few areas specializations for certain mental health conditions, demographics and/or life challenges.
Some of these categories may be more appropriate for you than others and it’s a good idea to get familiar with them if you can. Outside of this, it really comes down to your intuition (your gut) about your connection with your therapist.
What does the right therapist feel like?
Finding the right therapist can feel similar to finding a new friend. While it’s important to remember that the therapist is not a literal friend, it can be an unspoken “click” when you meet them that tells you this is going to work.
Understandably, making an emotional decision based on your intuition can be a challenge. This can be especially difficult if you are coming to therapy because you don’t trust your intuition, or part of your mental health challenge is having confidence in your choices.
Here are a few signs to look out for in a good therapeutic relationship:
- You feel heard / they listen to you: A therapist should be asking good questions that make you feel comfortable with them, but they should also demonstrate they are actively listening to your answers. They maintain eye contact or jot things down at natural times, they refer back to things you said before and they ensure they’re interpreting you the right way before offering their perspective on the situation.
- You feel understood / they understand your intersectionality: Therapists often work with specific demographics for a reason. Belonging to the same community (religious, cultural, LGBTQ2IA+, BIPOC, etc.) can contribute to a deeper understanding of your challenges. They may also come from the same mental health place as you, such as experiencing burnout, depression or anxiety and can empathize with you more effectively.
“The first time I had a therapist who identified with my background, I was like, whoa, this is wild. I feel like you understand me at a level like we can skip certain steps of explanation and go right to the root of the problem.” - Hamza Khan, award winning marketer, best-selling author, and global keynote speaker.
- You don’t feel ashamed or judged / they do not pass judgement: Once you share something that makes you feel more vulnerable with your therapist, it’s good to assess how you felt about their response. Did you feel safe after sharing something confidential? You should never feel like your therapist is trying to “fix” you (you’re not broken), it should feel like they’re your partner or ally. It’s a relationship built on trust.
“It’s a feeling that you have. You feel 100% comfortable. You know it’s a judgement-free zone, and you can feel safe in that setting. You just vibe with them. It was intuition.” - Stefania Rossi, creator of @dearmyanxiety
- You feel empowered / they challenge you in a productive way: Therapy should be a validating experience, and you should never feel judged. Sometimes, your therapist will help you challenge how or why you’re approaching things in a certain way or they’ll point out patterns that may not be servicing you. A key component of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), for example, is about examining thoughts that are distorted (not accurate). A therapist will help you question your thoughts to motivate you to see your experiences and relationships from a new perspective.
- You can give each other feedback: Therapy can be a process. Often, people in therapy are learning new skills and tools that they haven’t been exposed to before. It makes sense that you may not be great at these new skills right away. Your therapist will feel right if they give you validating emotional feedback—”I think you handled that situation better than you think you did and here’s why”—and they offer new techniques to try and follow up with you about them at your next session. This goes both ways—they should be open and welcoming to receiving any your feedback as well.
How long until you know it’s a fit?
It can take one session or several sessions before you know someone is right for you. Don’t fret, usually any session will still be helpful (it’s not wasted time) but you shouldn’t hesitate to change course if you feel you’re not getting what you need from a therapist. Your therapist will understand if you want to stop your sessions. Remember, therapists also value having a great relationship with their clients.
Part of building a trusting relationship is feeling like you can be vulnerable with someone. When that’s part of the goal, it’s normal to be sensitive to seemingly small things, like someone’s tone of voice, their mannerisms, word choice, pace of speaking, etc. We’re only human, we react to others in ways we can’t always explain—trust your gut.
That’s why First Session interviews every one of our partner therapists and provides a video of each practitioner on their profile page. These are authentic examples of what it’s like to speak with them in a therapy setting to get a feel of cues that may turn you away, or draw you in.
Many therapists also offer free 15-minute phone consultations before booking a full session as another option for a first introduction.
Other considerations for therapist fit:
- Your budget: Therapy costs can vary based on where you live, the kind of therapist you see, and their experience. Make sure you are able to afford therapy at the frequency you want to attend, or that you are seeing the right therapist type covered in your workplace benefits.
- Location: Many therapy sessions take place online now, but you still need to make sure your therapist can legally operate in your region. First Session lists where our therapists can practice on their profile pages. If you’re seeing a therapist in person, make sure they’re accessible to you by your form of transit.
- Availability: Decide when and how often you’ll be seeing your therapist and make sure this fits into your schedule.
Find a therapist with First Session. You can compare hundreds of licensed therapists, counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists; and filter by province, specialization, therapy type and more. Watch intro videos, and book online or in-person appointments. Remember, many initial consultations are free.