Five Qualities to Look for in a Therapist

If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, or another mental health challenge, it might be appropriate to seek the support of a therapist. 

You don’t always have to be going through something to get therapy. There are a plethora of benefits to seeking therapy. However, therapy can allow you to open up about it and speak to someone when you are struggling. Ignoring or repressing your emotions is unhealthy and often leads to unhealthy behaviors. The sooner problem areas are addressed, the sooner one can pivot, make necessary changes, and gain positive momentum.

Seeking therapy will help you in the short term by providing someone to air your problems with while gaining valuable insights and tools to help you manage your emotions and struggles. And usually, but not always, family and those closest to you, aren’t the best options because they are too close; they have “skin in your game.” Meaning, that if you realize that you need to make necessary changes in your life, it is likely those changes may have an impact on friends and family, too. And change, by human nature, isn’t something we’re always comfortable with within our lives. By using discernment in who you choose to be your “heart with ears,” you will likely find yourself more open and honest.

Therapy will also help you in the long run, as issues often persist over time. As you develop tools to deal with your struggles, you will learn how to utilize them in everyday life and properly deal with any other curve balls thrown your way. Information and tools are great, but if you’re not integrating them into your life and taking action, information is just information. A therapist can assist you in maintaining an onward and upward momentum toward the life you desire.

We don’t get to the place in our lives where we finally seek help overnight. Therefore, we can’t expect one session to take away all the pain and hurt. Accountability with a trusted therapist is a wonderful investment in you and your future. 

All this to say, therapy can only be as effective as it can be if the therapist possesses the qualities that align with you and make a great therapist. Your therapist needs the qualifications and experience to help you with your struggles and the compassion and listening skills to make you feel comfortable enough to open up. But also important is that they bring comfort to the room and you. 

A therapist who is burned out will not be the best match because they are bringing that energy to you and your life, too. And, if they’ve managed to compartmentalize the problems in their own life and aren’t addressing their struggles with therapy themselves (if needed) and self-care, then you’re not receiving the best therapy possible either. This is often not talked about, but I think it’s important. In doing the work I do with grievers, either in a counseling-like session or in energy healing, I have become keenly aware of my mental health, self-care, and the importance of managing my energy. If I’m not tending to my needs first, I am no good to anyone else.

Five Qualities to Look for in a Therapist

Here are some top qualities you should look for if you are looking for a therapist. 

#1 Qualifications 

You must hire a therapist who has the qualifications to be able to work with you. Therapy deals with sensitive issues, so you want to make sure you are in safe and capable hands. Therapy is supposed to help you, not make you feel worse. Don’t be afraid to ask for your therapist’s qualifications and skills; check that they are a regulatory body member. 

As an Advanced Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, I have been trained and certified to work with individuals (and groups) both online and in-person in the area of grief specifically. People are surprised to learn that traditional textbook study programs do not prioritize grief. It’s not studied much at all. So many therapeutic studies, from my understanding, focus on everything but grief. This is great if you are looking for a diagnosis that will end up in a prescription. However, if you are depressed, it’s likely because, as a child, your anger was repressed. And, in grief recovery, you learn how anger is important and a valid emotion that needs to be honored and expressed.

#2 Specialism

If you are struggling with something like drug or alcohol addiction, it can be helpful to find a therapist specializing in this area, for example, Pathways Real Life Recovery. This approach is because a specialist will have skills beyond a typical therapist and invest time and money into learning more about your particular issue. A specialist can help you develop and progress in therapy and tailor the sessions to your needs. 

This also applies to grief. If you know that the emotional pain and suffering you’re experiencing is due to grief, that’s where someone like me can offer an evidence-based approach to address it and not with years of talk therapy. Rather, in 8-12 sessions (depending if you choose to work with me one-on-one or in a group), you will have addressed the most painful relationship(s) of your life.

#3 Good Listening Skills

Listening skills are key when it comes to finding a good therapist. When you speak to a friend or family member, you may find that they have something to say or provide unsolicited advice. And, advice, I might add, is based on what they value.

A good therapist will not try to tell you what to do. Instead, they should have been trained to listen to what you have to say carefully and reflect and paraphrase what you have said back to them. They should strive to understand what you are saying, ask you plenty of good questions to deepen their understanding, help you see what you are going through from a different perspective, and help you draw your conclusions. A good therapist can also hear the things you don’t say, connecting the dots that, for most of us, are difficult to see ourselves. 

We are so deeply tied to our stories, and by the time we get to the point where we seek therapy, we have likely repeated our story more than a hundred times. Or, perhaps have never spoken it before because there wasn’t anyone with which we felt safe to do so.

A “heart with ears” will never criticize, analyze, or judge. If you feel this way leaving a session, they are not the therapist for you (and probably shouldn’t be practicing).

#4 Passion for Helping Others

The role of a therapist is to help a person struggling with something. Most people will enter the profession because they have a passion for helping others, and this should be obvious during the sessions as they work with you to resolve your issue. You will be able to tell straight away if they lack the passion or enthusiasm to help you, as you will find it difficult to open up to them, you won’t be able to relax, and you will be able to sense it. 

When a therapist is burned out, that passion will also dwindle. This is where it’s important to listen to your body’s cues. Your body may tense up. You may make yourself small in your seat rather than opening your shoulders and sitting straight. There might be physical symptoms; headache, upset stomach, and emotional shifts. These body cues may also respond to what is being discussed or fear of discussing difficult topics, too, so it’s important to discern between what is a response to the therapist and the topics of discussion.

It’s best to pay close attention at your initial meeting; before any parts of your story come up and feel into the vibe of the therapist. If you feel a sense of support, comfort, and openness, you may have found a great therapist for you.

#5 Reliable 

Therapy is an ongoing thing. It is not something you do once, and you are fixed. This is why it is important to find a reliable therapist. A reliable therapist is an important part of your journey, as you need to be able to work with someone long enough to trust them, and you need to work with someone consistently to make progress on the things you are struggling with. If you work with a therapist who doesn’t feel fulfilled in their work, they may suddenly become disengaged in conversation, be difficult to reach, or lack empathy in their approach, their reliability will show itself. 

Finding a good therapist is vital if you want to progress in your life. Follow these top tips to help you find a therapist with the right qualities. And, if you know that grief is holding you back, please reach out to me; I am here to support you – you are not alone.

much love, victoria




P.S. I will announce an online group program soon, at this writing (Sept. 2022). If you’d like to be kept “in the know,” you may find it helpful to join my bi-weekly newsletter, The Unleashed Letters. My newsletter is where I share personal aspects of my life, content not shared anywhere else, and business news. If you know you’re ready to move forward and get beyond the emotional pain of grief (due to any of the 40+ losses), click the link to learn more about my one-on-one program, Do Grief Differently™️.

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