At this point in your life you’ve probably bought your own car, moved into your own place, applied for university, consulted with a medical professional, and/or bought a house. I’m sure these weren’t impulsive decisions either. You probably did some research. You likely didn’t just go to the first dealership you saw and spend tens of thousands of pounds on any vehicle in the lot. Moreover, you probably didn’t take out a mortgage on a house without getting pre-approved by a bank, having a survey done, etc. These decisions and investments were most likely well-thought-out.
Fast forward to today, and you have decided to invest in yourself and consult a therapist to help you with your life goals or quality of life. How do you know the right therapist to hire for you? Is your therapist a ‘therapist-centred’ or a ‘client-centred’ ? How do you know what either of these looks like?
I have seen a lot of this in the helping profession and at times I can include myself, because no one has made more mistakes than me and I have learned a lot in the past 10 years. When I first got into the field I thought the goal was to give advice. I wasn’t doing a good job if I didn’t help my clients see where they could make changes. You know what that is a great way for clients to never come back. Below are some characteristics of therapist-centred therapy:
- They aren’t thoughtful or thorough.
- They may seem rushed or busy
- They don’t meet you where you are at
- They have clients back to back and appear to just rush you off at the end of your sessions
- They don’t own their own mistakes
- They tend to jump to conclusions and don’t ask you questions
- The therapist defines the problem and tells you what to do
Now that I have more experience I realise the goal of therapy is much more about self-actualisation and skill-building for clients rather than giving advice. In client-centred approaches therapists realise that we are not the expert. No one knows you as well as you do. Below are some traits of client-centred therapy:
- The therapist listens to understand not to respond
- Meets you where you are at
- They work with you and follow your lead
- They take your priorities into consideration
- Takes a collaborative approach to sessions
- Is attuned to you during sessions
- Treats you as a person and not just as a job
While it is important that your therapist is an expert in the area you are looking for, they should simultaneously acknowledge your expertise of yourself and your needs. There is room for both. Some things to ask yourself when hiring a therapist are:
- Are they licensed?
- Do they continue to educate themselves?
- Do they care about me?
- Are they late to sessions?
- Do they cancel on me often?
- Do they know my goals for therapy?
- Are they fully present in sessions?
- Do they ask me thoughtful questions?
- Do they understand and validate my feelings?
- Are they professional?
- Do they appear to have my best interest at heart?
- Do I trust them?
- Would I refer my friends or family to them?
- Are they a good person?
Hiring a therapist should be a well-thought-out decision. It’s not something to take lightly. It is an investment in yourself. We put a lot of thought into cars, houses, even buying a pet. How much more are you worth, your happiness, your family’s happiness? These tips can help you find the right fit for you.
Lianna Tsangarides is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has been working with youth and families since 2007. Lianna has years of experience working in agencies and residential treatment settings prior to starting her private practice in 2015, where she helps teens and young adults struggling with addiction, trauma, and emotional struggles. She was drawn to private practice because of its flexibility and emphasis on individualised and personalised treatment. You can follow her on Twitter @