Therapy is an emotional and financial investment, so people’s hesitation makes sense. Some basic ways to assess whether or not you are receiving quality therapy (versus just chatting with a stranger) are:
Your therapist is qualified. It is very important to find a counselor with credentials and certifications in the area you are experiencing stressors. It can not only show the qualifications of the counselor but also ensure that the counselor adheres to professional laws, rules, and a code of ethics. A licensed counselor also ensures that the content of your communication will be kept strictly confidential due to a duty to observe privacy laws.
Good therapy makes you feel comfortable. An important factor in deciding to work with a particular counselor is your personal comfort level. Trust your gut. Do they make you feel at ease? After a couple sessions, can you open up about difficult things with them? Once qualifications and abilities are determined, the most important thing is to choose a counselor with whom you feel safe, heard, understood, and respected.
The counselor treats you as the unique individual that you are. Have you developed a treatment plan with your counselor? Each client should have goals that are specific to them. You and your counselor should work together to measure progress along those goals, which will insulate you from casting too wide a net in addressing life’s challenges.
Good therapy is nonjudgmental. Your counselor should listen intently when you share. They shouldn’t offer unsolicited advice. An example I always give is, “You drive the car uphill, I’ll help you change your gear.” It’s not about naming what you may be doing incorrectly; that’s for you to decide. Likely, you already judge yourself too harshly. Counseling is about widening your perspective with proven therapies in order to facilitate both acceptance of what is and momentum forward.
Good therapy requires empathy. You should feel that your counselor cares a great deal about your life. While it’s important to remember that your counselor is a paid professional and also a human being with their own struggles, it’s their duty to show up for you. It’s a real part of your counselor’s job to be able to set aside their own issues and show up for you during the sacred time you share. If your counselor isn’t holding themselves to that standard and you feel an instinct that your woes are not being heard, it’s time to open up about this. If you still don’t feel like your counselor is showing up for you, it is best to find a new one.