21 Signs You Have a Good Therapist

#6. Support and empathy were consistently offered. It didn’t feel forced.

Carolyn Riker
May 20 · 4 min read
Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

After experiencing some awful therapy, in my 20’s, I wrote an article “21 Reasons Why I Left Therapy.” This is a follow up article because fortunately I did find some good therapy where I was treated with the respect I deserved.

Here’s my list of 21 signs showing what a good therapist looks like.

#1. I truly felt heard, seen, and believed. Therefore, I felt cared for.

#2. My stories, experiences, trauma, conflicts, joys, and difficulties were held with respect. My therapist understood confidentiality was crucial.

#3. I felt safe and not judged for whatever I shared. There was a clear acceptance for my process. I wasn’t compared to others.

#4. A genuine effort was made by my therapist to help me feel comfortable even when I felt scared, anxious, depressed, worried.

#5. I wasn’t rushed, pushed, or sweet-talked into doing anything I didn’t want to do. I was able to repeat and share my stories until I found my center and gained insights.

#6. Support and empathy were consistently offered. It didn’t feel forced.

#7. My therapist was skilled to understand their position and rank could inadvertently hurt me. They didn’t act superior or dismiss my feelings. They listened. I was encouraged to believe in myself and in my own natural wisdom.

#8. This hour was my hour and I knew it. Whether I come in anxious, joyful, relieved, discouraged, sad — my therapist understood how difficult it was to be vulnerable and extended a bridge to communicate and build trust.

#9. My therapist was approachable, considerate, and respected my boundaries. Between the two of us we created a container. What I shared stayed in that space. It didn’t spill out into other areas.

#10. My therapist was humble enough to say, “I don’t know.” And “let me find out and get back to you.” They also offered me referrals if I needed something that was out of their expertise.

#11. At first, I would be anxious about my sessions. Then it became easier. I started to look forward to going. Eventually I knew I needed less sessions. Finally, I knew it was time to stop. Best part? My therapist supported my decisions.

#12. Difficult topics could be shared without criticism or judgement.

#13. My therapist was on time for my appointments and they looked ready too. There wasn’t that feeling I was an after thought or just another person they were seeing.

#14. If they shared a semi-personal story it tied into what I was sharing, and it was meant to collaborate and made me feel less alone in my experience. Their antidotes were helpful and not harmful. It extended the learning and commonality. It didn’t overpower or exclude me.

#15. I felt cared for and comfortable. They sat with me in my darkest, deepest, worst days. They rejoiced in my successes as well. They even teared up with me when I shared something extra difficult. I felt like we were a team.

#16. I learned how to love myself, respect myself, self-soothe by being taught how to accept all sides of who I am.

#17. Conflicts can happen in therapy but when done well, it was an opportunity to practice confrontations in a safe way. Some therapists are better at this than others, but I learned the ones who understand their own power, won’t blame, or shame you. Instead they will teach you conflicts are normal and how we’ll work through this together so when you have a conflict at home, with a friend, at work or with a partner you’ll be better able to work through it.

#18. My therapist was human and made mistakes. How they respond in those situations, how they sincerely apologize, and how they repaired their actions deepened our therapeutic relationship.

#19. I was never made to feel small or silly with what I shared. Each story, memory, and issue was treated with utmost respect. My therapist showed this in their body language, and tone of voice as they spoke to me.

#20. I knew, without a doubt, my therapist held appropriate boundaries so I could be vulnerable as well as safe.

#21. I also knew good therapy has an ending and those last session(s) should be honored and encouraged. Saying goodbye, reviewing what worked, maybe what didn’t; the latter is really okay for a therapist to hear. It is also healthy to know I can return for a tune-up and touch base in the future.

As I said before, I wrote a list of “21 Reasons Why I Left Therapy.” As much as I needed to write that piece, I also needed to write this one too because good therapy is a collaboration of trust, respect, and compassion.


Carolyn Riker, MA, LMHC, is a licensed psychotherapist and author of three books of poetry and prose. Her latest is My Dear, Love Hasn’t Forgotten You. If you’d like, follow her on Facebook at Carolyn Riker, MA, LMHC or Instagram.

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Carolyn Riker

Written by

Licensed psychotherapist, author of three books, social activist that favors coffee and supervised by a large ginger cat. More about me at: www.carolynriker.com

ILLUMINATION

We curate and disseminate outstanding articles from diverse domains and disciplines to create fusion and synergy.

Carolyn Riker

Written by

Licensed psychotherapist, author of three books, social activist that favors coffee and supervised by a large ginger cat. More about me at: www.carolynriker.com

ILLUMINATION

We curate and disseminate outstanding articles from diverse domains and disciplines to create fusion and synergy.

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