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Six Questions to Ask About Your Therapist

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We’ve written about the fact that certain therapies work well for the treatment of anxiety whereas other approaches have little support in the literature for their effectiveness. Therefore, we always encourage you to ask for treatments that are backed by solid research. But getting the right therapy is just the first step.

Another issue arises when you start working with a therapist. Namely, how do you know that you’ve found the right match for you?

Usually, people feel comfortable with their therapists. They feel connected with and heard by the professional they’ve chosen to work with. That’s because “most” therapists are reasonably kind, skillful, and good at listening.

On the other hand, sometimes the match doesn’t feel right. That could be because your therapist reminds you of your mother with whom you had a difficult relationship or perhaps things don’t feel right for no reason that you can pin down. Such feelings are important and you need to pay attention to them because studies have shown that the quality of the therapeutic relationship contributes to how well therapy works.

You may want to ask yourself the following questions after you’ve seen your therapist for a few sessions:

  • Do I feel at ease in discussing almost anything with my therapist that I feel is important?
  • Do I feel safe when I’m talking with my therapist?
  • Does it seem like my therapist understands and truly hears what I have to say?
  • Does my therapist look interested in what I have to say?
  • Do my therapists’ reactions to what I say feel nonjudgmental and noncritical?
  • Does it feel like my therapist cares about me and my problems?

If you feel like any of these questions lead you to a strong “no,” or if several of the questions make you uncertain of the answer, you have concerns that should be discussed with your therapist. Having that discussion may feel difficult, but it’s important. A good therapist will want to hear about your feelings and will not respond defensively.

If the discussion ends up making you feel uncomfortable once more, you may need to find another therapist. You need to feel safe and comfortable with the person you’ve chosen to work with. However, there is one exception to this rule of thumb.

If you’ve had numerous problems in relationships with others and struggle greatly to feel safe talking with even your best friends, you may also struggle to feel comfortable with your therapist. If that’s the case, you may want to include that information in your discussion with your therapist. You might want to give your decision about seeking another therapist a little more time. But at the end of the day, you need to have a reasonably good relationship with your therapist or your therapy won’t work as well as it should.

Photo by Bharath Kishore, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.

Six Questions to Ask About Your Therapist

Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D.

Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and a Founding Fellow in the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. He is also a member of the faculty at Fielding Graduate University. He specializes in the treatment of adolescents and adults with obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, anger, depression, and personality disorders. Dr. Elliott is coauthor of: Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies (2nd Ed), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder For Dummies, Seasonal Affective Disorder For Dummies, Anxiety and Depression Workbook For Dummies, Depression For Dummies, Why Can't I Get What I Want?, Why Can’t I Be the Parent I Want to Be?, and Hollow Kids: Recapturing the Soul of a Generation Lost to the Self-Esteem Myth. His website is:

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APA Reference
Elliott, C. (2011). Six Questions to Ask About Your Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Sep 2011
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