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How do I know if my therapist is helping me?

Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine
Good therapists are caring and supportive listeners, who do not exploit nor make judgment calls about you. They may see different things in you than you see in yourself, and they are willing to challenge you in respectful ways that help you toward insight or motivate you toward making positive changes. 
Finding your way through painful circumstances is not easy and doesn't always follow a straight line. Sometimes, you will feel worse as you realize that you misjudged someone you once trusted or you need to make changes in your life. If your helper -- whether a professional therapist, a friend, a relative, a religious or spiritual leader, or anyone else -- is consistently unsupportive or you feel increasingly worse about yourself, you should turn elsewhere or at least get a second opinion.

Good therapists are caring and supportive listeners. They may see different things in you than you see in yourself, and they are willing to challenge you in respectful ways that help you toward insight or motivate you to make positive changes.

A professional title is no guarantee of the quality of therapy or the kind of person a therapist is. Each category of therapists includes individuals with various attitudes and beliefs about healing, emotional health and women as well as different degrees of awareness about the larger societal context in which you live. It is important, for example, to find a therapist who can acknowledge the power relations in your life as well as sexism, racism, homophobia, or any other -isms that makes it difficult for you to fit in with the world around you.

Sometimes, we encounter therapists who have limited skills or who are just not right for us. For example, women who seek counseling from the clergy or other pastoral counselors may find that they impose traditional perceptions of women's roles in unhelpful and limiting ways.

It is inappropriate for a therapist to try to create a social relationship with you, to discuss other clients by name or any other clearly identifying data, and to reveal inappropriate personal information. If a therapist suggests or initiates any sexual contact, it is crucial to leave immediately and lodge a report to the therapist's regulatory association. Encouraging a client to become a friend, lover, or business partner is wrong, as is other unprofessional behavior that may interfere with your therapy.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.