Set goals in the first session
VGstockstudio/Shutterstock An easy clue you’ve found the right therapist is if they have “treatment” goals that align with yours. Goal setting is an important first step to ensure that you both are on the same page about issues you want to focus on. “I like to set goals that we both agree on to be very clear about the work that we are going to be doing,” says Angela Londoño-McConnell, PhD, psychologist and president of AK Counseling & Consulting, Inc., in Watkinsville, Georgia. Discussing your personal goals with a therapist helps you learn about their therapeutic approaches to your problems and whether you two are a fit. A few daily mantras couldn’t hurt either for achieving your goals.
Make sure you’re comfortable
wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock Therapy is designed to be a confidential space for you to talk freely without being judged, so you should feel at ease sitting across from them on the couch. “[Therapy] needs to be a place where people are going to be able to openly talk about everything that’s on their mind,” says Anthony Tasso, PhD, ABPP, clinical psychologist in Whippany, New Jersey. “Therefore, it’s crucial that the therapist works to create a safe, secure environment to explore such feelings.” If you leave a therapy session feeling judged or ridiculed by your therapist, then it may be time to part ways and continue your search for a therapist that better fits your needs.
Take a quick look around their office
Siyanight3/Shutterstock As you take your first step into their practice, take a moment to observe the therapist’s office environment. Are there stacks of paperwork strewn all over their desk? Are old office plants rotting away in a vase? If so, these could be clues that the therapist is disorganized or scatterbrained in their own professional life, which may make it hard for you to open up about your own career goals. You want a therapist who has their ducks in a row and can offer you sound, valuable advice. “I’ve been surprised by the quality of some therapists’ offices,” says Dr. Carmichael. “Every session should lead you to organization, preparedness, energy, and wellness; if the person’s physical environment doesn’t communicate those things, I would be cautious of that.” If your therapist is a slob, try suggesting these easy tips for decluttering their desk.