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.
Observe how they dress
ImageFlow/Shutterstock First impressions mean everything on a first date, job interview, and even during a therapy session. You want a therapist who looks polished and well-groomed, not someone who looks like they threw on an outfit from their dirty laundry basket. “You have to ask yourself if is this someone I can picture myself having a relationship with week in and week out,” says Rachel Sussman, a licensed psychotherapist and founder of Sussman Counseling in New York City. A therapist should look like someone you’d want to approach at a cocktail party not avoid like the plague. Pants that drag, discolored clothing, and lint are just a few outfit mistakes that may make your therapist look messy.
Watch their body language
wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock The last thing you want is your therapist staring at the clock or zoning out in their chair while you’re sharing your deepest, most personal inner thoughts. It’s important to find a therapist who will actively engage with you similar to how an attentive friend would. Nods of the head, eye contact, writing notes, and asking relevant questions that dig deeper into the root of your problems are a few telltale signs that your therapist is listening to you. “If I were to see someone and they weren’t having eye contact with me, I would think this is weird,” says Sussman. A therapist who smiles who gestures with their palms open can also help them build a better relationship with you.