Observe how they dressImageFlow/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 languagewavebreakmedia/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.
Don’t be afraid to ask them what they thinkwavebreakmedia/Shutterstock
Therapists are constantly asking you about your thoughts on your life experiences, so don’t be afraid to turn the tables on them and ask them for their input. “If there’s any question in your mind about whether they’re listening to you, you need to find out right away,” says Dr. Carmichael. “[You could say something like,] ‘I see you nodding your head, can you tell me what you think about what I’m saying.’” You want a therapist who will chime in with excellent, thought-provoking advice when you need them to. Here’s a list of a few things doctors are too afraid to say to your face.