How To Know If Your Therapist Is Helping

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woman learning how to know if therapist is helping her

More people than ever before are reaching out for help to become their best selves.

Whether it’s through therapy, coaching, or mentoring — more people are reaching out for support, education and help. They are looking for ways to improve their quality of life in the workplace, in love relationships, and in their families and communities.

RELATED: What Makes A Good Therapist? 10 Important Things To Look For

So, how do you know if your therapist is helping you?

People are loathe to seek outside help with their problems. In fact, research tells you that most couples wait at least five years before reaching out for help. Why is that?

The most common reason is: “We’ve tried everything and nothing works!”

This usually means either they’ve tried the same two things over and over without results, or they’ve been silently (or not so silently) suffering for years without hope for change.

It takes courage and hope to reach out for help when you need it.

Either way, finding a person who you trust, will understand you, hear you, and help you is not always easy. This is why you might procrastinate for long periods of time. And when you do finally decide to seek help, you might enter the relationship cautiously.

It should always be an honor and a privilege for a therapist to have someone come to them for help. Of course, there will be times when they'll want to take someone by the shoulders and shake some sense into them.

It's not a therapist's job to tell people what to do or how to do it. It is not their job to push their opinion onto you, either. And it's certainly not their job to undermine your core values or impose their own — even if they want to.

The best anyone in the helping profession can do is to help you question, examine, and take responsibility for your own thoughts and actions.

A therapist should never assume or dictate what you think or believe.

Many therapy clients come from a faith background or a spiritual perspective, and really need to have that important aspect of themselves acknowledged and respected.

My coaching style is to ask a lot of questions and give sparing advice. I believe people have the answers brewing somewhere inside, and often just need permission or a little more courage to follow their intuition.

RELATED: 5 Reasons Therapy Isn't Working (That Have Nothing To Do With You Being Broken)

There have been a few times, however, when I’ve said something that didn't land well with my client. Later on, as I reflected over the session, I discovered it was because I had assumed I knew the way they felt or what they believed, and that assumption made them feel uncomfortable.

Pay attention to uncomfortable feelings.

Feeling uncomfortable is a good sign that your therapist or coach is trying to either to impose their beliefs onto you or dismiss yours as unimportant.

Another telltale sign is when you feel defensive about something your therapist says to you. I’ve had a therapist suggest I try something that went directly against my core values. 

When I explained to her why that wouldn’t work for me, she was offended! Needless to say, that relationship didn’t last long.

It can be hard to have confidence in yourself and your core beliefs when you're communicating with someone in authority whom you're asking to help you.

When you put yourself into a relationship of trust with another human being, you are bound to feel vulnerable and hesitant. But being able to be vulnerable is one of the determining factors for growth and success in any kind of setting, especially a therapeutic one.

You need to listen to the little voice inside and trust it.

A good therapeutic relationship is founded on mutual trust and respect. That’s it.

You should never feel the need to hide some aspect of yourself or apologize for it. Your story is your story. Everyone’s story is unique and powerful.

Understanding your stories and understanding which aspects of them you want to keep — and which you want to let go of — is hard work. It’s the kind of emotional work that cannot occur if you are holding back or embarrassed that your therapist won’t appreciate or agree with you.

To this end, feel free to meet with a few people until you find the one that you feel comfortable with. If a red flag pops up, check it out.

End the relationship with bad therapists.

Don’t ever continue working with someone who bullies you, dismisses you, or doesn’t respect you, even if it is subtle.

When you do find the right fit with someone, you'll be able to do the inner work necessary to become your best self. You shouldn’t have to compromise your personal moral code in any way. As a matter of fact, your core values should remain intact and get even stronger.

So, how to know if your therapist is helping?

Your thoughts and actions will match up more often with your stated core values. Any therapist or coach worth their salt will always support that kind of essential growth.

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Debby Gullery is a relationship coach with over 25 years of experience coaching and teaching relationship and marriage seminars.