Woman in therapy session

The Most Important Traits to Look for in a Therapist

Finding a psychologist or psychotherapist can be a tricky endeavor. If you’re looking to see a professional for the first time, or if you’ve moved to a new area, selecting a therapist who’s a good match for you can be crucial for your mental health improvement success.

If you have a current therapist but you’re less than thrilled with his or her performance, don’t limit yourself. Don’t be afraid to shop around a bit and find a fit that’s right for you. You’ve already taken the step to see a therapist, why not make the most of it and make sure that your seeing the right person? With all that in mind, here are a few traits that an effective therapist will display. 

Communication Skills

This one might seem pretty obvious, but not all therapists and psychologists have particularly great communication skills. You’ll want to find someone who listens well — and that you can understand. If you don’t connect on a certain level, your interactions (and in turn, your therapy) won’t be as meaningful or effective. 

Effective therapists should be articulate and able to express themselves clearly, and they should also be keen to your emotions and even your thoughts. They should be able to pick up on your body language, tone of voice, and other nonverbal cues to sense what’s going on with you. He or she should always be steering the conversation towards you. One big red flag is having a therapist who’s constantly talking about him or herself.

A good therapist should be able to convey ideas to you in a way that makes sense and is easy to understand. Because if what they’re saying is going right over your head, what’s the point?


All therapists are bound by patient confidentiality (HIPAA) laws, but you should still make sure you feel a real sense of trust in the person you’re dealing with. Only when you are 100% at ease and feel totally free of feelings of judgement, suspicion, and skepticism, will you be making the most of your sessions. Any lack of trust between you and your therapist will mean less progress than you otherwise would have made.

Sometimes it’s a gut feeling we have right away. Sometimes it takes a series of visits to develop, but as in any relationship, trust here is key. 


Your therapist should be flexible in both how and when you spend your time. If you want to talk about someting in particular, they should be open to whatever you’d like to cover. That doesn’t mean they won’t necessarily change the topic or dig deeper, but they should be generally flexible in what the two of you talk about.

They should also be flexible regarding when you two can meet. Many people like to have a set time in their weekly schedule, but others prefer to meet more infrequently and have very hectic schedules. If you fall into the latter category, you’ll want to make sure you find a therapist with a significant amount of scheduling flexibility. 

Interest in your continued improvement

A genuine interest in your personal development is a particularly crucial trait. Is your psychologist or psychotherapist taking a real interest in your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors? Do they seem excited when you’ve made progress, or upset when you’ve slid back? A professional should always stay measured and objective, but you’ll probably be able to notice whether or not they’ve taken a real interest in your success. 

Cultural sensitivity

An effective therapist should be aware of, and accomodating towards different cultural beliefs, customs, rituals, and attitudes. He or she should know about any religious practices, family dynamics, and other factors which may impact treatment. Being oblivious to these factors can result in offending the client, and lead to ineffective therapy. If your therapist isn’t familiar with your particular culture, he or she sould certainly show some effort in learning. If they don’t, it might be time to look elsewhere.

Think you’re therapist is sending some sketchy signals? You might be interested in checking out this post by Noah Rubenstein of Psychcentral:

50 Warning Signs of Questionable Therapy and Counseling 

At the Lukin Center, we have years of experience in New Jersey therapy services, from CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), to couples counseling and individual sessions. We always strive to meet our clients’ needs and help achieve their goals. We have multiple licensed psychologists on staff and two locations (Hoboken and Ridgewood). If you’re thinking about therapy services for yourself or a loved one, contact us, your first visit is totally free.