Does Psychotherapy Work? 3 Tips for Analyzing Your Psychotherapist

For psychotherapy to work, you have to choose the right psychotherapist. These tips will help you analyze your therapist before jumping into weeks or years of expensive counseling.

“Soon after I became a psychotherapist, I realized I could not become the type of therapist my schooling had trained me to become,” writes Manhattan-based therapist Jonathan Alpert in Be Fearless. “In graduate school, I had been taught to help clients come to realizations by simply asking insightful questions. My schooling had warned against injecting my opinion into a therapy session.”

In Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days, Alpert describes how he conducts psychotherapy – and how he actually helps clients change their lives without months or years of therapy. It’s an insightful, helpful book full of practical tips for overcoming fear and anxiety, and achieving your goals.

Here are Alpert’s tips on finding a psychotherapist who goes beyond the “talk therapy” approach, who can actually make a difference in your life.

What Do Good Psychotherapists Do?

Good psychotherapists equip you with the tools you need to make changes in your life. They don’t just nod their heads and say nothing, and they definitely don’t worry more about getting paid than helping you solve your issues!

“Good therapy is results oriented (goals!), has a purpose, and holds clients accountable to their goals,” writes Alpert in Be Fearless. “All too often, therapy keeps people trapped within their fear. It perpetuates problems and reinforces negative behavior. Because the clients never get instructions on how to move forward, they are help hostage by their therapy. Therapists keep them talking endlessly about their problems and fears rather than coaxing them to do something about them.”

When I think of results-oriented therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization (EMDR) comes to mind. If you haven’t heard of it, read Are You Stuck in the Past? Getting Unstuck With EMDR Therapy. It’s not talk therapy, and it can be extremely effective.

How Do You Know if Your Therapist is Good?

If you’ve been seeing your counselor for years, then you need to find a new therapist. If your counselor falls asleep while you’re talking, then you need a new therapist. If your counselor listens to you vent or share endless childhood memories (talk therapy!) but never offers advice, opinions, or tips, then you may need to find a new therapist.

Contrary to popular belief, psychotherapists need to do more than “just listen” to you vent about your life.

“Venting is merely a way to get temporary relief,” writes Alpert. “It doesn’t teach clients the strategies they need to get better. Case in point: before seeing me, some clients had been mired in therapy for years. For them, the patient-therapist relationship was one of codependence: the patient depended on the therapist for emotional support, and the therapist depended on the patient for money.”

Alpert says he’s heard the same story time and again from clients who found their former psychotherapists ineffective. So, he has his own goal-oriented, tips-based approach to psychotherapy – which he describes in detail in Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.

3 Tips for Finding the Right Psychotherapist

Alpert encourages people to interview a number of therapists to get a sense of their beliefs and approach. I know this can be difficult, especially if you don’t have many therapists in your area, but it can make the difference between changing your life or stagnating in your rut.

1. Use the speed dating approach. “Meet many psychotherapists, interview them about their style and beliefs, and settle on one that seems like a good fit for you.” You might even ask to what extent they engage in talk therapy.

2. Look for someone who is results oriented. “Ask, ‘How do you plan to help me?” You might also ask, “How long does your average client stay in therapy?” and “What tools do you plan to teach me to help me cope?”

3. Identify your goals. “Tell potential therapists what you expect to get out of therapy. Be specific, suggest the psychotherapist find a way to monitor your progress, and set a date when you both can expect to see results.”

Part of seeking psychotherapy is being fearless – and that’s what Alpert’s book is all about. It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to overcome (negativity, perfectionism, self-hatred, worry, panic, failure, rejection) or how much fear you feel.

You don’t necessarily need a psychotherapist to change your life – it depends on your personality, emotional and mental health, and ability to create a plan of action and stick to it. For instance, if you’re a perfectionist, maybe you only need to learn a few tips for overcoming perfectionism.

And if you decide to enlist the help of a psychotherapist, take Alpert’s advice and make sure the therapist knows what your goals are. After all, you can’t change your life if you don’t know where to start! A good therapist will help you figure that out.

If your psychotherapist recommends journaling, read Does Journal Writing Help You Heal From Divorce? Not Necessarily.

The difference between unfulfilled people and fulfilled people isn’t the presence or absence of fear, it’s what they do with their feelings.

In Alpert’s book Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days, psychotherapy is just one small section. The bulk of the book contains practical tips for finding courage, overcoming fears, taking action at home, and achieving what you thought was impossible.

If you have any thoughts on psychotherapy or being fearless, please comment below!


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6 thoughts on “Does Psychotherapy Work? 3 Tips for Analyzing Your Psychotherapist”

  1. Hi no more,

    Thank you for your thoughts! I agree that venting about your problem over and over isn’t the best way to heal. It can keep you rooted in your problems, and not help you move forward in life.

    However, not all psychotherapists counsel people in that way. A new type of counseling is Narrative Therapy, that involves you sharing your story in a different way with different outcomes. This helps some people move past their problems.

    I wish psychotherapy was covered by health insurance! I’d be at a counselor’s office every week, talking through my problems and life concerns. Some health plans cover therapy, but only up to $300 or $500.


  2. There are serious problems in the psychological field. Venting is not treatment. Reliving over and again serves no useful purpose other than to feed the tiger, keep it alive. They do not help with advice, solutions, strategies, coping techniques. They just let you suffer. Cash cows. Who can afford to go around interviewing these people to find the right one at $120 or more an hour. It is no wonder health insurance does not cover these people. They don’t do anything!

  3. Kristy,

    I’m so glad you found the right psychotherapist! It’s almost a matter of luck (or God, if you believe in Him). Connecting with your therapist is about chemistry and connection, just like with a friend or life partner.

    I wish all clients were as lucky as you. Psychotherapy changed my life, and I actually wish I was still seeing my therapist every week.

  4. I feel very lucky to have found the ultimate Psychologist who does psychotherapy with me weekly.

    I felt very comfortable and at ease from the very first time I met her and knew I would be seeing her long term.
    For over a year,I have developed a strong bond with my psychologist and have such respect for her and her professionalism.

    Why do I put her on such a high pedestal? Because right from the beginning,I felt that I could trust her.This is usually not easy for me.
    She has twenty years of experience in her field and has amazing knowledge of everything psychological.
    She is a Psychologist with passion.It’s not just a ‘job’ to her and she is extremely genuine.She shows how much she loves what she does.
    I love the way she interacts.She has never been the type of Psychologist who just sits silently nodding for an hour.

    I could go on for pages with the many positives of having Psychotherapy,but I strongly believe that when you find the right therapist who you feel a great connection with,it is most certainly life changing in many ways.

    There are just so many things to learn-especially about ourselves.

  5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comment, onewitheverything! I’m surprised to hear that a licensed clinical social worker wasn’t able to recognize bipolar…but then again, social workers aren’t always trained in psychological or emotional health issues. It depends on the program they attended and the degree they have.

    I’m going in for my Master’s of Social Work, and my goal is to be a counselor for cancer patients (or people with other terminal illnesses). I need to make sure my practicum involves lots of counseling, or I’ll be in the same boat as that social worker!

    I definitely agree that therapists need to know about psychiatric illnesses so they can counsel them…or at least identify the emotional health issue and find the right type of support!

  6. onewitheverything

    Also, therapists need to be have knowledge of psychiatric illnesses. Last year, I was in therapy with a licensed clinical social worker for three months before I realized, by doing internet research, that I was bipolar and that was what caused my relentless and increasing episodes of depression. I was 49 years old.

    I eventually had my diagnosis confirmed by one of the world’s leading experts on bipolar (he writes papers that other psychiatrists cite.) My therapist was clueless about my condition.

    I think more therapists need to know about psychiatric illnesses so that when they encounter patients with them they know how to properly counsel them.