It depends, but here are some questions to help.
First the answer is really it depends. Classic Social work response, I know. There are many barriers to even finding any therapist including cost, insurance, distance, scheduling, and the number of providers in an area.
But let’s say that you are shopping around for a therapist, and you do a consultation. It will be hard to fully get a feel for the therapist in a 15–30-minute consultation call but how they answer the questions will give you the information you need.
The first 3 or so sessions will really be when you see if it is a good fit. Many people stay with a therapist that doesn’t fit because they view it as “sunk cost” or don’t want to retell their story to someone new. But if the fit isn’t good, it probably won’t improve and if you aren’t seeing results by session 7-9 then you likely won’t see improvement the longer you stay.
It is always okay to end therapy if the therapist is not working for you. If you feel inclined, you can give feedback about what it was you did not like to the therapist. At the same time it is not necessarily your responsibility to try to help the therapist become better, and that could be part of the problem.
With that background out of the way, we can dive into some questions to ask yourself regarding if this therapist is a good fit for you. In a way it is very much about knowing yourself and your goals for therapy.
How do you like to be communicated with? Directly, through lots of questions, do you prefer to focus on thoughts, feelings, or body sensations?
What are you wanting to get out of therapy?
Does the therapist have a background and experience that matches your primary concern?
Did they create openings for you to ask about themselves? Some therapists don’t provide any information about themselves because that is part of the way they conceptualize therapy, that they are a blank slate for the client. But did they allow you to ask any questions in the consultation?
Is the therapist transparent about how they view therapy? Did they share their therapeutic orientation? Therapeutic orientation is akin to their philosophy around therapy, how they understand an issue came into existence and how they treat it. It’s like a therapist’s world view and there are many out there. Are they able to explain it in a way that makes sense?
The final and most important question, what does your gut tell you about this person?
Our brains are pattern picking machines, and our guts(the entero-nervous system) have an even older sense of knowing, so while at times it might be difficult to trust yourself, picking your therapist is a great place to start.