Who is the best therapist in Sydney?
Are you currently in search of professional help or contemplating it? Of course you are looking for the best therapist but how can you judge the best without speaking to them all first?
Chances are, you may have Googled the “Best Therapist in Sydney”. But what comes next? Do you judge by qualifications? Or whether they use the latest evidence-based intervention? Or have the most 5-star reviews?
The answer depends on who is asking. For example, the best therapist for a couple with relationship stress generally differs from the best therapist for an individual dealing with past trauma.
How to find the best therapist in Sydney, for YOU
1. Ask a friend, colleague or your GP — recommendations from a trusted source can be powerful.
2. Check out therapists’ websites — you can get a good feel for their approach and professionalism by reading the information they provide.
3. Book a call — speak directly with the therapist or service and ask questions!
4. Clarify your need — does your issue require a therapist with specific training or experience?
5. Determine your practical preferences — what is your availability, budget and location?
To help inspire your process, we interview Jacqueline Stone alongside her esteemed retired associate, Heather Firth. Together, they bring their wealth of expertise from over three decades of therapy in private practice at Jacqueline Stone & Associates. With their vast knowledge and insight, they are the ideal guides to assist you in considering the best therapist in Sydney, for you.
Firstly, what makes therapy successful?
Jacqueline Stone: The relationship between a therapist and a client is pivotal. It goes beyond rapport and, in fact, if your therapist is not a person you want to meet for a coffee or hang out with on a Friday night, that is not a bad thing.
In the literature, it is called the Therapeutic Alliance — that makes therapy successful. It comprises many elements, including a commitment to one another to do the work and not to avoid difficult topics or feelings, but to talk about the discomfort, if it is not yet time, or not yet possible to talk openly about the root of the discomfort.
It is important to recognise that sometimes successful therapy is about timing. Are you ready to ponder what is underneath your current struggles? Counselling or therapy is still successful if it supports you through a difficult period, but probably when people think of therapy being really successful, they are thinking about when a person achieves a significant change in themselves or their outlook, or overcomes long-standing hurdles or situations in their life. And sometimes it has to be the right time for that kind of work to occur.
Sometimes clients come for help when faced with a challenging situation, and they finish once they’ve been able to deal with the key issues. Then they may return later ready for deeper change — they can commit and achieve truly life-changing therapy.
I trust you will have an innate sense of who the best therapist in Sydney for you is. However, it’s important to recognize that therapy may not be a simple journey. While it may come smoothly, it is unlikely to be entirely comfortable.
Successful therapy is about working through what lies beneath the stress, the depression, or anxiety. It’s about the therapist listening to you deeply, hearing what is going on for you, arriving together at a place of understanding. Understanding the way you are in the world, what patterns of relating or relationships are stuck or causing you problems. And working together to overcome black-and-white thinking, to confront and grieve loss or trauma and to make big shifts from, say, shame to self-compassion.
What makes a good therapist?
Jacqueline Stone: Good therapists encompass a wide range of shapes and sizes, and determining the best therapist in Sydney for you, may not align with another individual’s preference. I believe certain qualities are commonly found among great therapists.
Beyond good training, professionalism and integrity, specific personal qualities make a therapist good. I think these include a curious mind and intellect. Good therapists are driven to understand the world and people and they are open-minded and are natural lifelong learners. They soak up ideas and perspectives from their reading and their listening, from their pastimes, and from all their interactions with people and the world.
Most, if not all, good therapists have done significant therapy themselves. Whether it is part of their initial training or within ongoing training and development, spending significant time in the role of client, not only helps with their own personal healing, mental health and development, but it also offers a deep appreciation for how therapy works and the demands it places on the client.
I also believe that good experience of therapy as a client, gives therapists confidence and perseverance in the work they do with their own clients.
Beyond essential skills like effective listening and high-level communication skills, a good therapist requires patience and resilience, along with their own healthy sense of sense worth, if they are going to foster this in others.
What is a good therapy experience like?
Jacqueline Stone: I count it to be an incredible privilege to work with people who are striving to overcome stress, trauma, pain, conflict, or inner demons. While it is challenging work, it is very rewarding to see people recover and thrive.
When people face long-held painful memories that cause pain or anxiety, I am often amazed at the courage they find to move beyond just coping, avoiding, or numbing themselves. When we build enough trust and safety to make being vulnerable possible, it is lovely to witness a client surprise themselves with their own resilience.
For some, therapy is like a whole new language, talking about, say, how conflict or tension in their relationships feels, is foreign and uncomfortable. It presents an entirely new way of tackling things and for someone who is used to being good at things, or perhaps the best, to come to therapy and be a beginner is a big ask.
But I think connecting and sharing is an innate human drive, so people take to it and improve and often excel and the flow-on effect in their lives is striking. Perhaps a new opportunity emerges at work or at home and it is wonderful to witness.
It might also surprise you to know how often there are lighter moments in the consultation room. As anxiety subsides, depression lifts and brain fog clears, delight, humour and passion often appear. I cherish the stories of old or new pursuits emerging, like music or travel or play with children. Or jokes at the client’s or the therapist’s expense are shared.
And I love it when new directions or decisions are made. It’s a telltale sign of the client’s hard work paying off.
Heather, what makes therapy successful?
Heather Firth: The relationship between therapist and client is the most important thing, and the research backs this up. Repeatedly, research shows that when the professional relationship between therapist and client is positive, therapeutic outcomes are better. Which, of course, sounds obvious.
It is often a big step for someone to come to therapy for the first time. They have perhaps been thinking about it for ages, weeks, or months, even years. It’s hard trying something new, and therapy is no exception.
Sometimes there’s an instant connection, an instant and easy rapport. Sometimes it takes longer, and that’s why we suggest committing to a few sessions to see.
Sometimes, although it is rare, it is just not there, the connection, and that’s an easy argument for trying another therapist.
When the connection works, being listened to non-judgementally, and really being heard, for some people for the first time in their lives, is powerful. It is the foundation for change. It is how therapy works.
When trust is built and felt, therapy enables a client to share their struggles and their feelings, and to think together with the therapist. This process brings about change.
It takes courage, courage to take the first step. To develop the connection and trust and to talk about how things are for you. But it gets easier, and it brings confidence, a sense of inner strength that grows, with continual connection.
It’s not a quick fix. Depending on the damage felt by a person, or trauma they experienced sometimes very early in their lives, it can take longer. It can be daunting, but some people want to continue to work together over a long period to get the best possible outcomes.
It is common for it to take time to be honest and more open with the therapist because, especially if you’re a people pleaser, it is more difficult to share both the good and the bad.
Maybe a client is inclined to always think they are the one who is wrong. They struggle with the power imbalance, like a parent-child or authority figure/adult-child dynamic. It takes time to come to realise they can speak up, to really feel their adult self.
Successful therapy is most often uncomfortable. Because it is a lot about not knowing what you don’t know, so vulnerability is an important part of it. It is about people letting themselves feel genuine feelings, to feel and sit with discomfort and difficulty and revisit painful times.
Most people come to learn that pain and discomfort are better than anxiety and depression. That, together with a therapist (or within another relationship) it is what enables you to have pain eased. Rather than suffering on your own, going round in circles in your head, or in life.
Therapy comes to be a place where problems feel more manageable, less overwhelming. Safety is created between the therapist and client, and this makes excellent therapy possible.
How to find excellent therapy?
Heather Firth: Word of mouth can be powerful. When a recommendation comes through your personal network, it can be easier to build trust and confidence initially. Sometimes the recommendation will come from a therapist — in speaking to a therapist, they may not be suitable for you, but they can make a recommendation from their professional network.
It is important, all being well in a first session, to commit to a few more sessions, to find the right therapist for you and to be open to how things unfold.
If you feel uneasy, it’s best to communicate this with your therapist. Addressing uneasiness with the therapist strengthens the professional relationship. A good therapist will invite and model this type of healthy communication.
What is a good therapy experience like?
Heather Firth: When trust is built, a client can express emotions they usually hide, like anger and fear. Hesitation and even denial can shift.
Positive changes come when clients can express their present feelings, that were similar to when they were a small child. Maybe they recognise that the disappointment they feel from their boss is like what they experienced with a parent when they were young.
The patterns of relating and relationships are etched very early in life, both positive and negative, and new freedom emerges when we can come to see how this wiring affects us in the present.
Many powerful emotions emerge, including disbelief, broken dreams, grief…but when no longer hidden, they are no longer a burden.
It is always special to realise insight emerging for a client who had always seen things one way and had been stuck within this limited perspective. Then, to see their own new insight and to release old pain and emotions, and to become lighter and more hopeful is wonderful.
It can be a bumpy road, even the client/therapist relationship can be bumpy, but that is realistic because it is a relationship like any other, except in therapy there is the opportunity to work with it constructively and kindly. To model openness and honesty and to talk things through.
Psychodynamic therapy is experiential…not just thinking but feeling, building awareness and resilience, recognising that therapy is neither all bad nor all good, which reflects reality and the human condition.
What makes a good therapist?
Heather Firth: A good therapist sits with a client no matter their feelings. They give the time, space, respect and accept the person as they are.
To be heard, and to feel heard, is the greatest gift. To experience it brings relief. It helps people put their own feelings and thoughts into words. A therapist helps them make sense of it, talk things through together and process: the therapist doesn’t know but facilitates exploring together, to draw out the client’s knowing.
Good therapy is unique every time. It’s a creative process.
Good therapy is how the client comes to appreciate and accept themselves and the person they are, through witnessing the acceptance of them, by the therapist, repeatedly.
A good therapist has compassion and models this and with time the client develops a greater capacity for compassion, for others and themself.
Is one of our therapists the best therapist for you?
If you are curious, we would like to help you find out. Our website answers the most common questions we get asked, as well as to provide plenty of information and insight while you consider your challenges and your needs.
We invite you to get in touch, via email for questions, or book now for a free call where we can think about your options and you can decide if in fact once of us may be the best therapist for you.