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July 06, 2023
Let’s be honest, one of the most difficult parts about starting your therapy journey is finding the right therapist. You will be extremely vulnerable with this person. They are going to help you in the most intimate details of your life, so you have every right to be picky. Did you know that the therapeutic relationship is the number one indicator of success in therapy? It’s true, who you choose as your therapist matters. So, here are some things to look for when choosing your therapist.
One of the most important qualities a therapist can have is the ability to build and maintain your trust. Trust comes overtime - but you should feel comfortable in the presence of your therapist. The therapist you choose should give you the feelings of warmth, empathy, and competence. The way the therapist engages with you should convey trust. They should display a level of professionalism which shows they are well educated and informed. You should have full confidence that they can help you solve your presenting problem. If they can help you solve your problem, odds are you will trust them.
Some of the biggest feedback I get from clients who have been to therapy before is that their previous therapist was either too passive or too aggressive. The last thing you want is for your therapist to be passive and to “follow”. Have you ever had a therapist that just feeds you fluff? They just tell you how amazing you are, ask how that made you feel, and never give you any direction. When a therapist follows, you can feel like you're spinning your wheels without getting anywhere.
The aggressive therapist can feel like a “dictator.” The aggressive therapist can come across cold. They don’t give you the space to learn and grow at your own pace. What you are looking for is a guide. The ‘guide therapist’ is like your co-pilot. They help you know where to go, but you get to be the one to actually take the steps to get there. The guiding therapist doesn’t just give you a fish, but teaches you how to fish. They set you up with the skills and abilities to navigate life post treatment. Instead of telling you what to do, they help you come up with solutions and answers. That is how lasting change happens. The guide knows how to be loving and empathetic while telling you what you need to hear in order to progress.
You want to feel connected to your therapist. The therapist should have the “soft” skills (aka people skills) which are appealing to you. The therapist you choose should possess the traits of a good communicator. They can articulate what they are trying to say while also being a great listener. The therapist should be confident in themselves. They will help you feel like you can show up as your authentic self. There should be an element of comfort and ease when it comes to connecting with your therapist. Feedback and your point of view should be valued. You want to feel like the therapist you are working with genuinely cares about you. You should not feel like another number or paycheck. Rather than jumping to conclusions, the therapist should meet you with curiosity about you, your situation, and life story. Ultimately, you want to feel a sense of rhythm and familiarity.
In the End
I know what you are thinking… What if I go to my first session and I really do not like the therapist? It is normal to not know what to do or to even feel guilty about wanting a different therapist. Coming from a therapist, that is okay! This is your journey and growth process and you deserve the best fit for you. Most therapists will not be offended, in fact they will be grateful for your honesty. Therapists know therapists, so they will be one of your best sources for a referral. The therapist will be able to model appropriate respect of needs, boundaries, and expectations. This will make you feel more confident in yourself as you go into future situations of uncomfortability. On the off chance the therapist is rude to you for not wanting to work with them, you probably did not want to work with them anyway. I wish you all the best in your therapy journey.
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