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How do I know my therapist is the right fit?

So, you’ve started therapy. You googled and asked for referrals and called practices. You did an intake call and filled out the paperwork. You’ve met with your new therapist a few times and now you’re not sure if your therapist is the right match. But, it hasn’t been that long so, how can you be sure? Let’s talk about what to look for in your therapist!

 

Safety and Trust

Sessions with your therapist should feel safe. While you might talk about topics that make you feel uneasy or uncomfortable, you should feel safe sharing that difficult story with your therapist. Your therapist should be working with you to learn and identify how to help you feel safe in difficult conversations.

 

Trust is a critical component of therapy. A lack of trust in a therapeutic relationship will greatly decrease the likelihood that the work will be productive and effective. If you feel unsure about whether or not you trust your therapist, think about why that is. Are there things they’ve said or done that make you uneasy? Do you usually take a while to build trust? Is there something they could change to make you feel more comfortable?

 

Qualifications and Style

Okay, you might be thinking, DUH I want my therapist to be qualified. Of course, your therapist should have the proper educational background and licensure. That’s a basic requirement! But, does your therapist have training in your specific area(s) of need? Hopefully these were questions that were answered in the intake process and you already know and feel confident that your therapist’s areas of expertise match your needs. You also want a therapist whose style and demeanor in sessions works for you. Every modality in therapy has its own viewpoint and conceptualization of the root causes of problems and how to address them. These viewpoints along with the therapist’s own demeanor and personal style of interacting with others blend together and form a therapist’s style. If you know you feel attacked or hurt when people provide direct feedback, then you might struggle with a therapist who tends to be more direct and blunt in their delivery. If you know you are prone to avoiding difficult topics, you might benefit from a therapist who will call you out on it. Knowing what types of communication styles work and don’t work for you is important. As you think about how your first few sessions with your therapist have gone, think about whether or not your therapist communicates with you in ways that work for you. If there are instances where communication hasn’t been ideal, talk about it! Therapists make mistakes too, and we want to hear if there are things we can do or say to make communication easier! Sometimes, personalities just don’t mesh. And that is okay too!

 

Empathy, validation, listening

This goes hand-in-hand with your therapist’s style. Does your therapist reflect that they understand your experiences? When they summarize or check for understanding, do you feel like they are trying to understand from your point of view and without judgment? Is it clear that your therapist is devoting their attention to you in session- do they seem focused or distracted? Do they validate your feelings and experiences? If your therapist misunderstands or misinterprets something you’ve said, are they open and responsive to that feedback?

 

Alignment of goals and tracking progress

Does your therapist help you accomplish your goals? Do they reference specific things you’re working on and offer strategies for those challenges? Are you having frequent check-ins about how therapy is going and if you feel you’re making progress? Do you need more or fewer check-ins about goals and progress? Is your therapist open to hearing feedback about what they can do better to help you achieve your goals? Making sure that you’re both working towards the same goals and have a similar understanding about how you’re evaluating these goals is crucial.

 

There are probably about a million factors that go into a successful therapeutic relationship- all of which can’t possibly be covered here! But it is normal to wonder if your therapist is the right fit for you! Remember, you know yourself best and you know what works and doesn’t work for you. If there are things your therapist can do to make therapy better, bring it up and talk about it! If it simply isn’t the right fit, bring it up and talk about it and ask for referrals to someone who might better meet your needs. The last thing anyone wants is for you to feel like you’re wasting time and money to not have your needs bet met.



Written By,


Alyssa Onan, LPC


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