This week we continue to discuss the importance of finding the right therapist. There are many great therapists out there who are eager to help when someone is ready to start therapy. The challenge is finding them and finding the right fit for you and your needs. Hopefully this week's blog will help you in that process.
A Good Therapist is Going to Show Certain Qualities and Characteristics
When you call or correspond with your therapist, it's important to notice how they interact with you. As we mentioned, initially talking to them isn't the appropriate time for a session. However, after talking with someone 10 or 15 minutes you should be able to notice certain qualities about them. When you have your initial session, notice certain qualities that are needed for a good therapeutic relationship:
1. Empathy: Did you feel like your therapist tried to understand exactly where you are at and what you're struggling with? Did they seem to "get" how you were feeling? It's really important to go to someone you feel understood what is going on. They don't have to agree with everything you said, but was there an understanding of your challenges?
2. Respect: Did you feel respected? Did they listen and not interrupt you? It's important for people to feel heard and to not feel judged by who they are or what they are going through. You want your therapist to respect your beliefs and ideas. Again, you may not always agree, but can they respect what you believe and where you are at right now.
Another part of respect is being on time. It can be difficult for therapists to run on time occasionally. Sometimes sessions run over out of necessity. However, it shouldn't be a norm. If a therapist is always running late and you have to wait, that is not a sign of respect. If they are running late, it's respectful that they offer you a simple reason- just to assure you it wasn't purposeful.
3. Commitment: Are they committed to helping you with your goals? It's important to discuss your goals with your therapist. We often ask clients, "What would you feel like and how would life or your relationships be different the day you complete therapy?" This gives us a great idea of what you want to achieve. Some problems may take awhile. Is the therapist a short-term crisis focused therapist or are in it for the long haul? It's okay to ask if they are committed.
4. Honesty: Sometimes it can be difficult to face the truth. Many times we know the truth and may feel intimidated to face it. A good therapist will be honest, even when it's hard. You don't want a therapist that agrees with everything you say or tells you what you want to hear all the time. Honesty is important.
5. Modeling Healthy Relationships: Your therapist should give you an "informed consent" when you first come to therapy. This will describe what you can and cannot expect out of therapy. They are boundaries in the relationship. Your therapist should enforce and respect the boundaries between you and them. This can teach you how to have good boundaries in your relationships as well.
Hopefully this helps give you a good picture of what a good fit feels like. It's important to remember that sometimes you may not find the perfect fit the first time around. If you don't feel comfortable with the person after a couple visits, it may be time to try again. The process of therapy itself can be uncomfortable enough. You don't want to add to it by having someone you are uncomfortable with.
Thank you for reading. Tomorrow Joleen will finish out our series.
Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC, LCAC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling. We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville.