Numerous studies over the years have shown that the best way to heal is the relationship you have with your therapist. How can you find the right therapist for you?
Find the right therapist
Finding the right therapist at this time in your life is difficult.
Spend 10 to 15 minutes talking to potential therapists about your concerns, what it is you want, and how they work. Contrary to popular belief, their answers may not be so important. What’s crucial is how the person speaks to you and whether you feel you could forge a connection with them. Ideally, you’re looking for someone who, at a minimum, listens well, is compassionate, direct, and not afraid to share their opinion. In the past, therapists were not allowed to give advice or share their thoughts. I don’t believe this creates a trusting, open, honest relationship. Although your therapist may be more likely than not to vet what they say, it is still useful to have someone mirror what you say to them.
Trust Your Gut
Many people recommend that you have a few sessions before you decide whether or not you want to continue working with them. It can be a waste both of time and money. Most people intuitively sense if they are compatible with someone. Chemistry does not depend on exposure. It’s common to feel it right away. Listening to that inner message and heeding its advice can be extra challenging when we’re seeking help as we’re not feeling our most confident. This makes it even more difficult to trust our intuition.
It’s therapeutic to trust your gut from the start. After all, isn’t one of the goals of therapy to have you feel safe inside yourself? And isn’t trusting your intuition part of that package? Furthermore, as Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are believe them the first time.”
Know the Details of Your Therapy
In those first few minutes on the phone, before you schedule your initial appointment, it’s also good to find out about insurance, fees, and payment methods.
As for choosing a therapist based on the methodologies they use, there are certain areas where this might be very important, though the therapist’s experience trumps methodology most of the time. If you come from an abusive family or are struggling with addiction, you will want someone who has experience working with adult children of alcoholics or people with addictions. Similarly, if you experienced childhood trauma, it’s important to work with a trauma-informed therapist.
How are your physical and emotional well-being connected?
As a holistic psychotherapist, I believe all aspects of someone’s life are worthy of attention as they affect one’s emotional and physical well being. Let’s face it, if you’re deeply in debt, your stress level is likely to be high. If you’re skipping meals, you might mistake low blood sugar for a mood disorder. If you’re not sleeping enough you might have trouble remembering your schoolwork since most memory consolidation happens during sleep.
Sometimes, even with the best therapeutic alliances, you may feel you have done everything you can. You might decide to go on a break and come back 10 years later. Or you may choose to try a different therapist who uses a different approach.
Some therapists prefer to end therapy in writing, but I like to keep my doors open for anyone who wants to return in the future. Over 40 years of experience, I have seen people take a break from therapy for anywhere between a month and 30 years. The simple fact that they can come back if they need to can feel very supportive.
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