Over the years, numerous studies have shown that it is actually the relationship between you and your therapist that has the highest potential for healing, not necessarily the methodology. So, how do you go about finding the right therapist for your individual needs?
Find the Right Therapist
The hard part is finding the right therapist for you at this season of your life.
The most reliable way is to spend 10 to 15 minutes talking with a prospective therapist about your concerns, what you seek, and how they work. Counter-intuitively, their answers are not 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. Historically, therapists were trained to not give advice or say what they thought. I don’t believe this creates a trusting, open, honest relationship. Of course, your therapist is more likely to vet what they say before they say it, but how useful is it to have someone simply mirror what you said back to you?
Trust Your Gut
I know a lot of people suggest that you have a few sessions with someone before you decide whether you want to continue with them, or not. I think that can be a waste of time and money. Most of us intuitively know if we resonate with someone, or not. Chemistry is not based on more exposure. We typically feel it almost immediately. 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. That makes trusting our intuition even more difficult.
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.”
Understand 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. For example, if you came from a family with an alcoholic parent, or if you yourself are struggling with an addiction, you would want someone who works with adult children of alcoholics, or with people with addictions. Similarly, if you experienced childhood trauma, it’s important to work with a trauma-informed therapist.
How is 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 alliance, there may come a time when you feel you have gained everything you can at this point in your life. You may decide to take a break and return 10 years later, or you may try a different therapist with a different approach.
While some therapists like to formally end therapy, I like to leave my door open in case someone wants to come back in the future. In over 40 years of practice, I have seen people take a break for anywhere from a month to 30 years. Just knowing they can come back if the need arises can feel very supportive and nurturing.
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