How to Find a Great Therapist Match
Even when you think you might be ready to start or return to therapy, you may wonder about finding a therapist who’s a good match. In these days of tele-therapy, it can be both easier and harder to find someone. The field is wider, providing greater selection, but that also may make it more difficult to narrow down your choice.
It may surprise you to learn that I started therapy (by choice) when I was 14 years old. I’ve had some half dozen therapists over the decades—fair and great ones—and learned something from them all. If you’re in the market for one or are evaluating your current therapist, here's some excellent advice about how to make this important choice from “Not making progress in therapy? Make sure you and your therapist are a good fit.”
The author encourages you to do the following:
- Don’t expect your therapist to fix you. Make sure you practice what your therapist suggests and take your skills out on the road. Remember that a session is a small fraction of your week and that it can’t do the changing for you but can spur it on. Between sessions, consider what you and your therapist discussed. Better yet, take notes and reread them often to remind you of what you talked about in session.
- Be upfront about abuse or trauma. Although you may be ashamed of things that happened to you, remember that seasoned therapists (I wouldn’t go to any other kind) have heard scores of stories about abuse and neglect in the course of their careers. They won’t be shocked, nor will they judge you for whatever you say. If you don’t trust the therapist right off the bat, say that you have some issues to talk about, but it may take time to disclose them.
- Prepare to be uncomfortable. Because awareness and discomfort lead to change, you may feel things in therapy you haven’t felt or felt strongly before. Your therapist’s job is to validate your feelings, but always to keep you stretching you a bit. “If your knee-jerk reaction to any challenge by the therapist is to deflect, crack jokes or get angry,” they may be hitting a nerve, which is definitely something to discuss. It’s more than okay to disagree with your therapist as long as you know you’re not being defensive and that they’re there to help you.
Therapy has been called the art of reparenting and it’s true that it’s not just the issues you talk about that make a difference, but your relationship with your therapist. You should feel as if you’re in a positive—what’s called a “holding”—environment and should be able to comfortably engage in rupture and repair. If you’re not making progress, don’t be afraid to say so or say goodbye and find a better match.