If you’re ready to explore therapy, one of the first things you’ll need to do is pick a therapist. How can you be sure that the one you choose is right for you? Speaking to a mental health professional can feel intimidating, but therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all experience. To get the results you want, it’s important that you find someone you feel comfortable with.
During therapy, you’ll probably share emotions, memories, and experiences that can be intense. For therapy to be effective, you have to be honest and open, and trust your therapist to support and guide you. Therapy is a powerful way to take care of yourself, and you deserve to find the person who will help you get the most out of your effort.
As you decide who you want to work with, there are ways to know if you’re on the right track. An effective therapist/patient relationship isn’t hard to find if you know what you’re looking for. Here are some encouraging signs to watch for when you meet with a therapist.
1. You feel safe.
A therapist should respect who you are–your culture, belief system, sexual orientation, political beliefs, background–everything that makes you who you are. You can’t feel secure enough to be truly vulnerable if you feel any pressure to change or hide your real self. A therapist should never shame you for who you are or what you do.
Therapy should be a judgment-free space. Your therapist isn’t there to approve or disapprove of you, but to validate your experience and guide you as you explore it. This doesn’t mean they won’t ever challenge you to think about things differently. However, you should never feel judged or condemned for your choices.
2. They understand your goals and challenges.
In order to understand and support you, a therapist should pay close attention to your reasons for seeking help. Why are you there, and what are you hoping to achieve? What has been holding you back? Although your ideas will probably evolve as your understanding grows, your goals should never be pushed aside. Your therapist may suggest other topics that you may want to explore, but in the end, what you focus on is up to you.
When you describe what you are struggling with or what you hope to achieve, your therapist should be able to show that they are paying attention to what you want. If they understand what you’re working towards, they can be much more effective in helping you find the way. They should show you that they’re on your team.
3. They can offer you multiple tools.
There are different approaches to therapy, and different techniques that are used. If one approach isn’t helpful to you, your therapist should be ready to pivot and try something else. For example, if mindfulness simply isn’t working even after you have tried it multiple times, it makes sense to try something else, such as CBT Therapy or journaling.
It’s a good idea to approach different suggestions with openness, because you may be surprised at the results you get. But if you just don’t like a specific technique, or it isn’t working for you, then you have every right to say so. Your therapist should accept that as important information that can help direct your next steps. It’s not a failure; it’s a sign that it’s time to try something else.
4. You are seeing changes.
Although therapy may take some time, you should be able to see some small changes in your life in about a month or so. If you’re working on healing after experiencing significant trauma, it will take a while to process. However, you can still experience a lighter emotional load along the way. Changing unhelpful patterns of thoughts and behaviour can make a difference in your life faster than you may expect.
Therapy can also help you develop a more complex and realistic understanding of yourself and the people around you. This nuanced understanding can help you find a way forward even in situations that seem impossible to change. Early on in the process, you may not be ready to make changes, but you start to see that change is possible.
5. You feel better after a session.
It may not be realistic to expect that you’ll leave every session with a smile. Therapy can be emotionally exhausting, and sometimes you will probably leave feeling tired. You may also face issues that are painful at times.
But this isn’t the same as feeling increasingly stressed or negative after your session. It can be hard work, but therapy shouldn’t leave you feeling worse about yourself. Even on the hard days, you should feel like you’re making progress. And there really will be many days when you leave a session with a smile and a renewed sense of hope.
6. Your therapist feels right for you.
This one is pretty subjective, but you and your therapist are both human. Some people simply “click,” while others don’t. A therapist can do everything right, but still not be the best fit for you.
If you don’t feel at ease with someone, you aren’t going to be able to make as much progress with them. Therapy is a profound act of self-care. It’s worth the effort to find the right person to help you on your journey. Any therapist worth their salt will understand if you decide not to continue working with them, and not take it personally.
The right therapist can make all the difference
If you’re ready to start therapy, we invite you to contact us at Trillium Counselling and see if one of our skilled, compassionate mental health professionals would be a good fit. We offer a free 20-minute phone interview for new patients, to help you find the right therapist for you. Our team of Kitchener Waterloo therapists is here to support you in this journey, so you can create the life you long for.