Therapy is not an easy undertaking, particularly if you are facing painful challenges, confronting fears, or grieving a loss. Finding a therapist who is the right fit for you can be a tricky process. There are several things to keep in mind as you embark on the search.
If you can get a referral from a trusted source, that is always helpful, but even if the therapist is skilled they may not be the right one for you. From your very first contact with the therapist you are obtaining valuable information. Even in a brief phone conversation you can begin to see how it feels to interact with this person. It may seem harsh to make a judgment based on a phone conversation, and I don’t suggest ruling anyone out based solely on that interaction, but do take note of the therapist’s tone and willingness to answer questions when making your final decision about who to see.
After meeting with the therapist ask yourself if you felt comfortable and heard. Good therapy typically makes you feel badly sometimes and better others. There should be a clear boundary between you and the therapist, meaning the therapist should not feel like a friend that you are simply sharing personal information with. Conversely, the therapist shouldn’t feel like your superior either or someone who is holding all the cards. Therapy should be a collaborative endeavor and in fact many clinicians will engage the patient in all facets of the process from diagnosis to treatment.
Sometimes it takes trial and error to find the right therapist. There are many different ways to practice therapy and not all ways are right for all people. Some patients prefer a very straightforward approach and others want a gentler less directive type of experience. You may not know what your preferences are until you have begun the actual process.
Within about 3 sessions a therapist should have a good idea about whether or not the union between the two of you will be a productive one. Of course you should weigh in on this decision as well. So often patients spend so much time and so much money continuing to attend therapy sessions, that don’t feel productive, because of a fear of hurting the therapist’s feelings or uncertainly about whether or not they can trust their own judgment. In my opinion, very early on in the process, the therapist should check in with you to ask you how you are feeling about working together.
While therapy isn’t a walk in the park, and there will most likely be rough patches, you should begin to see some demonstrable results within a reasonable amount of time depending upon the severity of your issues.
If you feel comfortable asking questions and sharing openly without fear of judgment and you feel that you are obtaining some benefit from attending therapy sessions, then the therapist is most likely a good fit.