What is the Secret to Choosing a Therapist?
Not one size fits all
Generally speaking, individuals who have been in therapy before “know” what they are looking for in a therapist, more so than a newbie would. They have learned through experience that therapy is not one size fits all.
It isn’t the same as seeing a doctor for allergies where one is looking for a certain skill level. Therapy is more than just finding a therapist with your specialty. A large part of the process is your relationship with your therapist, so find one that you like.
Essentials of Finding A Therapist
1. Therapy = Emotional Comfort
Therapy is a very personal experience where it is essential to feel emotionally comfortable with the therapist. One has to trust their therapist. Now if the individual has a history of abuse or fractured relationships, this can be a difficult process and it may take several first sessions with different therapists or several sessions with the same therapist to know what comfortable feels like. Allow yourself time to trust and choose.
We as therapists are trained on how to be emotionally safe. We are trained to be warm, non-judgmental, to have unconditional positive regard with our clients, and for many of us, it is in our DNA. For these specific humans, these qualities are part of who we naturally are. It’s amusing because I know I have such DNA but as I write this, I am thinking of my favorite therapist who never stops training and learning. She is an ever evolving mix of knowledge and presence.
Of course finding a mix of comfort and knowledge is important. By knowledge I mean a bag of evidence-based approaches that are used to guide therapy sessions. Our job has evolved to so much more than just listening and presence. It really depends on the issue and the clientele we provide services for. Our skill-based approaches provide the needed ingredients for change to occur.
3. Specialty=Quality Care
Make sure the therapist specializes in the issues you are wanting to treat. I think in order to provide the best services possible we do need to specialize in certain issues. There is no way to effectively work and train in all issues. In order to provide Quality Care, we must specialize.
4. Length of treatment
This is not a lifelong process unless facing a more serious diagnosis. Ask your therapist for some sort of timeline on getting better. There are so many factors that contribute: complexity of the issue, the number of issues, level of intensity of issues, ability to utilize skills, and honesty.
...On Anticipated Results
I used to ask clients how long they thought therapy would take. I would often laugh when their answer was three months. If you are severely depressed or anxious, it may take a year or two to become an expert in practicing coping skills. If you have trauma in your past it may take even longer depending on the level of trauma. If you have treatment interfering behaviors such as missing appointments, not practicing skills between sessions, leaving out important information, or only coming when you are struggling, — these slow down the process as well. It is a parallel process between client and therapist, which means I do my part and the client must do theirs.