The therapeutic relationship is such a fascinating concept to me. I invite you, as my client, to join me, your therapist, in an intimate, vulnerable space with clear set boundaries. It seems like for many clients this is a novel experience. They are typically seeking counseling services to address interpersonal conflicts wrought with enmeshment and boundary violations. In these contexts, therapy can serve as a model for what positive, open relationships can look like in one’s life.
People possess ideas of who therapists should be and how they should act. And while it’s nice that people have those beliefs and confidence in professionals—it’s also important to possess a certain level of understanding that therapists are people, too. People with extensive training aimed at helping others be the best versions of themselves. The greatest realization I have come to in my own practice is an acceptance and understanding that I cannot be everything for everyone. And that’s okay—it doesn’t diminish my ability to help others. As a matter of fact, I really enjoy the opportunity to helps clients find someone who can help them if I can’t—for whatever reason.
The most liberating thing about the therapeutic relationship is that it exists as all other relationships exist—relying upon whether we’re compatible. That means that there is someone out there for you—someone who possesses a similar outlook and maybe even shares the same set of values as you! And in a world where we can feel so incredibly isolated by our mental health struggles, sometimes just being in the presence of someone who can appreciate and validate that experience is healing in and of itself.
the natural ability to live or work together in harmony because of well-matched characteristics.
The prospect of finding a therapist can be an anxiety provoking task. Fear that your therapist "won’t be a good fit" adds to that trepidation. However, if you conceptualize your relationship with your therapist as any other relationship in your life, you can feel empowered to make an intentional decision regarding who you choose. When looking to begin therapy, I encourage folks to find at least 3 therapists that are interesting.
Maybe even go as far as to list them in order of preference. Then, give them a call. Most therapists offer a free phone consultation. During this process they’ll ask questions related to your presenting concerns and offer up information about their practice (hours of operation, cost of sessions, etc.). This is your opportunity to ask your own set of questions and get a good feel for that compatibility. If the call leaves you feeling underwhelmed? No worries—move on down that list and find someone who feels “right” to you. You have the power and agency to work with someone who respects you and your lived experience.
Process for finding a good therapist
Find 3 therapists that you are interested in
Contact them via phone call
Ask questions that matter to you—get a good feel for if they are a fit for you
If not—move on! If it feels good—schedule an appointment.
Let’s say you find a good match—what next? What can you expect from the therapeutic relationship? With my clients, I like to keep as much communication happening as possible within our scheduled session. You deserve my 1:1 attention, and this is when we can do our best work together. This is the heart of the relationship. For communication outside of session, I resolve to respond to my clients within 24 hours on workdays, and the next business day on the weekends. I like to keep outside-of-session communication to a minimum—typically a client will contact me to reschedule, inquire about an appointment or ask a question regarding payments. We aren’t having conversations regarding intimate details we discuss in session for 2 reasons; 1. Texting is not HIPAA compliant, therefore, I cannot ensure that information can remain confidential and 2. That content deserves to be discussed intentionally, and not via text or even phone call.
There are some therapists that text with consent from client personal information, but I do not. Some DBT therapists offer coaching sessions during working hours. These are not part of how I do therapy. But I think a good working relationship identifies boundaries and explains them early on.
To that end, I make every effort to keep appointments and ensure that you’re getting what you need from me as your therapist. It’s about cultivating mutual respect and honoring my client’s as they are. You should never feel ashamed, guilted, or judged by your therapist. If that happens you can seize the opportunity to communicate with your therapist about these feelings, or simply find another therapist. This is your right!
I feel like this quote from Carl Rogers truly sums up my approach to the therapeutic relationship,
“In my early professional years I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?”
This a question I ask myself every time I enter my sessions. How can I facilitate growth in this person who has chosen to work with me? If this sounds intriguing to you—give me a call!