Finding the right therapist is an important task that you should not take lightly.
First, think about any preferences you may have. Would you work better with a woman or a man? With someone older, or close to your age? With someone from the same religion or ethnic background? You may have a preference, or you may not.
What about style? Therapists come in many packages. Some do not shy away from promoting themselves as results-oriented or “leadership coaches.” Others have a more spiritual edge, or use the 12-step model.
How can you begin to consider which therapist is right for you? Should you ask a trusted
friend, go on websites that provide bios, or simply trust your gut? You can educate yourself and read tomes about the therapeutic process, but you still need to be an active participant! Finding a good therapist probably has to do with some luck, but mostly with being willing to persevere, with hard work that ultimately may pay off and transform both you and the therapist.
A therapist is a craftsman, and above all you want to feel that the work you do together is custom made to your own individual needs. The last thing you want to feel when you leave their office is that you just got lectured at, or felt that your therapist was too much of a “social worker.” The nuances in the various human experiences do matter and require skill and diligence. Some sessions are going to be calm, and others will require a serious amount of work.
You probably already get the picture: there are no short cuts or quick fixes. Trust can come only if you feel that you are allowed to go at your own pace, feel accepted for your vulnerabilities and setbacks, and be honored for the person you are.
How do you know if it is a good match if you are only three sessions into it? You know it if you feel free to re-evaluate at any point, if you can challenge and ask questions, and if you are comfortable with that person around your innermost, and at times uncomfortable, feelings.
You will know the therapist is right for you when they consistently show you that they are willing to adapt. You are going to see them at their best and with their imperfections! In a nutshell, they can be likened to the good parents some of us never had.
One last word; like any relationship, this one may reach a plateau. Sometimes this will call for an adjustment where you basically need to master your assertiveness and communicate. At other times, it is time to move on. When this time arrives and you are not afraid to look your therapist in the eyes and say “we are done,” you can be both certain and proud that, at least for this particular juncture in your life, you have arrived.
And don’t be afraid to ask yourself if you like your therapist. If you do, this typically will be a good measure that behind the professional hides a real human being – consider yourself truly blessed!
Originally published August 1, 2015