The search for the right therapist can be a lot like speed dating. It can feel tedious, exhausting, daunting, even annoying. You may have to go through several consultations or first sessions to find the “right fit.” And yes, it might feel like a string of first dates. Hang in there.
Finding the right therapist for you (or your child or family, etc.) is a crucial step in addressing your mental health concerns. Your goal is to end up in a (therapeutic) relationship with someone that you like, who helps you feel safe, and with whom you can be entirely candid. Feeling that you can trust this person is paramount – – someone that ideally helps you feel safe, someone you can talk to, and someone that you can share those not-so-pretty aspects about yourself. You know, the stuff that you are not likely to share on a first date. It’s also important to find someone who both inspires hope and can explain how they work and why their approach works.
Whether the client is yourself, your child, or your family, you’ll want to come to an agreement about goals for therapy including specifically what will change in terms of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. For instance, it’s not enough to say that you (or your family member) will feel less depressed, but rather, that they will show an improved mood by engaging in more extracurricular activities (perhaps name how many and how often) or there will be fewer episodes of emotional eating, etc. Specific goals that can be observed really help you get there. In addition, therapists will ideally invite you to assess how the treatment is going from time to time and take responsibility for repairing ruptures to the relationship.
Even though the goal of therapy can include feeling better, the process may include periods of struggle. One important factor that will keep you engaged when the going gets tough is the quality of your (or your child’s) relationship with the therapist. The therapeutic relationship influences positive outcomes as much, or perhaps more than the treatment method being used by your therapist.
So back to that speed dating…haven’t found the right one?
Keep asking for referrals from friends, family, schools, physicians, faith leaders, and other resources. Hang in there with the get-to-know-you process. We project a lot of our childhood experiences onto the therapy process – it is actually an important part of healing. If your parents had difficulty providing what you needed as a child, you may imagine that therapists will be the same way. Just notice your fear and keep meeting folks. The right therapist is out there and your patience and persistence will help you find them.
To explore this important topic watch our recent
Alexandra Schwartz, MA
Ruth E. Freeman, LCSW
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