Written by therapist Ruth Nathaniel
You’ve decided to start therapy, and from the looks of it, there isn’t a shortage of therapists. Each one has their own personality, therapeutic orientation, and style. So how do you know when you’ve found the right one? As someone who has been both a client and therapist, I want to share my insights to hopefully make this process easier for you and ease your transition into therapy itself.
Finding the right therapist can be broken down into four simple considerations:
- They listen well.
- They support your goals.
- They take the time to understand and educate themselves on your values and culture(s).
- They make space for feedback.
The very first skill a therapist is taught in graduate school is the art of listening well. You’ll know your therapist is not only hearing you, but listening when they reflect what you share back to you in a concise and empathetic way. The words your therapist uses are not as important as the feeling they impart you with. A therapist who listens well will send you on your way feeling more understood and even help you understand your own feelings better.
You are the expert on your life, and your therapist will use their knowledge and skills to help you shape and refine your goals. Your goals may shift throughout the course of therapy, but as long as your therapist is attending to the areas of your life that are your priority, you will be in good hands. Your therapist may illuminate unexpected areas of your life and encourage you to press into those parts, but a good therapist will not force you to explore something you are not ready for.
Values and Culture:
A good therapist is a lifelong learner. They will assume a learner’s posture when it comes to integrating your values and culture into therapy. They will ask thoughtful questions, and make minimal assumptions. They will make space for you to tell your story and emphasize what you feel is most impactful. Your therapist will explore how important it is to you that your culture and its effects on your values are explored, and will take the time to continue to educate themselves. Most importantly, your therapist will not treat your life as the single story in your culture, and acknowledge that you represent yourself and not an entire community.
As the client, your feedback is of utmost importance to the therapeutic process. A good therapist will make space for your concerns, and may even formally check in once in a while to see if you have any feedback. But beyond that, you’ll know you’ve found a therapist you can trust when you feel safe enough to raise objections or tell them when you felt misunderstood or uncomfortable at any point. While it may feel awkward or scary to share these thoughts, a good therapist will receive your feedback with openness, and your feedback will strengthen the therapeutic relationship.
Ultimately, all four aforementioned considerations work together to build a strong connection between you and your therapist. In fact, the best indicator of success in therapy comes down to your relationship with your therapist, which is huge! If there’s one thing I want you to take away, it’s that you deserve a therapist who cares for you and empowers you to be your best self. And if you think you’d benefit from this type of care, I’d love to meet you and hear your story. Give us a call about setting up an appointment today!