Find the Right Fit in Therapy

Written by: Shae Chisman, MFT-I

No, I’m not talking about skinny jeans. I’m talking about your therapist. Although finding the “right” therapist can be just as frustrating as finding that perfect pair of pants. No “sucking it in” should be necessary when finding someone to courageously share your shadow moments with. Feeling safe, accepted by, and challenged by your therapist are all essential to overcoming whatever ails you.

Those of us who have participated in some sort of mental health counseling know how important it is to actually like your therapist. Research shows that the client-therapist relationship is known to be one of the most important factors for contributing to client change (Blow and Sprenkle, 2001). So, if you find yourself feeling judged, unsupported, and disliked by your therapist – chances are you may not have a successful outcome in therapy.

Here are 7 signs that your therapist is right for you:

  1. Your therapist is warm, welcoming, and portrays what we call unconditional positive regard. This means that they should be accepting of who you are and what you bring to the therapy room.
  2. You feel safe being completely honest with them – no matter how shameful the truth may be. Therapists see and hear it all. Your story is unique and essential to your journey – and therapists are trained to handle your truth without judgement.
  3. You feel challenged. I know we just described a therapist who seems coddling and nurturing – but part of nurturance involves confrontation. Many of us have conditioned negative emotional responses to confrontation and part of your therapy journey must involve looking at yourself with clarity. Therapists are here to be a mirror to show how maladaptive patterns have prevented you from being your best self.
  4. All emotions are welcome. Laughter. Shouting. Sobbing. Your therapist should be capable of handling your emotions – as well as their own. In your most vulnerable moments, your therapist should remain supportive and open to whatever comes up. It can be messy – but that’s part of healing.
  5. They collaborate with you regarding your own treatment. YOU ARE THE EXPERT ON YOUR OWN LIFE. Therefore, you should be involved in creating your own long-term and short-term goals for treatment. If you have a therapist who has created therapy goals without your consultation – and they do not align with what you want out of therapy – RUN!
  6. They empower you to make decisions on your own. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about therapy – that therapists should be advice-givers. While at times, making referrals and resource suggestions are completely necessary – your therapist should not be telling you what to do with your life. They should be helping remind you that you have the capability to overcome your problems.
  7. There is an expectation that at some point in the near future, you won’t need therapy anymore. In the same vein as #6 – you should be empowered by your therapist to make change and eventually thrive with use of a natural support system. A good therapist does not want you to be reliant on them. We want to help you get un-stuck – not need us eternally. In the beginning stages of therapy – conversations regarding what it would look like to not need therapy anymore should take place. That way, you both have a picture of what needs to take place to get you back on track.

Bottom line : you should be happy with your therapist and if not – you have the power to let them know what you need out of therapy. And if they cannot give that to you – find another therapist.

Georgia HOPE offers in-home and online therapy (with AMAZING therapists) for a multitude of presenting problems including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression & other Mood Disorders
  • PTSD
  • Relationship Troubles
  • Substance Use
  • Eating Disorders
  • And more!