The relationship between you and your therapist is critical to your progress and ultimate success in therapy. In fact the quality of this alliance between a therapist and client is often the strongest predictor of success . No one therapist is right for every one so this means that it is important to find one that is right for you. To do this you need to find a therapist who is both competent and a good match for you. How can you tell and where do you start?
Where to Start
First spend some considering what you want from therapy. Then collect some names to choose from. Asking like minded friends who they know to be competent often makes a good list of referrals. You can check with organizations that share your values or seem related to what your looking for: a feminist bookstore, gay and lesbian centers, OA or AA. Even the yellow pages can help. While it is true that a catchy ad doesn’t say much about the person’s therapy skills, many ads do mention the therapist’s specialties and experience. And there is always the internet. How ever you do it, take time to make the list and get a sense of your choices.
Next I suggest you ask for some time to interview a therapist you are considering before signing on with them. Most therapists will offer time for a free interview willingly, at least on the telephone. You are looking for someone who:
- can challenge you and teach you things about yourself,
- you feel emotionally comfortable with and
- you can communicate with easily.
You can tell by your own reactions if you are feeling comfortable with this person, especially when you are face to face. The therapist should be able to convey to you that they are on your side, and that they are interested in you as a person. You want to be able to feel that you could like this person, and more importantly, that they like you. However some therapists are warm hearted, nice people who ultimately support you to stay pretty much the same so you want more.
So how do you decide if they are good at their trade? You can begin to form your own opinion from the first telephone or face to face contact. For example: is this person uptight or confident, reaching out to you as a person or being very formal (which creates emotional distance for all of us). Go ahead and ask questions and try questions that are somewhat open ended. Remember, how the person goes about answering tells you as much about them as what they actually say.
If you’re not sure what to ask, try finding out if the therapist is more cognitive or behavioral or more experiential in their methods, and then ask why they were drawn to doing that kind of therapy. Ask them how active they are in sessions. Or you could tell them something about why you are looking for a therapist and ask how they would go about helping you with this. If they refer back to things you have said about yourself in their answer, that would be a good sign, right? And if you are face to face with them for a session, you should be able to have some new insights or ideas to think over about yourself or the problem you came to see them about by the time you leave.
Most important of all: Don’t settle. Many people feel intimidated when meeting a therapist and then doubt their own perceptions. It’s easy to start off feeling “one down” when you are asking someone about how to run your life. You want to believe they can help, and the assumption is that they know more than you do because they are the professional. My advise: don’t even go there. Any therapist needs to earn your trust and your respect by saying and doing things that make sense to you. If this one doesn’t – keep looking.
Good luck you!
|1.||Orlinsky, D. E., Ronnestad, M. H., Willutski, U. (2004). Fifty years of psychotherapy process-outcome research: Continuity and change. In M. J. Lambert (Ed.) Handbook of psychotherapy and behaviour change (5th Ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.|