Written by: Amy Bryant
I will never forget the first time I went to therapy. I was going through a divorce and desperately trying to save my marriage. I cannot remember why or how we ended up with the therapist that we did but I did not do any research beforehand. I simply followed blindly and hoped for the best. We had only made it through 2 full sessions before the therapist suggested that we continue with our therapy separately….and that is all she wrote.
I never felt any type of connection with her or that I was given the opportunity to let that therapeutic relationship evolve. She seemed disinterested once she thought that our marriage was doomed for failure. How could she know after only having met us twice? How would anyone know that? We did end up divorcing and I have been happily remarried for a blissful 13 years, but I often wonder how my healing process would have been different if I was offered a safe place to learn how to heal in a healthy, more productive way.
When you are making decisions regarding your mental health, there are several considerations to keep in mind. Selecting the right therapist plays an important role in your healing journey. From my own personal experience and the knowledge that I have obtained as an Office Manager for North Texas Counseling Associates, I have put together a few suggestions that will hopefully help you find the right therapist and assist you in getting the most out of your therapy.
- Know What You Want.
Often, we have no idea what we want out of therapy, we just know that things are off balance in our life and want someone to make sense of what we are experiencing. This is completely NORMAL! If you find yourself feeling unsure, ask yourself these questions:
- What type of hardships am I currently experiencing or have experienced in my past?
- How are my thoughts, my emotions or my feelings affected by these experiences?
- How has my day-to-day life changed because of these difficulties? Ideally, what do I want my day-to-day life to look like.
- What do I hope to get out of therapy and/or gain for myself?
On the off chance that you do know what you are seeking out of therapy, being upfront and honest about this with yourself and a therapist will aid you in finding someone that is closely suited to your needs.
- Keep an Open Mind
Remember that you are looking for a therapist, not a best friend. Sometimes what you hear in therapy can be uncomfortable, but you do not want to choose someone that is hesitant to share with you what you need to hear. Keeping an open mind to the idea that it could get more difficult before it gets better will encourage your own personal growth and can offer insights that you may not have considered before.
In her article, ‘The Benefits of Being Open-Minded’, Dr. Jan Dunn says, “If you are not open to other ideas and perspectives, it is difficult to see all of the factors that contribute to problems or come up with effective solutions. In an increasingly polarized world, being able to step outside your comfort zone and consider other perspectives and ideas is important. This doesn’t mean that being open-minded is necessarily easy. Being open to new ideas and experiences can sometimes lead to confusion and cognitive dissonance when we learn new things that conflict with existing beliefs. However, being able to change and revise outdated, or incorrect beliefs is an important part of learning and personal growth.”
- Convenience is Key
If you were trying to improve your physical health and decided to join a gym, would you choose a gym that was not easy to get to or whose hours made it difficult for you to put in the time needed to work out? The same should be considered when you are searching for a Mental Health Provider. Where are they located in relation to your home, work, or child’s school? Do they do teletherapy? How far out are they booked? What are their office hours? If you can, getting on a weekly reoccurring schedule, at least initially, can benefit your progress in many ways. It can alleviate the stress of having to move and shift schedules around when you know ahead of time when your sessions will take place. No different than what you would do for a doctor’s appointment and just as important. It can also foster the therapist/client relationship. Although you want the relationship to develop organically, the sooner there is a mutual trust and respect between the two parties, the sooner you can begin your journey to personal growth. If there is too much time in between sessions, it could cause you to remain guarded and invulnerable for a longer amount of time.
You can find someone that is close in proximity to your home or is not afraid to tell you like it is, but if you do not have a connection with your therapist, it is all for naught. All the MAGICAL healing work happens in this space. Without that sense of rapport, there is little to no trust and without trust, you may find it difficult to be honest and vulnerable. If you are not comfortable enough to talk about your feelings, your thoughts, or your behaviors authentically then there is less of an opportunity for growth and healing. “Generally, the best predictor of success in therapy is rapport – feelings of trust and respect between the participants, a therapeutic alliance. When there’s no rapport, there is no therapy. “ – Dr. Noam Shpancer
Lastly, but certainly not least, is consistency. Consistency is key. Think about it. How do you learn another language? How do you learn how to ride a bike? How do you improve your physical health or learn a new trade? Consistency. It is no different with your mental health. Your mental state is IMPORTANT and should be treated as such. If you want to improve your emotional well-being, then you must commit to taking the steps to get there.
If you can avoid it, barring some catastrophe, try not to cancel or reschedule your appointments. There is a reason why your therapist has scheduled you for these sessions. They want the same thing for you as you do. It is no different than a regular teeth cleaning at your dentist or taking a full dose of anti-biotics prescribed to you. Rather than stopping your therapy when you feel better, continue with your scheduled sessions, and stick with the treatment plan you and your therapist have come up with. It is vital to your progress and maintaining a healthy mental state.
Finding someone that recognizes your needs and your mental health goals is a personal choice and should not be taken lightly. What is important is that a therapist’s method is patient specific and is based off the client’s personal goals and experiences. The search may feel somewhat daunting in the beginning, but YOU are WORTH it! When you find the right therapist, you will find that all your efforts will have paid off in the end.