There are a lot of good therapist out there. And there are a lot of therapists out there who aren’t so good. When you’re shopping for a therapist, how do you know who to choose?
The first thing you need to know is that the most important factor in determining successful outcome in treatment is the relationship between the client and counselor/therapist. In the last analysis, this is the only factor that really matters. It doesn’t matter what degree the counselor has or how much training they have, if you can’t feel them, you can’t heal with them.
Here’s a rough guide to assessing a good fit.
- How does it feel to sit with them?
- Do you feel like they “get you” when you’re talking?
- Do you feel comfortable?
- Do you feel safe?
If you have a lot of anxiety or a lot of shame, it may take a while before you feel safe. You may not even know what “safe” feels like.
Here are a few questions to help gauge safety.
- Do your words flow easily about your story or do hesitate to share even the most mundane details?
- Do you feel like this person shows interest in you or does he or she seem bored, distant, or somewhere else?
- Do you feel heard and seen – or at least have the sense that they are interested in your world?
- Can this person accept feedback?
- Do they graciously admit when they are wrong or when they make a mistake?
- If you tell them that they did or said something that hurt or offended you, how do they respond?
- Are they able to hear you or do they get defensive and become critical of you?
- Do you have a sense that they are there for you, in your corner, cheering you on even as they let you make your own choices?
- Do they create a safe enough container to allow you to explore your deepest pain?
- When you share your shame and pain, do you feel held in your vulnerability or rejected and shamed? Do they talk too much about themselves?
- Do you trust that what you say in the room stays in the room?
When you feel seen, heard and accepted, you can develop the trust you need to explore the issues that you bring to work on. And when you feel safe enough to explore your issues, you know you’ve got a good fit.