Life can be too much sometimes. There were no problems handling the first obstacle to land in your path, or the second, or even the third. But the fourth? The fifth? It can become overwhelming and feel like you can never catch a break. You think to yourself, “I can’t do this on my own anymore.” You take the big step of acknowledging that you could benefit from some help, but when you look online, finding a therapist is just as overwhelming as the stressors that you are already facing. Does it matter which therapist you choose? How do you determine if they will be a good fit for you?
It is important to find a good fit, for a couple of reasons. It can be hard enough to open up and be vulnerable, and to need to do it again after the first therapist made you feel unsafe? Well, that’s even harder. You want to be improving in therapy, and if it’s a bad fit, you won’t progress the way that you want to and you might feel like you’re wasting your time. You also don’t want to continue paying for a treatment that doesn’t fit your needs, especially if you’re paying out-of-pocket.
So, here are some things to keep in mind when looking for a good fit:
1. It is okay to search around for a therapist.
Many people compare finding a therapist to dating. You are calling, emailing, and talking to different people, and you are trying to find someone who is compatible with you. You might hit it off with the first person you talk to, only to find that the comfort level just isn’t there when you meet them again. You might have to go through a couple people before you find someone who can meet your needs. While it’s totally okay to feel bad for passing on a therapist, know that we understand how important it is to find a good fit, and we absolutely won’t judge you for it.
2. Your therapist should make you feel comfortable and validated, and you should be able to trust them and be vulnerable with them.
A good relationship between therapist and client is essential to a client’s journey towards growth and healing. If the therapist does not make you feel comfortable and validated, then you will not be able to share and process your pain with them. If you cannot trust your therapist enough to be vulnerable in front of them, then they will not be able to help you move past any trauma that you may have experienced. To achieve the best outcomes, you have to have a good relationship with your therapist. That comes down to being honest with yourself and being aware of how you’re feeling. Do you think you can be completely open with your therapist? Do they make you feel safe enough to do so, and to come back again to keep talking about it?
At the same time, remember that a relationship, whether it’s with a potential partner or a therapist, needs a chance and time to build. It’s totally normal not to feel comfortable sharing all of your deepest secrets and feelings right away. But do they make you feel like you could?
3. Your therapist should align with your expectations and your goals.
You are the focus of your therapy, not the therapist. That means your needs and your goals should always be centered. Contrary to popular belief (and Hollywood representation), therapists are not here to tell you what to or to give you advice all the time. We are here to help you recognize what you want out of your life, and then help you figure out how to get there. We want to empower you on your journey. You and your therapist should collaborate together on how to meet your goals, and your therapist should adjust their pace accordingly.
On the other hand, remember that therapy can be hard and/or unpleasant, and your therapist might challenge you to consider whether you are being true to yourself, your needs, and your goals. If you are expecting your therapist to agree with you all the time or give you all the solutions, then you might be disappointed or frustrated. That’s okay! Therapy can require flexibility on your part too. Your therapist wants you to live your best life too, so it’s totally okay to have conversations about where your therapy is going and adjust expectations as needed.
4. What are you looking for and how does the therapist meet your needs?
What are your goals and your needs? If you want to process trauma, you will want to look for a therapist that specializes in trauma. If you want to work on changing your thoughts and behaviors, you will want to look for a therapist that specializes in cognitive-behavioral therapy. When reading the biographies and profiles of different therapists online, consider whether they have experience working with your needs and what their therapy will look like. Do the tools and strategies that they use sound like they could be helpful for you? Different styles fit different needs, and you can pick the one that sounds right for you.
At the end of the day, the only person who can tell whether a therapist is going to work for you, is you. And even if you had a bad experience, it’s going to be okay. You’re still going to learn something about what you want, and what you need, from this process. It can be a frustrating process and can take longer than you want. But therapy itself is a journey, and finding someone who will support you and help you reach your goals will make it worthwhile.
Contact our therapists at YCC today to see if any of our therapists may be a good fit for you!
Written by: Angela Nguyen, MSW