- Clarinda Brandao, Registered Psychotherapist
How To Find The Right Therapist
With so many different forms of mental health support - it's sometimes hard to find the right therapist for you. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to therapy, and the therapist that works well for someone else might not work as well for you. Despite that, there are key elements to look for in a therapist that will help you get the best support.
They ask questions. They don't just jump in to rescue you, but instead they ask questions and guide you to better understand yourself and the decisions that brought you to the place and feelings you’re in. They’re not here to fix your problems, they’re here to help you make sense of the when/why/howthey began and where you can begin making changes that will be your own.
They're not afraid of sitting in the feelings with you.If your therapist "saves" you every time you're in a deeper feeling or changes the topic, then they're not helping. It's important that your therapist can sit in the "icky" feelings with you and help you through it. They're trained to hold those harder moments with you and help you feel less alone with your scary or unbearable thoughts. Support sometimes is just being in it and feeling safe that your therapist has the ability to help you out when it's time or want out.
They listen. But I mean really listen. It seems obvious, but it's something that therapists are trained to do. To listen for key words, emotions and patterns. Even paying attention to your body language is such an important piece to therapy. So much is hidden in how we hold ourselves when we speak or express emotion. Therapists should also remember big key moments and topics that have been spoken about in previous sessions.
They're always open to learning. It’s important to find a therapist that is always growing their toolkit or reading up on the new theories of Psychology. Remember, not every method works with everyone. We are unique individuals and our therapy should be too. Therapists can feel stuck too, so finding a therapist that is open to learning means they’re open to finding the best approach to help their client.
They make you feel comfortable. Being comfortable with your therapist and the space is an essential part of therapy. This means they’ve created a space that feels welcoming and non-threatening. Objects in the space that can be offensive, can be a red flag that they are not fully aware of client’s feelings. Comfort is also feeling heard and non-judged when you share something big that feels shameful. You should never be made to feel bad or ashamed of something you've shared.
They’re not trying to be your friend. This one is a tough one for some clients and even sometimes therapists. It’s natural for a client and therapist to build a therapeutic relationship that sometimes can feel closer. But ultimately, a therapist who understands the boundaries and is comfortable identifying if they are on the brinks of being crossed or a therapist that stays within the boundaries will be able to create a healthy therapeutic relationship. Knowing very little of your therapist's personal story is a good thing. (Disclosure can happen when it’s beneficial for the client - though it is rare and doesn’t happen often - if at all).
Over all, it’s important to find a therapist that feels safe. That you can trust and ultimately that you can see progress after a few sessions (progress doesn’t mean something big. Sometimes it’s just feeling heard or having a good day amongst the many bad ones). As clients it is sometimes hard to see our own progress, but your therapist will sense that and will help you see the work you’ve done and how far you’ve come even if the progress might seem small.
So if you’re looking for a therapist, don’t be afraid to ask if they have a free consult or schedule a quick 5-10 minute call to get a sense of them. Ask questions. Most importantly, remember that you don't have to commit if it doesn’t feel right. Make the commitment when you’ve met a therapist that feels safe, empathic and supportive.
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