Finding a good therapist is more of an art than a science. There aren’t any Yelp reviews that let you tell the good from the bad and even if there were, you should always know if they are right for you or not.
According to National Institute of Mental Health (NMIH), nearly one in five American adults live with mental illness of varying severity, but one study found that about 47% said they viewed therapy as a sign of weakness. However, in a twist, the tumultuous year of 2020 made many Americans reconsider entering therapy for the first time.
For those who are open to seeking therapy, the question becomes: how do you increase your chances of finding a good therapist and having a good relationship with them?
The first step is to try to know early on who you are going to talk to and if they have the right experience with the problems you are hoping to overcome through therapy.
the NMIH First, offers a reminder that everyone has their own therapy needs and that they should make sure the therapist is trained in an area of psychotherapy that matches your needs. His website actions some initial questions to consider before a first consultation with a therapist, such as whether he can prescribe medication and determine therapy goals.
However, the next step is to do your best to make sure that the expectations you set for the therapy or therapist are also realistic.
In a study by Joshua K. Swift, Ph.D., and Roger Greenberg, Ph.D., published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 2015, they found that one of the most common reasons why people dropping out of therapy were “unrealistic assumptions” when entering it in the first place.
“There’s an element of fast food in terms of wanting things to happen really fast, [yet recovery] is not something that will happen in a week or two. It’s a surprise to many patients, ”Greenberg told the American Psychological Association in an interview.
If you find yourself a therapist to start seeing, the experts offer some nifty advice on whether or not they’re the right fit: Treat it like a date.
A good therapist-patient relationship is characterized by some of the factors that you already use when looking for a significant other. Do you really feel heard? Do you notice small, positive improvements in your daily life, such as a better mood? These are all important traits to have in your therapist.
Sesame healthcare company psychologist Alice Shepard said USA today that a key starting point in finding the right therapist is to share your goals early on and let them know who you are.
“If you are able to share from the start, even if you say, ‘this is something that I have been through, I would love to have the opportunity to explore it, but maybe not right away’, it helps the therapist know that’s something you’ll want to work on later, ”Shepard said. “They can keep that in mind and get a better idea of who you are.”
This leads to the final tip, which is to be prepared to cut your losses if the therapist you choose is not the right one.
Cecille Ahrens, a licensed clinical social worker at Transcend Therapy in California, however, cautions that, like in dating, you should also be wary of red flags among therapists. She said USA today that some bad traits of the therapist to watch out for are reliability issues, “unprofessional conduct”, “poor boundaries” and a tendency to make judgments or impose their beliefs on you.
Write in Psychology today in 2017, Ryan Howes Ph.D., ABPP, said that an interpersonal mismatch is not uncommon between a therapist and a patient, which can hamper the entire therapeutic process.
“In therapy, as in all close relationships, issues with trust, communication, and empathy could make therapy a barrier rather than a means of healing,” said Dowes. He added that if these issues cannot be resolved, “discontinuing therapy is a viable option.”
But even if a therapist isn’t working, it’s important not to get discouraged from the therapy as a whole. As with dating, it’s important to accept that maybe the person wasn’t right for you and that it can do more harm than good as you continue in that relationship.
Alex jenny, a licensed social worker known by her Instagram nickname “The Drag Therapist,” suggests using past therapy experiences to find the right therapist.
“Working with a bad therapist or a therapist that you don’t click can ultimately cause more harm,” Jenny said.
“Be assertive by asking questions during consultations and sharing what hasn’t worked for you so far when speaking to potential new therapists.”