Finding The Right Therapist

When I was a teen, the first 3 therapists I saw didn’t click. In fact, I used to think therapy was quite a useless profession full of dummy’s who get paid to talk to people (and then thought, well maybe they aren’t so dumb after all). Then, after I could no longer deny or shame away my mental health issues when I developed anorexia at the age of 14/15, I was yet again “forced” to see a “dum-dum” therapist. Except this time it was different. Maybe I was in a better place to absorb it or it truly was my therapist’s style, but she helped me in ways I can’t repay to this day and lead me onto a trajectory that influenced my career, my relationships, and my ability to absorb what I need to grow and be happier. Now, I don’t by any means think all people should become therapists — but, I do want to say that not all therapists are the same. They won’t all be the right fit and it’s important to find the one that really resonates with you. Here are a few things to consider when embarking on that process.

  1. Find a therapist who is both calm and non-judgmental. It’s important to work with someone who has what Bowen would call a “non-anxious presence”. It’s hard to reach out for help and even harder to sit across the couch from someone whose anxiety matches yours. Now, with the first therapy session anxiety is normal, but it’s nice to find a person you feel you can be yourself with, say anything to, and not feel on edge or shamed. If you feel like you can’t fully open up to your therapist (at least as much as you can at the time), there’s likely an issue with feeling safe and non-judged. A calm, shame-free therapist is usually your best bet for feeling like you can be open and trust in them. Calm also doesn’t mean they aren’t sassy and silly from time-to-time, it just means that they can really sit and listen to you to understand, not to simply respond or just nod their head.
  2. Find someone who can speak hard truths in ways that you can absorb. Early in my therapy career I learned that sometimes the best way to get from point a to point b isn’t always a straight line. Now sometimes I have clients who really appreciate and desire straight-talk, directness and other times it’s important that I am patient with my clients and truly help them uncover their own truth. If you feel like your therapist doesn’t ever help you uncover hard truths about yourself, doesn’t speak them in ways that you’d like (whether too direct or not at all), then I’d recommend finding someone who you feel truly helps you grow and isn’t JUST a safe presence. For some, they do need a therapist who is simply a safe presence while processing complex trauma and finding their safety, however, if you land there and feel stuck/like you aren’t growing… it may be time to look for a different fit in a therapist. Also, at times a therapist will get it wrong (we are human after all). It is important that a therapist repair broken trust and take accountability when they get it wrong to maintain emotional safety.
  3. Find a therapist who sees you as the expert of your own experience. Some therapists out there take on an “expert – advice giving” role. And now, I must admit some people may prefer that. However, I find it’s best to work with a collaborative therapist who let’s you lead and be the expert of your own experience because after-all no one will know how your shoes feel as much as you do. No amount of degrees, training, or clients can make a therapist know EVERYTHING there is to know about you and your mental health concern. I’ve found that all of my clients are unique and it is incredibly important I treat them accordingly. Therapeutic methods are not a one-size-fits all, and this makes good therapy tricky but oh, so worth it. Finding a therapist who can meet you where you are, in what you need, at that exact moment, in ways you can absorb. At the end of the day, therapy is not simply about listening well, and it’s important to find a therapist that helps you find your own inner wisdom and truth. I find this is also incredibly important so that you are not dependent on that therapist for life. A good therapist (in my opinion) will over time teach you how to fish, not give you your weekly supply so you come back decade after decade.

Lastly, it can be important to find a therapist that is a certain gender, age, expertise, or has certain experience. However, with those traits I would ultimately include the qualities listed above, as they tend to hold much greater weight in determining therapeutic success than gender, age, or background. **For some mental health issues, especially ones with medical components like eating disorders, autism spectrum disorder, or substance abuse it is important to find someone with experience and knowledge with these fields in addition to the qualities listed above.**

Ultimately, I wish you all the best in finding a good fit. At Soma Recovery, we believe in connecting people with the right fit in our community as we make an effort to connect and build relationships with several mental health resources. If we don’t have the best fit, we’d be happy to connect you with a therapist we believe would be. As with anything, it may take a couple of tries with different therapists before you find your good fit. Don’t give up, you may find that your experience is like mine and goes from thinking therapy is full of “dum-dums” to letting it impact and change your life forever.

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3 thoughts on “Finding The Right Therapist

  1. It’s great you talked about the importance of looking for a therapist who can really understand you as a person–one who wouldn’t judge you for what you really are and is willing to talk through things with you. The thing here is that not everyone has the same cookie-cutter ways on how to deal with issues that might be causing them problems, so you should really look for a therapist that you can relate to and wouldn’t feel awkward talking to. If I had the chance to become a therapist or a counselor then I would want to make sure that I would be able to open up to them, and in return, they would be able to understand my issues as what they really are.

  2. It’s a great thing you mentioned that when one’s looking for a therapist, one should look for one who’s not judgmental–as a therapist should be impartial and fair when it comes to listening to their patients’ concerns. The reason for this is that you would want to be able to open up to them, and in the same vein, they would open up to you so that you can both talk comfortably without having to worry about what the other person is thinking of you. If I had the chance to look for a therapist, it would take me quite a while, since I’m a very insecure person and I only feel comfortable talking to someone when I’m fine around them.

    1. I’m glad you understand the importance of this. It’s hard for a lot of people to open up, and I think a good thing that it takes you (and others) some time to trust. I hope you find someone you can trust over time who is non-judgmental. -The Soma Team

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