I came across this thoughtful reflection on finding, vetting, and negotiating the sometimes troublesome aspects of relating with therapists written by Andrew Yuen:
On finding a good therapist
Hi all. Here’s some of my own advice in finding a good therapist:
A good therapist ideally should be able to comfort you in the precise time that you need help, and to create an environment where you can feel that you can express yourself without reservations and without the sense of feeling judged. While certain friends certainly can come close to fulfilling that criteria, there will always be those that give advice that doesn’t really help anyone involved, and as a consequence, make you feel like you’ve not been listened to, or heard.
How to find one: You can do as I did- type “counselor, psychologist, therapist” into Google should give you a good start. For me, finding a good therapist has always been a challenging experience, and likewise, finding one that works for you requires a certain amount of resilience and mental fortitude on your end, which belief me, sounds rather ironic.
Here are my own few tips in finding a therapist that works for you:
I think one of the most important, or the most important factor in a good therapist is rapport. We’ve all been in situations where we find other people unlikable, for reasons we either can or cannot articulate. In contrast, we often find ourselves gravitating towards others whom we sense a emotional connection with. Likewise, there are going to be therapists that annoy you, and therapists that can fulfill that need for us to be deeply and genuinely understood.
It might be a challenge to tell those two types apart, and its made more difficult by the fact that some of us who come to therapy don’t have a lot of faith in our own judgments- our own compass towards emotions and trust may be already faulty in some way.
Here are a few quick tips and pointers that I have found useful when evaluating therapists:
listen empathy + validating feelings
I think we’ve all come across people who feel are very dismissive in general. If you come away from a therapeutic session feeling like whatever you have said has been judged as stupid and inconsequential, reflect on the session to see whether or not it is likely that it feels that way because of the way that the therapist has behaved in session. A good therapist will not make you feel judged or will not attempt to make you feel bad for expressing yourself in session. They may certainly challenge you and your thoughts, but a good one will always do so in an empathetic and safe manner.
Reflect, after a session, about how you feel emotionally after a session. After certain sessions, we may feel a sense of discomfort, which can happen, especially when the therapist discusses or challenges us on our own unhealthy thought patterns. However, if you feel constantly worse after a session that before you came in, you might want to consider doing a couple of things that I’m going to talk about below.
When to leave and when to stay?
Here’s the beauty of the therapeutic alliance. It’s that its always going to be all about you and your problems, and a trained professional understands this. While therapy can often feel very transactional- the sense that the therapist will care for you in so much as you pay them to, this isn’t exactly true. Here’s what you are generally paying for in a therapy session:
The years of training that the therapist has undergone to learn the techniques involved and how to apply them For the therapist to keep his or her emotional needs out of the room A time where you can be understood and listened to without being judged Here’s the beauty of this relationship- therapy is transactional on both ends. If you find that it no longer works for you, you can choose to leave for whatever reason. You don’t owe the practitioner anything to stay, and a good therapist understands this.
The question is then, when do you leave therapy?
For me, the day that I leave therapy is very far off in the future. I don’t see myself one day, standing up, shaking the therapist hand and saying, ” From here on out, I can deal with all my problems by myself!”. I think that mental health and improving it is always an ongoing process, and I’m glad that I have a good therapist who is able to go with me on this journey of improving my own mental health.
In your own journey of therapy, you might feel unfulfilled, or often wanting more from your therapist. You might even feel uncomfortable at being unsatisfied, or at the thought of leaving after having invested in one therapist for a period of time. My message to you is that these feelings are important and not to be dismissed. It will help to bring out any reservations you have to the therapist himself/herself. How he or she responds can help you in making a decision to continue to have the relationship. Again, the beauty of it is that we leave for whatever reasons we want. Likewise, we can stay for whatever reasons we want. And if we do, the therapy room becomes a very special place that supplements you with dealing with this very complicated thing called life.
Andrew’s Blog can be found here: