The journey towards mental health and wellbeing will be unique for us all. However, one of the most important steps in this journey will be finding the right therapist to guide and support you. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sea of psychological professionals, this guide will be perfect for you.
Discover a Strong Therapeutic Alliance
The relationship between you and your therapist is often known as the therapeutic alliance, and it plays a crucial role in the success of your therapy. Literature has shown that the rate of change is hugely impacted by the therapeutic alliance alone. Sometimes simply having a safe space with a friendly person who you can trust and who you feel is truly listening can be therapeutic in itself. How often does this really happen in real life?
A good therapist should create a safe, non-judgmental, and supportive environment for you. They should be approachable, empathetic, and genuinely invested in your wellbeing. You should feel that you have their full attention and that they are authentically rooting for your well-being (even if that means sometimes saying some difficult-to-hear truths!). So these are all things to look for when entering into therapy. If you have difficulty building that sense of trust with your therapist, you will find it difficult to build a therapeutic alliance. (Do note that sometimes having an openness to trusting others is part of the difficulties needing to be processed in therapy. Therefore, recognise that some people have trouble with this process, but most say they can still feel in their gut that someone is “trustworthy,” even if truly opening up and trusting takes more time.)
Find Specialized Expertise
Therapists often have specific areas of expertise, making it essential to find one who has experience and training on how to deal with the issues you face. For instance, a therapist specializing in pain disorders will be better equipped to help someone suffering from ongoing health conditions than a therapist who specializes solely in generalised anxiety. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be overlap or times when new primary presentations are discovered along the therapeutic journey. It just means to be aware that someone who seems like a great personality may not have the skillset that best fits your clinical needs. Don’t be afraid to ask your therapist about their experience and qualifications during your initial consultation – a professional would be more than happy to discuss this.
Consider Their Therapeutic Approach
To delve deeper into our previous point. It is also important to recognise that different therapists will use different therapeutic approaches and techniques. For example, some therapies that we offer at HMP are trained in EMDR, others focus mostly on CBT and the new derivatives of this classic treatment approach, others have relational or psychodynamic approaches, and some prefer to mix all of the above in an eclectic, personalized manner! It’s essential to find a therapist whose approach resonates with you and aligns with your goals for therapy. So feel free to ask them about their preferred methods and how they might apply them to your situation.
(Do remember that you may feel like you have no clue what you need – That’s no problem, and often helpful when a therapist can be the expert but work with you to determine which approach suits you best. Sometimes it’s different than we originally assume!)
Evaluate Their Communication Style
Clear communication, active listening, and constructive feedback are vital components of effective therapy. A good therapist should be responsive to your needs and preferences, adapting their communication style accordingly. Observe how they interact with you during your initial sessions to determine if their style is a good fit for you. Do remember that everyone has off days, so some tolerance is needed, as hopefully the clinician will return to you! But you will be able to see early on whether you are understanding the clinician well and feel the freedom to speak as you want, with the time, patience, and flexibility to express yourself as it feels most naturally. You also want to make sure that you can understand your clinician, so be clear with what type of communication style you would like, for instance one with more scientific terminology, lay-person language, structured communication, written notes, or a free-flowing conversation, amongst other things!
Assess Their Cultural Competence
A culturally competent therapist understands the impact of cultural factors on mental health and tailors their approach to respect and accommodate your unique background, beliefs, and values. This may involve addressing issues related to race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. Ensure the therapist you choose is sensitive to these factors and open to discussing them respectfully. There is no problem with asking your therapist whether they have experience working with people of your cultural background, though often therapists are willing to learn if you are happy to guide through specific experiences or practices you find valuable.
Check for Professionalism and Boundaries
A good therapist should maintain professional boundaries and adhere to the ethical guidelines set by their professional organization. This includes maintaining confidentiality, being punctual and organized, and avoiding dual relationships or inappropriate behaviour. Trust your instincts – if something feels off, it may be a sign that the therapist isn’t a good fit for you.
Gauge Their Level of Empathy
Empathy is a key component of effective therapy. A good therapist should be able to empathize with your feelings and experiences, creating a sense of validation and understanding. This empathy helps build trust and rapport, allowing you to feel comfortable discussing your thoughts and emotions openly. A good scale for this is reflecting on how you feel coming out of a session- did you feel listened to and understood, or did you come away feeling like there was a sense of judgment or cross-wires?
Seek Flexibility and Adaptability
Every individual’s needs and circumstances are unique, so it’s important to find a therapist who can adapt their approach and techniques to suit you. A good therapist should be open to modifying their methods, incorporating new strategies, and adjusting their treatment plan as needed to ensure the most effective therapeutic experience for you. This doesn’t mean they won’t have opinions and guidelines to suggest, but with a collaborative approach, you should feel like you can have some say in your treatment.
Verify Their Credentials
Ensure the therapist you choose is licensed and credentialed by the appropriate professional organization in your area. This ensures they have the necessary education, training, and experience to provide effective therapy. You can usually verify a therapist’s credentials by checking their website, professional profile, or directly contacting their licensing board. They should also be able to easily and willingly provide you details of their registration, so anyone who holds back this information may need some further review.
Trust Your Gut
Finally, remember that you are the best judge of whether a therapist is a good fit for you. Trust your instincts and listen to your gut feeling when deciding on a therapist. If you feel comfortable, heard, and understood during your initial sessions, it’s a good indication that you’ve found the right match. On the other hand, if something feels off or you’re not connecting well with the therapist, it’s perfectly okay to continue your search for a better fit
In conclusion, finding the RIGHT therapist is going to be a crucial step in your journey to mental health and wellbeing. At Healthy Mind Psychology, we are committed to providing a diverse team of skilled professionals who prioritize your wellbeing and are dedicated to helping you navigate any challenges you might be facing. Remember, therapy should be a collaborative approach, so don’t hesitate to ask questions and explore the options that are available to you. Your mental health is worth the investment, and by taking the time to find the right therapist you will notice all the differences in empowering yourself on the path to healing.
Keywords: Mental health, Wellbeing, Therapeutic alliance, Trust, Safe space, Non-judgmental, Supportive environment, Approachable, Empathetic, Wellbeing, Specialized expertise, Pain disorders, Generalized anxiety, Therapeutic approach, EMDR, CBT, Psychodynamic, Relational, Cultural competence, Dual relationships, Empathy, Flexibility, Adaptability, Credentials, Licensed, Skilled professionals, Collaborative approach, Healing, Healthy Mind Psychology
*Images: Taken from Pexels