Questions to Ask Yourself to Find Out if Your Therapist is the Right Fit
This is the third of a three-part blog installment designed to help you get started with the right therapist!
Entering into a therapy relationship can be tense and sometimes uncomfortable, even in the best situations. Here are some helpful tools to help you decide if your therapist is the one for you! Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and everyone’s experience is different, so please understand these are just guidelines and you must use your own judgment. If you’re having doubts, the best thing you can do is discuss them with your therapist! How they respond will definitely tell you what you need to know. Remember, my suggestion is to give it at least 3-5 sessions with your therapist to get past the initial housekeeping and goal setting and get into rapport building and deeper work- unless you’re feeling truly threatened, unsafe, gaslit, or invalidated during your sessions. Then you should leave immediately!
Are they empowering you with the questions they ask?
Are they inspiring you to continue working outside of sessions?
Do you get a sense that they want to help you heal, or do you feel as if they want you to be dependent on them for emotional validation? Is it because of something they’re doing, or because of where you need to work?
Are they challenging and pushing you, or are they smiling and nodding?
Are they supportively challenging, or are they hostile and blaming?
Are you just venting? Or is actual work getting done?While venting occasionally has therapeutic value, therapy should be more goal-directed. A good therapist should be empowering you to handle the situations that are stressing you out, so that you won’t need to vent because you’ll feel capable of handling it (probably not going to be evident in the first 3-5 sessions). Your therapist should be respectful of your investment of time, energy, and finances to help you keep your goals in mind and start working towards them.
Body Language Awareness
Are they engaged with you? How is their eye contact?
Are they leaning in, legs pointed towards you, open arms?
Are they leaning back, legs open, taking up space?
How do you find yourself reacting to their body language?
What is your body language communicating in sessions? Does this apply to other areas of your life?
What does your energy want to do in sessions? Does it feel comfortable and relaxed, like you can actually be calm enough to do work? Or does it feel bottled up and tense? Does your body want to do something?
Do you feel they are physically close to you? Do you feel they are too close to you?
Will they be receptive to feedback if you communicate what you need or do what your body feels like it needs to do?
How is their tone of voice? How do you find yourself reacting to it?
Again, this is a short list just meant to generate thought and honest self-assessment as well as awareness of the therapist and what they are or are not communicating during sessions. Please use your own discretion and judgment, journal on these questions and challenge yourself to come up with more. And I cannot stress this enough- if you’re having doubts or concerns, have the courage to bring them up to your therapist. They will be receptive and it is TOTALLY OKAY for a therapist to not always be the best fit for you! They are ethically bound to help you, and sometimes that may mean helping you find the therapist with the “right stuff” for you. Maybe if it doesn’t work after the first several sessions, they may have a good enough idea about what you’re struggling with, your needs, and your communication style to be able to refer you to a trusted friend or colleague! You don’t get what you don’t ask for, so challenge yourself to discuss it with them!
Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC
Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.