Therapist-patient relationship is delicate. My experience has taught me that my expertise couldn't reach all kinds of people, no matter how skilled I am. Each person responds differently to each methodology. Mine might be right for some but unfit for others. And I have to let them go. But how do you, as a client, know if your therapist is the right fit?
The definition of a “right” therapist can be elusive, but the general idea is that the patient should feel “resonated.” This resonance comes in many forms, like feeling safe to share thoughts and opinions. The concepts are hard to measure. However, most patients will be self-aware of these emotions.
The resonance between therapist and patient is crucial for long-term healing. This means it’s better to develop this feeling from the early stages. And here are 5 signs to tell if a therapist is a yes or a no for you.
How do you know if your therapist is the right fit?
To make it easy to understand, I will compare 5 sides of therapists who fit you well with those who don’t. You may call them resonant and dissonant therapists.
However, please note that all certified therapists are experts in their methodology. Being dissonant in this article only means they are unfit for you, not unskilled. And make sure to give them time to connect with you. Jumping to the conclusion from the get-go can be a missed opportunity.
With that said, here are the 5 qualities of resonant therapists VS dissonance.
#1 Encouraged vs. Pressured
Prompting you to talk is one of the most significant steps in many therapies. At the same time, it’s among the most delicate parts of the early stage. There are numerous approaches for therapists to choose from. And only a few will resonate with you.
When a therapist converses with you, ask yourself if you genuinely want to talk or only feel uncomfortable staying quiet. If the latter is the case, your therapist’s method might miss something you yearn for.
Every word coming out of your lips should be natural and genuine. The therapist has to create a comfortable space for you to express your thoughts and feelings.
Pressuring a patient to talk could work in certain situations too. But if it gets overwhelming, the stress it causes can create a backlash too. This is especially true when both sides are distant in the early stages.
In short, you should feel safe to talk, not talk to feel safe.
#2 Listened to vs. Heard
Whenever you speak, you would expect someone to listen. However, human minds actually demand more than a listener. Deep down, we yearn for someone who understands our thoughts or even agrees with our point of view.
Your therapist should make you feel understood through words, expressions, and manners. Some might respond to your stories with vivid gestures. The others, however, may keep their reaction subtle.
These different approaches are part of their treatment methods. Those who express a lot mostly want to show how they understand your feelings. On the other hand, those who keep a straight face are trying to communicate that “there’s no judgement here.”
In the end, it boils down to your personal preferences. Do you like responsive listeners? Or do you prefer to monologue? Feel free to let your therapists know and see them adapt. Or move on to find someone better.
#3 Respected vs. Intruded
In a therapy session, the question-answer dynamic is crucial to effective treatment. In the early stages, most therapists will ask you questions to establish the connection or basic understanding between you and them.
Most of these questions are prompted. They are a tried and true formula that helps therapists streamline their process to get the best results. Every word is designed to gain intel while respecting the patient's privacy.
However, depending on the methodology, the questions could sound too intrusive to your liking.
It could be the trigger words or phrases or the tone of voice. Whatever the case is, the therapist should notice your reaction and adapt accordingly. And consider changing therapists if you still feel a sense of intrusion.
Needless to say, this is not your fault or anyone else. It’s natural that your subconscious associates a person with positive or negative feelings based on first impressions.
Starting anew is not the end of the world. So, feel free to do so whenever you like.
#4 Supported vs. Criticised
From time to time, your therapist may voice their thoughts on the matter. Their words could be those of consolation, support, mental exercises, and even anecdotes.
What they say aims to help you understand your emotional states and reorganise your feelings. However, some terms may appear insensitive or even offensive to you during this process.
Remember that your therapists mean you no harm. But sometimes, goodwill can take an unappealing form. If you feel criticised, please speak up. They are willing to listen.
Similarly to the previous point, feel free to voice your feelings or desire to change the therapist. We will do anything to ease your mental burden.
#5 Comfortable vs. Intimidated
It takes time to develop the connection between you and your therapist. But it shouldn’t take too long.
After the first several sessions, you should feel at ease enough to speak your mind and ask questions. The latter is especially crucial since misunderstanding the therapist's words can derail your progress. Thus, always ask questions whenever you are unsure of something.
However, preparing a comfortable spot for a Q&A is also a part of the therapist's job. They should respond to your question in a welcome manner.
You should feel at ease whenever you ask for clarification. If you feel too scared to ask anything, this therapist might not have prepared the best spot for you.
Again, feel free to express your concern. And if the negative feeling doesn’t disappear after some time, you might need a change.
The Therapeutic Alliance
I feel this article, 'The Significance of Being Skilful' from Therapy Today, Nov, 22 issue sheds some light on what's important in talking therapy when looking for a therapist.
"For a client, an important aspect of helpfulness of therapy lies in the capacity of their counsellor, psychotherapist or other provider of emotional support to use counselling skills in an effective manner. Clients value moments when a counsellor listens in a way that allows them to know they are being heard, shares a relevant reflection, or asks a question that makes it possible to see an issue from a different perspective."
Do you, as a client, feel listened to? This forms a vital part of the 'therapeutic alliance.'
> You can check out the full article here and by turning to page 26-27.
It’s about you, not the therapists
Let me highlight it again. Mental health, at its core, is about how you feel. The right therapist will make you feel at ease, understood, secure, supported, and comfortable. And you can easily spot these feelings by yourself.
Take note of the ups and downs of your emotion during the sessions. It might take some time, but eventually, you will realise if your therapist is right for you.
If you are unsure which therapist to start your mental healing with, let me be one of your choices. Have a pleasant free chat, and see if we resonate with each other.