by BETHANY GODWIN
For years I’ve told clients, “Therapists are like salad dressings, there are limitless flavors. You might find one you don’t like, but that doesn’t have to mean therapy isn’t for you. It just means they’re not your flavor.” When it comes to therapists, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all and therapists aren’t well…robots, so finding the best fit can be a challenge.
It Takes Time
When searching for a therapist, it’s natural to desire instant reassurance that you’ve made the right decision choosing your provider. To be fair, it is very normal to not feel instantly connected to your therapist on the first visit. They still may feel like a stranger to you, your first session is usually filled with a lot of information regurgitation. Multiple questions from them, discussing logistical information such as how to pay them, how to schedule appointments, what to do if you need to cancel, etc. Remember that trust takes time to build, which is essential for us to feel comfortable with someone. Especially if we are sharing such personal information and talking about hard things.
A couple of sessions in though, what if something still doesn’t feel right? This is when I encourage clients to dig a little deeper into those feelings and explore them. Can we tease apart if this is a feeling about therapy itself or the therapist? If you’ve never tried therapy before, it can feel very odd for a while. Many clients have shared with me that they didn’t know what to expect, they were concerned they weren’t ‘doing it right,’ they were afraid of me judging them, or were questioning if I could even understand how they felt. These are all good things to talk about with your therapist, and this will help decipher if your feelings are about therapy itself or the therapist. Trust and rapport can grow from these questions.
Satisfaction Requires Connection
When it comes to therapy satisfaction, the most important factor is how connected you feel to the therapist. All their training and knowledge are important, but none of it matters if you don’t feel connected to your therapist. There are dozens of factors that make a therapist unique: age, race, ethnicity, gender, education, professional experience, personal experience, approach, etc. Evaluating the reasons behind your feelings will help you determine if it is a matter of the therapist adjusting your sessions or if a new provider is needed.
If it is a matter of the therapist’s approach, this can be very helpful to discuss with your provider. Do you feel like your therapist isn’t asking enough questions? Would you like to see more progress? Do you need goals in between sessions? Do you feel like each session does not connect to the previous sessions? These are all realistic scenarios, and helpful to share with your provider. If your therapist checks in with you about how therapy is going, it’s tempting, I know, to just say “It’s fine,” but if it’s not, this is a great opportunity to let them know what you’d like to do differently. If they don’t ask, starting the conversation with “I’ve been thinking about therapy and I feel like……” is a great way to open the dialogue up.
If you feel that your current therapist isn’t a great fit for you, and what is making them not a great fit cannot be changed, I’d encourage you to share this with your therapist whether that is in session, by email or text. The thought of having this conversation may make you cringe if you are afraid to disappoint them or are concerned you may offend them. To give you a different perspective, from a therapist’s point of view…it can be helpful feedback to hear from a client what is not working for them in this professional relationship.
If you find yourself in this situation, just to send some encouragement your way….please remember that even experiences that aren’t great are helpful because they allow us to learn more about what we DO want going forward. With each experience you become a more informed client about what works for you and what doesn’t and I’m hopeful you will be able to find that match soon.