Sometimes when confronted with the harsh realities of life and how to effectively cope with such situations, it might be worth it to seek out a qualified therapist who is able to be objective, while helping you resolve any recurring problem, however short or long term you are currently challenged by. Once you do get there, either by referral, word of mouth, or your own research, it is important to give the therapist 2-3 sessions before making your decision to see if it’s the right fit, and would like to continue.
Emily Waters earned her Master's degree in industrial psychology with an emphasis in human relations. She possesses keen insight into the field of applied psychology, organizational development, motivation, and stress, the latter of which is ubiquitous in the workplace environment and in one’s personal life. One of her academic passions is the understanding of human nature and illness as it pertains to the mind and body. Prior to obtaining her degree, she worked in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Presently, she teaches a variety of psychology courses both in public and private universities.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
The right “fit” has to equally work both ways, of course, between the therapist and client. Here are some questions that serve as a guideline for achieving that, before you jump the gun or become impatient, frustrated and leave if you are not quite feeling a strong alliance/fit. While one can never truly know how things will unfold between the two of you in your sessions, there could be some tell tale signs pointing you in an obvious direction.
- Does he/she have a pleasant disposition and a sense of humor?
- Do you feel at ease with them?
- Are they sincere about trying to understand and help you?
- Do they treat you with dignity and respect?
- Are they honest, non defensive and kind?
- Are they looking at the clock?
- Is he/she willing to explain their approach, including strategies, goals, expectations, and length of treatment?
- Does he/she make you feel accepted?
- Do they understand your background, and cultural heritage, if relevant?
- Do they treat you like an equal, or as though you are flawed or defective in some way?
- Do you leave the sessions feeling more hopeful and empowered, at least most of the time?
- Do you feel he/she can empathize with you and feel your pain? Can he/she understand you?
- Do you feel safe disclosing your innermost feelings and that they are held in confidence?
- Does he/she give you homework assignments between sessions?
- What is your gut telling you?
- Do they seem judgmental? Even in a subtle way? Do they seem to have a holier than thou attitude?
- Is there good eye contact? Or are they too much on their iPad jotting notes?
- Do they seem professional, yet warm and understanding? Does there seem to be a good balance?
- Do they seem easily distracted? Are they truly focused on you?
- Are you starting to feel more at ease with him/her after 2-4 sessions?
- Do they seem bent on prolonging the sessions with you (mainly for financial reasons) despite no seemingly benefit/progress for you?
There are of course many more questions that are rational and intuitive based. As you talk with potential therapists, keep in mind that research shows that the therapist’s personal style, such as empathy, is more important in determining therapeutic success than a therapist’s theoretical persuasion or choice of techniques. These tips also apply if you’re seeking help for depression, the symptoms of which are often intertwined with those of anxiety or other serious mental disorders.
So don’t just throw caution to the wind, but do your homework. Getting into the wrong hands of a therapist can cause more harm to you in the long run. So be extra cautious when safeguarding your health in choosing a therapist that will meet your needs and address your concern(s) in a realistic and healthy, yet beneficial way. It’s important not to expect perfection in this therapist/patient relationship, but more of a feeling of being at ease, with less anxiety than when you first started out with, and more in personal control of your life.