These 3 Things When Searching Your Ideal Therapist
In searching for the ideal therapist, most seem to utilize the imperfect tool of Google with its dehumanized algorithms. It is natural to search for a therapist focusing on location, fee/insurance, and maybe their individual approach to therapy.
These are all important factors, but they may not be the most important things to consider if what you are searching for is real and lasting healing and change. Consider the following 3 things you probably haven't thought about in your search for the ideal therapist — I promise that he, she, or they are out there! Your mental health is too vital to settle.
1. THE RELATIONSHIP or THERAPEUTIC ALLIANCE
Peer reviewed research consistently shows that regardless of a therapist's theoretical orientation or their mode of practicing therapy, it is the therapeutic relationship (or alliance) which most consistently contributes to a positive clinical outcome. While it can be great to find a specialist who has much experience working with your particular issue, it won't be as beneficial if you find yourself having difficulty trusting or forming an alliance with the therapist. As you interview therapists (Yes, you should think about initial sessions as an interview trying to find the right fit), try to be attuned to your relational needs, rather than focusing on the therapist's expertise and skills.
2. NO PATHOLOGIZING
If you ever start to get the sense that your therapist believes he or she or they know you better than you do, then you may need to think about finding another therapist. It is not uncommon for experts to believe they know better, and in many fields this is most certainly a preference. But no one can know you, your circumstances, or your needs better than you do. Because the medical field is more-or-less designed this way—to diagnose problems and offer quick, effective solutions—many therapists can be thinking this way while in session with you. It can be all too common for a trained clinician to think about you more in terms of symptoms, disorders, diagnoses, and evidence-based treatments. You deserve a therapist who has a great deal of knowledge, but who also understands that no individual person fits perfectly into any diagnostic criteria. You deserve a therapist who will offer you treatment that is unique to you, that looks like nobody else's therapy.
3. AUTHENTIC PRACTITIONER
When I taught high school English in Houston, TX, I was astounded to find that most of my colleagues across the districts in my city were not writers or readers. This struck me as terribly dishonest and irresponsible. Who would want to take piano lessons from an individual who does not play the piano? Who would want to listen to a religious sermon from someone who does not contemplate theology daily? Who would want their bicycle repaired by someone who doesn't know how bicycles work? This is why you should expect your therapist to have a cultivated mental health regimen. Your therapist should be a patient in their own therapy, and your therapist should uphold a responsibility to live ethically, to be culturally competent, and to always be growing and healing. Here's an insider's secret of what I have observed being in the mental health field. Most therapists are drawn to this work because they have been dealt their own share of wounds to heal from. BUT, some clinicians seem to get into the field to become experts as a way of avoiding, or circumnavigating their own healing work that needs to be done, whereas the type of therapist you want to search for will have committed to doing the lifelong work that mental health and wellness requires. It can be difficult to determine, but keep this in mind and do not be afraid to ask your therapist about their own experiences with therapy. It is my conviction that therapists should practice what they preach, and the best way for therapists to know how therapy works is to be in therapy for themselves.
If you would like to set up a consultation to help you find your ideal therapist, send me a message and we can set up a time to chat.