How would I know if I have the right therapist?
How do you know you have the right therapist for you?
How would I know how to "train" my therapist to be able to give me what I need from treatment?
Finding the right therapist for you is very important and can sometimes be tricky. It can sometimes take a number of sessions to get a good sense of whether you and your therapist are the "right fit." The first couple of sessions are generally spent on gathering information, formulating a plan of treatment, and building the client/therapist relationship. The client/therapist relationship will be very different from other relationships you have experienced. You will know you have found the right therapist when you notice there is a good rapport between the two of you. You will get a sense that the therapist "gets you" and understands the issues being presented. If you feel that you can trust your therapist and feel comfortable opening up and providing feedback during your sessions then you know it is a good fit.
In terms of "how to train your therapist how to give you what you need from treatment" the therapeutic relationship is collaborative so the two of you will be working together as a team. During your sessions, the goal is for you to feel comfortable giving feedback about what is working and what is not working in your sessions. When you express your needs to your therapist then the two of you will discuss the best ways to get those needs met in order to maximize the effectiveness of your sessions.
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Finding the right therapist for you may take time - or you may find one the first try. Two important things to think about when first finding a therapist are “do I feel safe?” and “do I feel heard?” The first time seeing a therapist can be anxiety provoking. It may be uncomfortable. Unless there are giant red flags about a therapist (things beyond meeting someone for the first time and answering uncomfortable but important questions), I always suggest seeing a therapist 3-4 times before making a decision to try another. It may end up that you feel like your therapist isn’t the best fit for you, but again, I encourage you to give them a couple times before moving on. When you get past the initial sessions of paperwork and gathering information, you can gauge the client - therapist relationship better, and when you find the right person to work with, you will know it.
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Quick Way to Assess a Great Therapist
A colleague and I were discussing the characteristics of successful therapists. I gave him some traits, some of which were listed by Robinson (2012). The therapist should be able to listen to your story, build rapport, establish a relationship, demonstrate empathy, adapt treatments to the client/situation, use effective communication skills, exhibit confidence in use of therapeutic techniques, and repeatedly update skills with ongoing education and research.
You should talk with the therapist. In addition to asking the therapist about his/her experiences and specialty in treating the issue you want to address; you will gain a sense of the therapist’s ability to connect with you in your first phone call or meeting with him/her. This is why I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation. You can use the above criteria to gauge the therapist’s ability to do the following: Hear you, join with you in understanding the issue, and indicate some ways in which the issue may be treated.
Regarding training a therapist, just ask the therapist if he or she can comply with what you are looking for, or what has worked with you before if you have had prior counseling. If you just like a therapist to listen, you are looking for a non-directive therapist. If you want one to be more active in guiding you, choose a directive therapist. You can also ask them with which type of client/issue they work best.
I specialize treating anxiety and relationships and would like to talk with you if you have questions about how I may be able to help you.
Jim Ciraky PhD
Licensed Professional Counselor GA, USA
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The therapeutic relationship should be collaborative. The client is the expert on their life, and the therapist is the expert on helping the client to develop their sense of being. Growth occurs as a result of challenges. Therefore, I would suggest not looking to train the therapist, but rather to find one that will help you develop into the you that you desire to be. Finding the right therapist is like finding a pair of black heels. Not just any black heels will do. But when you find them, you just know that your search is over. It is also wise to expect that they won’t always feel comfortable.
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You'll know you have the right therapist when after the first few sessions you feel comfortable enough to tell them things you wouldn't tell anyone else. It's important in therapy for that rapport to be built from the beginning and that you as the client feel comfortable enough to share what you need to share. You shouldn't feel judgement from your therapist and you should be able to trust the advice your therapist provides. Therapy isn't about advice, don't get me wrong, but to truly implement the changes that need to be implemented to improve your life you need to trust the person giving the advice. Your therapist should have your best interest at heart and truly listen to what you have to say. The therapist should be willing to meet you where you are in your world and attempt to see the world from your perspective to truly understand what you have been through. You need to feel comfortable in therapy to be yourself and say what's on your mind. Therapy shouldn't be something that should be dreaded but it can get uncomfortable depending on the depth of the things being discussed.
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Finding the right therapist can be difficult, especially if you've never tried it before. Things to consider are location, availability and what specifically are you looking for. Some practitioners specifically only work with a certain type of issue (i.e eating disorders, adolescents, anger management, life transitions, anxiety...etc) and others can work with a variety of concerns.
As far as training your therapist, you can't. You simply let them know what you are looking to work on or what you think may be an issue for you. Depending on the way they practice(their style of working with clients) is how they will then decide to make a treatment plan that works best for you.
You can always ask them their specialty practice population, the problems they generally help others with and what type of mental health provider they are (Psychologist, social worker, licensed mental health counselor).
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Choosing the right therapist can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. I know many people come to therapy with hesitations and potential fears but a therapist should be there to help you along the way and support you as you build a trusting and collaborative relationship. You won't have to "train" your therapist to give you what you need. Through open dialogue and feedback you and your therapist, together, can determine what works best for you. But do remember that being able to trust your therapist to guide and support you is key. So if you're having a hard time connecting with your therapist after 3-4 sessions, you will want to bring it up to them so you can discuss any barriers and if needed, request a referral for another therapist.
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Counselors do not expect to gain your trust during the first session. Trust is earned and gained through the therapeutic process. You may know you have the right therapist if you feel a lack of judgement or even unconditional positive regard for the choices you make in therapy. Good counselors will keep you accountable for your actions without making you feel ashamed of the choice you made.
Counselors already have the training to give you what you need in treatment, and if they don't they are ethically obligated to refer you to a provider that does. That being said, the first few visits with your counselor will be goal oriented- creating realistic and obtainable goals that will allow you and your therapist to see positive change when it is made.
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You will know you have the right therapist when you feel at ease and comfortable to share deep feelings.
You do not hold back and feel total acceptance and validation by your therapist. Listen to your feelings and let
them guide your decision.
Your therapist and you will work together to decide what is best for you with regards to the type of treatment, frequency and
duration. It is about collaborating and deciding together on the treatment plan that will help you to achieve your counseling goals.
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The most important thing is it has to feel right. While that sounds vague and not very scientific it is the most important part of therapy. Us counselors call it therapeutic rapport and without it therapy is not very effective. You want to know you can trust your therapist, that you are not being judged, that they respect your privacy, that you feel comfortable talking to them about the good and the bad. You want to feel heard and know you therapist is genuine . Not all therapist are a good fit for everyone. Go with your gut :) As an added note I recommend going with a therapist who has done their own therapy!
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What an important question! I think one of the first things to assess is this: Do you feel comfortable with your therapist? Do you feel like you can talk openly about what's going on in your life without feeling judged? Do you experience your therapy as a safe space to process your thoughts and feelings? Feeling comfortable with your therapist is a crucial factor.
Once you feel comfortable with your therapist, you can have a conversation about what works for you in therapy. Tell your therapist what is helpful, and what you don't find helpful. A skilled therapist can shift his or her style and techniques to meet your individual needs, and this may be an ongoing conversation that the two of you have during therapy.
Oftentimes, there is just an X factor between client and therapist that either makes the relationship work or can make it feel like something is missing. This is no one's fault, it's just that not every therapist will be a perfect match for every client.
If you feel uncomfortable with your therapist or feel like that x factor is missing, it is a good idea to keep searching for therapist who is right for you.
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This is a great question. Finding the right therapist can be tricky because you don't really know how someone will be like until you meet them. A few ways to prescreen are to:
- Visit the therapist's website, psychologytoday profile, social media, etc...
- Have a phone call with the therapist prior to your first appointment
Once you meet your therapist it is important to be clear with your wishes and expectations. We are trained in helping you thrive in your life but we cannot mind read so if you don't tell us, we won't know. Don't be shy about what you like and what you don't like. A good therapist will listen to your needs, process them with you, and create a customized plan that works for you and your life. A good therapist will also not take anything you say (even criticism) personally.
Coming to therapy is hard and often times you might not want to go. What makes a good therapist is someone who understands this and tries to make you feel as comfortable as possible while you address uncomfortable topics.
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I believe that the right counsellor will help you feel empowered, supported and understood. You should feel comfortable opening up and not be concerned that they will judge you for what you say or decide to do. I find this important to let my clients know during intake that they will never be judged for the decisions they decide to take while going over options in sessions together with me.
In terms of what you need from treatment, please feel comfortable to open up to your therapist and tell them what you need from them. For example, do you prefer them to challenge you with questions, listen to your story and ask questions throughout or near the end, give you work to do outside of sessions? The therapy sessions will work best for you if you can help them support you in what will work for you.
It can sometimes take a few trials of different therapists to find the right one so please do not give up if you feel disheartened! You should feel proud of yourself for taking the first big step in asking for help, that is not easy to do and you are on the right track already!
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Such a good question! Sometimes, clients will feel like they are not connecting with their therapist and will put it on themselves. In truth, the bond between therapist and client is the #1 predictor of positive outcomes in therapy. Ask yourself these questions: does it feel like this person can come to care about me? Do they remember from week to week what we touched on? Do I feel compassion from this person? Do they allow me my difficult and painful feelings too, or do they try to rescue me?
On your other question - I suggest you ask your therapist what goals he/she has for your treatment. See if they respond with interest and participation, or if they become clinical and distant. Ideally, you and your therapist jointly develop your goals, and check on your progress on a frequent basis. I don't know if you can actually 'train' your therapist - we can be a hard bunch to train! :-) - but you can definitely tell your therapist what works for you, and what didn't work, at the end of each session. How they react will also tell you a lot about whether this is the right person for you.
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Stephanie C, MA, LADC, LPCC (pre-licensed)
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The client's job is to concentrate on stating the details of their problem and to thoughtfully engage in a dialogue about these areas with the therapist.
The most difficult job for a client is willingness to self-examine, hold oneself accountable for relationship and life situations, and honestly feel the difficult, often painful feelings and insecurities which troubling situations create.
The client doesn't train the therapist.
If you feel you are with a therapist who requires you to train them, then politely decline continuing to pay for their services.
Then find yourself a different therapist who feels secure and knowledgeable enough in their skills to not require training by their client.
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Thinking whether or not you have the right therapist can be overwhelming if you are not sure what you want or need. But think of this, you feel safe and comfortable that you share what you’ve never told anybody. You feel understood and listened to. You feel their support. You trust them. Do you believe they can help you? If you do not, then that might make it hard for you to want to open up.
As far as how would you how to train your therapist to help you. If you know what you need all you have to do is share this with your therapist. If you don’t know then therapy is a collaborative process so both you and your therapist will work together to figure out your needs and how to best meet them.
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The "right" therapist is a combination of expertise in the areas where you require, and fit as far as how comfortable you feel in speaking and sharing with that person. People generally are quite good at determining whether or not someone fits well with their personality and style; and another key to know whether therapy is working is to ask yourself: "Do I see that changes have come about since working with this therapist?" Do I feel better? Am I reaching goals that I set at the onset of therapy? Are difficult situations becoming easier by how I handle them? Training a therapist really isn't necessary, as all it requires is open and honest communication in order to give effective feedback that will in turn be helpful to you and your goals.
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You have the right therapist if you feel safe with that person. Safety consists of feeling that who you are and what you say is valued. The right therapist is not an 'all knowing person you must obey'. He or she is a person with skilled knowledge who respects you as a partner in your self discovery. The right therapist is also one who is kind
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This is a really important question, because you don't want to waste your time and money with a therapist who is not a good fit for you. I think the most important factor that makes a good therapist match is trust-- do you trust this person to be able to help you meet your therapy goals? There are few things you can do upfront to test this out, without spending a dime. First, ask for personal recommendations from friends or others. If you know someone who had a great experience with a certain therapist, you'll feel more confident in that person right off the bat. Second, do your online research. Google the person's name and read everything you can find. Many therapists are starting to develop more of an online presence because they know that's a way future clients can develop trust without even stepping in their door. See if they have a blog, social media posts, or even just read the tone of the content on their website. This might give you a glimpse of their therapy style. Finally, you can call or email potential therapists and provide a brief overview of your presenting problem and describe what you're looking for in your ideal therapist. It sounds like you have a specific idea of what you're looking for... most therapists will be honest if they don't feel they're going to meet your expectations. Some therapists offer free short phone consultations which can help you both decide if you would work well together. Do your homework upfront, and you'll be well on your way to finding a great therapist for you!
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