Picture this: you finally get the courage to seek out counseling, you have your first session (not knowing what to expect or look for), and you leave feeling less than seen or maybe with an “I knew this wouldn’t work attitude.” Now what?
For many individuals seeking therapy there are only two options, stay and deal or leave and deal, but either way they are left feeling uncomfortable. Unfortunately, that is a common feeling for some who begin counseling without any understanding of how or why it is important to find the therapist that fits their needs best.
If this is you or anyone you know, this next part is for you.
Therapy was never meant to be easy or pain free, but it should feel like you are being seen and heard by the therapist you choose. If you walk out of that first, second, or third appointment feeling disconnected or with an uncomfortable feeling related to how you connect with your therapist, then that individual may not be right for you. Below are some questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to stay or seek out alternative treatment providers.
- Do I feel safe and/or comfortable sharing about my life? Can I be honest with the therapist? In the initial sessions it may feel challenging to open up to a complete stranger, however you should still feel as though there is safety to do so through their discussion of confidentiality and how they attempt to provide comfort in allowing you to open up.
- Do I feel like this person is listening and showing empathy towards me? Do I believe they care for me? When you sit in the therapy office, you should feel cared for and listened to. If your therapist is interrupting, preoccupied, or speaks more about themselves than they do about therapeutic based information, or even you, then you may be in for a very negative therapy experience.
- Does this individual communicate with professionalism and timeliness? Are they available when needed to an appropriate degree? If you reach out to your therapist during normal business hours, they should get back to you within 24 to 48 hours. If you are having to wait several days without hearing back, or if you feel your therapist is communicating in any way that crosses a boundary or makes you feel uncomfortable, then you may have a difficult time feeling cared for as more than just a paycheck. Although therapists have their own boundaries and personal lives, you should still feel that you have an understanding of how to reach them during crisis and that they are making an effort to provide support in a timely manner.
- Do I feel the therapist understands me or is making a sincere effort to understand me? Everyone in this life has their own experiences and deserve to have those experiences heard and understood. If you are making an effort to be honest and communicate your needs, goals and experiences but don’t feel you are receiving validation and empathy from your therapist, then it will be challenging to continue being open and honest. A therapist’s job is not to agree with you and your understanding, but to do their best to understand your perspective and help you create and accomplish goals as related to that understanding.
- If I schedule a second or third appointment, do I want to attend? Maybe you didn’t feel anything negative about that first session, but when you prepare to return for another session, its important to look at how you feel about returning and how that is influenced by your perception of your therapist. Yes, there will be times you do not want to go because of your own issues, but if you are dreading attendance because of something your therapist does or does not do, then that is a red flag and you will most definitely not want to continue when things in therapy do get tough.
If the answer to any of these questions is “No”, or if you just have a gut feeling that this person is not the right fit for you, then seek out someone different. Therapy is challenging enough without the added stress of feeling disconnected or unsafe with your therapist. Additionally, ethically appropriate therapists will not become disgruntled or angry if you choose to seek services from someone else. They will provide empathetic understanding and seek to support change within the current therapeutic relationship or help you to find someone who fits your goals and needs.
At The Center for Hope & Healing, we know we do not fit everyone but we might be a fit for you! Call for a 15 minute free consultation to see if one of our therapists might be a fit for you.
Call us at 936-524-7523 or go to www.thecenterforhopeandhealing.net