You’ve decided to start therapy. You’ve gotten a couple of therapists’ names from your doctor, but how do you decide who to go to? Unlike so many other areas, where you might want the “best” person in their field, psychotherapy is a much more personal matter. A therapist might be the top in their particular specialty and yet still be wrong for you. For psychotherapy to be effective, you must work with a therapist who is a good fit for you.
When you see a therapist you connect and feel safe with, you will be more likely to open up. Personal and vulnerable feelings are difficult to share. If you’re not fully comfortable with your therapist, you might react to your discomfort by hiding or avoiding some particular aspects of your experience, which of course, would keep you from getting the very help you are seeking.
Growing and healing in psychotherapy must begin with feeling safe. And this generally happens when you agree with – or are open to – your therapist’s approach to your problem. You will be more likely to follow your therapist’s lead and make changes that are uncomfortable.
Because therapy is usually more an art than a science, either the therapy or your therapist will likely disappoint or upset you at some point. This can actually be helpful, because your thoughts and feelings may reveal key aspects of the struggles that have driven you to therapy. For instance, viewing your therapist as being critical might expose your tendency to read criticism into others’ comments. Or your desire to stop therapy in response to a comment by your therapist might expose your inclination to run from relationships when you feel misunderstood. So, these uncomfortable moments in therapy can actually be helpful. They present an opportunity to work with your issues and help you to grow. You can take advantage of them by expressing your negative thoughts and uncomfortable feelings to your therapist. As the two of you talk through your experiences, you can gain insight into your misunderstandings or vulnerabilities.
Although communication about the therapy is essential to its success, it could turn out that such back-and-forth with your therapist is just not proving helpful, after all. If after opening up and trying to discuss a problem in therapy, you continue to feel stuck, it may be time to move on. By working collaboratively with your therapist to assess this, however, you may still get value from the experience, in that your therapist might be able to guide you to a different therapist – or type of therapy – that might be a better fit.
Psychotherapy is a complicated process involving many factors, including the need for it to be individualized. Even so, research has repeatedly shown that it helps many people. While effective therapy is never a sure thing, you have the power to influence its likelihood of success. With your choice of therapist and your willingness to talk in and about the therapy, you can increase your chances of growing and healing through this process.