Welp, we’re going to take a dip into my life again because, it seems especially relevant to the stories I’ve heard about people who “try counseling.”
I think most people have heard someone say, “I tried counseling but it really didn’t help any.”
I don’t doubt these people have tried. Nor do I assume they went into it thinking they wouldn’t benefit (which happens). What I do think is that they had the wrong therapist. Just as with anything you get done by a professional, whether it be a haircut, a car repair, or a house built, you have to have the right person for the job, and not all are created equal. If you went to a new salon and didn’t like the results, you wouldn’t go back. At the least, you wouldn’t go back to that stylist. So, why would therapy be different?
I’ve had therapists who were absolutely life-changing. I’ve had some who helped, but not as much as the first group. Then I’ve had some who were just not helpful at all, and in a couple of cases, were actually damaging to the therapy process.
Guess what I do with those who weren’t helpful or who were damaging to the process? I didn’t continue with them. I started over, looking for another therapist. I kept starting over until I found someone who would help.
How do you know when you found someone who’ll help? That’s pretty individual. It has to be someone you can open up to, first and foremost. The person you feel helped by might not help me at all. What’s standard enough to be a guidepost for anyone seeking therapy?
- They specialize in your concern. Obvious, perhaps, but if you go to a child therapist and say you need help in your marriage, it’s not going to end well. Make sure you’re finding someone who has experience in addressing your particular concern.
- Find someone with a few years of experience if you can. Colleges teach the way to handle clients and help them, but just like with medical school – real life will teach more.
- If you don’t feel a connection within the first couple of sessions, try someone else.
- Does the therapy appointment leave you feeling heard?
- Match up your religious/political/social/etc beliefs. Don’t go to a counselor who clearly states they’re a Christian counselor if you’re pagan, right? Don’t go to a liberal therapist if you’re a conservative. This isn’t to encourage you to isolate yourself or separate from people who don’t agree, but to help you find the safe space you need to get through your healing process. DO go to someone who specializes in transgender issues if you’re a trans-gender person.
Just as important, there are things to avoid.
- A therapist who behaves inappropriately. They’re your therapist, not your bestie. Yes, they should be capable of comforting you when you’re in distress, (though really they should be teaching you how to do that yourself) but they shouldn’t be all handsy about it. They also shouldn’t be asking to meet you outside their office.
- You don’t feel heard/understood. It doesn’t matter who else feels like what you’re dealing with is a big deal. If you’re seeking therapy, it’s a big deal to you. A good therapist will understand that.
- Any therapist who claims to “specialize in everything.” I honestly look at the listings on the web site my insurance carrier provides and skip about half the therapists there. They claim to specialize in anywhere from 6-12 areas of therapy. There’s no way, there just isn’t. Maybe they can provide guidance in multiple areas, but that isn’t specializing. If they don’t know their limits, stay away.
And last, but not least, what do you do when a therapist just isn’t working out, or when trust is broken and you don’t want to repair the relationship? I found an excellent article that addresses exactly that, and as I couldn’t begin to write anything as comprehensive, I’ll share the link. 7 Tips for ‘Breaking Up’ with Your Therapist
I hope these tips help you find a therapist who’ll help you instead of just giving up on therapy when the first one didn’t work out.
Why does this dip into my life? Because I just had to break up with a therapist and I start with another one tomorrow. Still looking for someone who can help. I know they’re out there, I just gotta keep going until I get to them.
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