Not every therapist is going to be a good fit for you. This is normal, natural and okay.
Effective therapy has little to do with what kind of therapy is used and much more to do with the relationship between client and therapist — also known as the therapeutic alliance. This takes time to build — as does any relationship — and the client-therapist relationship is a very intimate one.
You know your therapist is a good fit when you feel respected and safe to express your thoughts and feelings, and that you are contained i.e. your thoughts and feelings are really heard, received and validated by your therapist.
You know your therapist is a good fit when s/he helps you explore, process and work through the issues and feelings that come up for you. This includes finding solutions that make sense to you and have you feeling more clarity, confidence and empowerment to move forward.
When people feel safe, respected, not judged and understood on a mental, emotional and spiritual level, that in itself is a core therapeutic and healing component.
Clues that your therapist is not a good fit include:
- Feeling misunderstood
- Feeling judged
- Not feeling cared about
- Not feeling safe emotionally, spiritually, mentally or physically
- No improvement in the areas that had you seek out therapy to begin with
If you experience any of the above, I would encourage you to voice your thoughts and feelings to your therapist, because effective therapy addresses such concerns and provides an opportunity for you and your therapist to (re)assess what is happening (or not happening), pivot and try again.
Expressing your frustration or disappointment about therapy to your therapist can feel scary for some people, but it is a risk worth taking, because it is in difficult conversations that some of the deepest and most effective therapy work can happen.
It takes the effort of both client and therapist — the client in being honest (which takes courage), and the therapist in having the openness and integrity to receive honest feedback, and the competence in using their skills and knowledge to work with what the client brings to the table.
Therapy helps people better understand themselves and navigate their life in more empowered ways. If both client and therapist can keep this in mind and work towards this goal, much good work and healing can happen.
Therapy provides a safe space to FEEL, which is necessary to heal, or at least, better get through what you’re going through. For life’s more painful times such as grieving, loss or experiencing /processing trauma of any kind, understanding oneself may not be the goal of therapy. Instead, simply having a safe space to feel and express all of your emotions IS the therapy and therapeutic.
There is power in sharing your darkest times with a safe other and having your feelings and experience held versus carrying such emotional weight alone and in silence. Going it alone compounds one’s pain and suffering. We are wired to connect and relate, which is most evident during our darkest hours. Support is everything.
You don’t know the potential of therapy if you don’t risk putting yourself out there. The other part of this equation is that when you do put yourself out there, you need to feel safe and understood.
If your risk-taking in therapy is not safely received and responded to, then it may be time to look for a therapist better suited for you.
Some therapists can sound great on paper, i.e. they can have gorgeous websites, raving reviews and impressive credentials, but the actual therapy experience may be disappointing and nothing like what you hoped, expected or needed it to be. This just means that particular therapist is not a good fit for you.
The good news is that there are many therapists out there, and like any relationship, it just takes finding the right one.
For more on this topic, see my video, Therapy & Therapists: The Good, Bad & Ugly: