How to know if a therapist is right for you
Mental health challenges require the brave step of entering the healing process. In embarking on this journey, one soon recognizes that each person is unique and responds differently to therapy and its different types.
So the first important step is to choose the appropriate therapeutic approach, the type of treatment that best suits the situation you are experiencing as well as your personal preference.
At the same time, it is important to know that every psychologist and psychotherapist follows a code of conduct and ethics, i.e., a set of rules that define and describe the way of professional behavior, how a psychologist's work is carried out, and by what criteria decisions are made. However, in addition to quality professional practices, feeling comfortable with your therapist is also vital.Studies on therapist-treated relationships are increasing more and more. The important findings are that the therapeutic relationship, as it is called, significantly influences treatment outcome.
When there is not a good therapist-client match, there can be strong negative effects on the client's therapeutic experience.
Below are some qualities expected of a therapist:
Qualities of a good therapist
In general, the suitability of a therapist is related to each person's subjective experience, but the following characteristics are important to have to ensure the well-being of the therapeutic relationship:It is important for the therapist to actively listen to what you share, gradually instilling trust and intimacy in you, but you too, as the sessions end, will feel more and more comfortable sharing personal issues that you don't usually share with others.
It is also important to feel that your boundaries are not violated but instead respected and accepted, regardless of their nature. The therapist works in alliance with you, searches with you for the best possible scenario for each need, and understands your perspective (Crits-Christoph et al., 2019). In addition, it is essential to feel that the therapist is intent on your well-being in general and emotional care in particular.
Is it right for me?
Sometimes, especially in your first contacts with therapists, you may feel that you don't fit together as people, just as it can happen in any relationship in your life.It is quite common for people to try a few therapists before finding the right one for them (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2020).
Less often, but just as likely, someone who has settled on one therapist will feel a few months or years later that they need a different therapist.
Some turning points
- Unethical professional conduct
Unethical behavior is defined not only by the codes of conduct and ethics but also by the general rules of conduct. These may include inappropriate touching, breaches of privacy, requests for sexual favors, and asking for or accepting high-value bribes.
If your therapist appears to be breaking these codes, you can report them to the organization they work for or directly to their member organization (e.g., British Psychological Association, British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, American Psychological Association, Association of Hellenic Psychologists, etc.).Essentially, any therapist who engages in unethical behavior is violating your trust and your human rights. According to studies, experiencing any kind of unethical behavior during treatment can be extremely damaging to the person receiving it. So if you detect such behaviors, choose to end treatment with that particular therapist as soon as possible.
- Unclear targeting
The initiation of a therapeutic process is directly combined with the establishment of therapeutic goals. Objectives help not only the process but also the two members of the session. The therapist benefits because he can choose more appropriate treatment methods while at the same time assessing the individual's progress.
The client also needs to recognize where they are in relation to starting the sessions and feel that the goals set are directly relevant to them and their needs.On the other hand, it is noteworthy that the treatment, depending on its nature, does not necessarily provide immediate results. Each person develops differently and on a different schedule. What is expected, however, is that the therapist should be clear about the benchmarks he hopes the client will achieve, which are usually established together at the beginning of the sessions. They should discuss what the goals are for treatment and report when and where they have made progress.
- Lack of appropriate background or training
Therapeutic approaches are numerous, and therapists are now often experienced in more than one approach. Some approaches are: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), integrative approaches, person-centered therapy (PCT), body-centered therapies, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), psychodynamic therapy, and others. Despite the multitude of approaches, not all therapists have the background or sufficient training to most productively help all clients. So, if you find out that your therapist really can't help you adequately based on their training, try switching therapists or sharing your concerns with them (Adshead, 2021).
- He is critical
The therapist is not the person who will say yes to everything and is likely to often act with the intention of preventing behaviors or choices that do not seem ultimately helpful to you or that may harm you. The therapist needs to be less judgmental and more understanding and compassionate.Empathy is a characteristic of a good therapist, while criticism is not part of the plan. Of course, complete agreement between you on all matters is not expected either. However, sensitivity to the way information is conveyed to you is within the purview of a therapist. If and when you feel that the therapist is belittling you or seems overly harsh or judgmental, you may discuss this with them or withdraw from sessions with this person.
Therapist or friend?
Often, clients feel like they could be friends outside of sessions with their therapist. It can help you feel familiar and comfortable. It's okay to feel that way, as long as the boundaries between therapist and client are not crossed.These boundaries are at the discretion of the therapist, as even if you feel the need to be friendly with your therapist, he or she needs to set limits on behavior.
For example, sessions in cafeterias and generally in extra-therapeutic contexts, except in some very special cases, are prohibited. Another example to avoid is a therapist who shares a great deal of information about himself or his own experiences.
Sometimes, therapists who are more like friends will not challenge you therapeutically or help you work through your issues as effectively, even if you feel like they are happening.
Even if you did develop a friendly relationship with your therapist, how fair would it be to you if there was inequality in that relationship? Your therapist knows a lot of personal information about you, and you know very little about him.