“There is no standard normal. Normal is subjective. There are seven billion versions of normal on this planet.”
- Matt Haig
We all need people to accept us and live in harmony with our distinctiveness. Every individual is unique and therefore will require unique solutions. A good therapist possesses many skills but most of all, for your therapy to work, you need someone you can rely on. Someone who can accept you for being you and have faith in your personal resources, rather than a moral preacher.
For an effective session, you must feel connected or in sync with the therapist or counselor. It doesn’t matter if the counselor wasn’t recommended or suggested by someone. Say, your friend is particularly thrilled about a therapist she has been going to and highly recommends them to you. You don't need to have a similar experience with the same therapist, it may or may not work, depending on the connection between you two. You are about to share your innermost thoughts and feelings and if you sense judgment from the other side, maybe it is not the right therapist for you.
While there are many factors to consider while choosing a therapist but how do you get to know if you made the right choice? What are the signs to catch for an effective therapist? And what if they aren’t good enough, what should be the ideal way to go about it?
Your quizzing mind will be at ease once you have gone through this blog article that will address all these queries and more. Keep reading to know!
Things to ask before you meet your therapist
You might consider looking online or asking your friends about good therapists nearby. During consulting different counselors, make sure to ask about how they conduct their treatment and the ways they make their clients comfortable with therapy. Remember that only some therapists may practice giving free consultation over the phone, so if you get the chance to have a brief talk before your appointment, don’t let it go to waste. Talking a bit about your apprehensions with therapy will allow you to get to know the person well enough to regard them as a positive presence.
A good therapist will be genuine, empathetic, and respectful towards you to form a therapeutic alliance. During the brief exchange with your potential therapist, see how you feel about their responses and how comfortable you are talking to them. At the very inception of your treatment journey, you may want to keep these tips in mind for a smooth process.
What to expect in your first appointment?
Your therapist will be explaining to you how the treatment shall unfold and assure you of confidentiality on official papers. So, as a matter of professional ethics, a therapist must not share any details of the case with anyone, and assurance of the same can be comforting.
The first session can be anything, from being just an ice-breaking session to going deep into your symptoms and goals for treatment. This completely depends on your therapist’s acumen and skills. The therapist may ask questions about your childhood, your medical history, your family, and any history of past mental health treatment. Once they get an overall picture of what you are going through, it will help to work on goals to achieve. Many factors can influence the session, whether it is online or offline, whether the fee is exorbitant or nominal and whether your symptoms indicate a mental health problem or not.
The first session can be a tricky one. While both the counselor and the client are forming first impressions without even knowing, you may tend to make haste judgments. It is the best time to ask as many questions as you want and ease into trusting the person with your issues.
Signs that you made the right choice
An effective listener: Listening is not just merely hearing someone speak but it also includes catching non-verbal signs of communication and understanding the feelings behind the words. A good therapist will not only look for your words but also try to understand them and actively show signs that they are listening to you. They should be able to provide non-verbal signs of listening such as leaning forward, making eye contact, facial expression, and posture along with verbal cues. A good therapist will also summarise your words and seek approval or clarification from you.
Validates your feelings and emotions: validation refers to the acknowledgment and acceptance of your thoughts emotions actions and experiences. A good therapist will make you feel acknowledged and accepted after you have shared the truth of your experience. Do not confuse validation with approval which is a value judgment and is the exact opposite of validation.
A great communicator: Counseling is as effective as the counselor. The therapist must be an effective communicator who listens more than they speak. They should be able to distill concepts and explain symptoms in a way that is comprehensible to you. By showing they have good communication skills a good therapist will always try to inculcate within the client the need to be a good communicator.
Unconditional acceptance: No matter how disheveled or erratic you feel, a good therapist will have unconditional acceptance for your feelings, thoughts, and experiences. A good therapist will focus on you and never force you to do something that you don’t want to.
Trustworthy: One of the main goals of a therapist is to gain the trust of the client. Only after the client has trust, will they open up about their inner feelings and troubles.
Aware of feedback or shortcomings: Navigating through a therapist-client relationship might be new to you but a therapist has been practicing how to effectuate such a relationship. Sometimes you might feel uncomfortable discussing certain subjects with your therapist but as a trained professional, the therapist should be comfortable with instigating such check-ins and handle feedback to work accordingly.
Has trust in your resources while also offering a range of solutions: Therapy or counseling is essentially finding solutions for your problems. While the therapist must trust your own resources, a great therapist would also have a wide range of solutions to offer that can create progressive goal setting for you. At the same time, if a particular intervention doesn’t work for you, your therapist should be able to provide other suggestions and offer a toolbox instead of a single tool.
Change is visible: There is no fixed time after which you will feel a change. According to research, treatment length can depend on the person and the conditions they have. With that being said, you should be able to notice the effects of therapy within a month or so, even if it is the smallest change. If you feel it’s not a very helpful change you should be able to evaluate your own progress and discuss it with your therapist.
Avoids hasty treatment decisions: It is important to make sure that you and your therapist are on the same page regarding the goals of your treatment and an estimated timeline for achieving these goals.
Respectful of identities: Many times, you might feel that you must seek out a therapist who shares a similar background as you. However, a good therapist will make an effort to understand where you are coming from and will avoid colouring their responses and solutions. You should be able to share all aspects of your identity from your sexual orientation to your belief system and class identity with your therapist.
Provides you with tools to work with: Therapy is a two-way process and can be very challenged. You have taken the first step to seek help from a professional and now it’s up to you to work with the tools that the therapist must provide to you. Through the process, you should be able to gain new insights, and skills, change in perception and take action concerning your goal.
In case you feel it’s not the right therapist for you during the first meeting you can always change therapists without thinking twice. However, if you have been working with your therapist for a while and you aren’t feeling a real connection, it is important to address it with your therapist. It might feel a bit uncomfortable to discuss it but a good therapist would welcome such conversations and work on the issues.
Sometimes they might also refer you to another therapist or psychologist who is better suited to your needs. In case you are too uncomfortable talking about this to your therapist directly, then you can probably make your exit by informing the agency or the receptionist who can perhaps transfer you to a new therapist.
Take a step that you won’t take back!
You must find the best therapist for you and your requirements. The process of finding the right therapist may seem tedious and overwhelming but is definitely worth your time and effort. When you feel the positive change and the desire to work on yourself, you have found a great therapist for yourself.
At CounselIndia, we design our practical psychology courses in a way to unleash the full potential of every psychologist and counselor. We are establishing the biggest network of professional Counsellors and Psychologists around the globe. Ring us at +91 8930804054 to know more!