Therapy, psychotherapy, or counseling – however you refer to it – is a wonderful thing. A beautiful process of unfoldment, opening up, growing and healing. It is a place of refuge and re-centering. It is a sacred space. It is a way of valuing yourself so much, that you actually put time and money into figuring out why you are Here and how to better be you. Unfortunately, like all things in life, it does not always go as it should. And most times it is because we are with the wrong therapist – either a therapist that is not good for us, though they might be good for someone else, or a downright bad therapist. Know that, as well as some awesome therapists, there are some pretty bad ones out there. But don’t let a bad therapeutic experience turn you off therapy.
When we make a serious decision about going into therapy, we quickly realize that choosing a therapist is not an easy task. Therapy is a relationship and a very intimate one at that. Like any relationship, it needs chemistry, respect, and commitment as minimum requirements for it to have a good shot at being successful. So, it is important to put time, thought and consideration into going into such a relationship. Don’t just go for the first therapist you come into contact with, or the therapist your friend recommended. Do your homework, ‘interview’ a few and pay attention to how you feel when you are with each of them. Then go for the one you connect with or the one that feels right. Finances can complicate that choice, because, sometimes, the one you connect with is not necessarily the one you can afford. In those instances, it is good to pray and ask for guidance to find the best resolution.
The above are the external actions that you need to take to find the right therapist for you at the particular juncture of your life you find yourself in. But I want to also put in a word for intuition, for attuning to your inner guidance to find the right therapist. Here is an exercise that can help you do that, and it can be done before you begin calling perspective therapists.
Find a short window of time (10-15 minutes) where you can sit quietly without being interrupted. Have with you a piece of paper and something to write with. Quiet your mind by taking three deep breaths, inhaling slowly through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth. Make sure to release any stress you might be holding on to on each exhale. Ask yourself (you can write it down at the top of your page) ‘what am I looking for/do I need in a therapist?’ With your mind relaxed, write down anything that comes to mind in list form. Keep going until nothing else comes up and don’t edit yourself. When you’re done read your list out loud and pay attention to how you feel as you hear yourself describe your future therapist. Add to your list anything new that comes up.
Once you have done this exercise you don’t have to think about it or come back to it. As you take external actions to find a therapist like calling around, searching online or going on initial sessions; you will recognize him or her when you come across them. Trust your intuition and go with that. And if it turns out down the line that your choice was not the best, know that you can respectfully end that relationship and look for a new one, now armed with some experience.
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