Mark Hillman, Ph.D., (Psy) LMHC
Everyone has different needs and every therapist is different. When you are choosinga therapist, counselor or other professional helper, it is worth taking a little time to think about what your personal needs are.
For most people trying to find help, difficulties have arisen gradually, or have always been there unnoticed until circumstances brought them to light. Many feel a sense of urgency that comes from the shock of realizing that other strategies have failed, and they just want to feel better as soon as possible. And, of course, more and more people are using the services of complementary health practitioners, from counselors to Yoga instructors, when they are already in good health, but want to support and enhance their well-being. It is worth giving yourself time to find someone you feel is right for you.
Make a few inquiries and ask each helper about their work. It might be useful to say briefly what you are looking for, if you have an idea what that is. Before you say anything about yourself, make sure that their service is CONFIDENTIAL. Ask them about their experience and qualifications, their fees and the practical details of how you would see them. Ask them what the theoretical basis is for their way of working with people. Ask them how much they charge, and think about whether this is affordable. Also be aware that some therapists will suggest seeing them for a few weeks and then check how you're getting on, but you may find that you want much more time than this once you get going. This kind of help, when it is working, opens a lot of new places inside to explore, and it is often hard to give it up too soon, so take that into account when planning the financial side of it.
You might find that the answers you get are important in helping you decide, but also be aware of your emotional reaction to the answers. Independent of what they are telling you, do you feel that you are being heard, accepted and understood? Do they give you time? Do they seem to welcome and value your questions? If you feel uncomfortable talking to a counselor, that is one thing, but if you feel that there is something about them that makes you feel hesitant, it is better to shop around. A good therapist will always accept your right to look elsewhere.
Therapists vary widely in personality and approach. Therefore some therapists will be a better match for you than others. You may need to talk with several therapists before making your final choice because successful therapy depends on your working with someone with whom you feel comfortable. You do not have to continue working with the first person you contact, especially if you feel uneasy. Sometimes people make the assumption that the therapist is the expert and knows best. While it is true that you are going to a therapist for his or her expertise, it is also very important for you to trust your own perceptions and feelings.
Feel free to discuss your reactions with the therapist, and see how you feel about his or her responses. Also, see how you feel about whether the therapist understands your reasons for seeking therapy, and if you have confidence that he or she will be able to help you reach your therapeutic goals. Ask questions about the therapist's training, experience, specialties, and anything else you want to know about how he or she works. Make sure you have a sense of being able to develop a sense of trust with the therapist you select, and that you feel safe, respected, and understood.
It's important to remember that therapy is a much, much richer experience than just problem-solving. The foundation of good therapy is the relationship you and the therapist build together. Because this relationship is going to be so crucial to the effectiveness of your therapy, it is essential you find someone with whom you feel a comfortable connection, someone who makes you feel understood and accepted, a therapist who creates and maintains an environment within which you can feel safe to explore even the most deeply felt sources of pain or conflict. Choose a therapist with whom it feels right to establish such a life-changing and life-enhancing relationship. You deserve the best possible therapy experience.
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