Does the perfect therapist exist?
All of us can benefit from therapy, and there are as many types of therapists as people seeking mental healthcare. Some of us prefer a structure in our sessions that allow us to work methodically on one goal after the other. Then there are those of us who like their sessions to flow freely - in-depth therapy that will enable us to delve deep into our experiences and thoughts to understand ourselves holistically.
Some might prefer a therapist who comes across as a friend; others might prefer someone who seems knowledgeable and capable of guiding them, like a teacher. For some, an ideal therapy session is where they learn something new; for others, it’s where they can finally talk and vent freely.
The therapeutic modalities may also change depending on the issues you’re interested in working on. There’s no such thing as an all-in-one therapist; each therapist has their specialisations, niche, etc. And so, there is no such thing as a perfect therapist. “Is my therapist right for me?” is a deeply subjective question, and the parameters of the “right therapist” differ for everyone.
Your therapist may be perfect for you, and your friend’s therapist may be perfect for them. But a therapist who claims to be ideal for anyone and everyone, trained in working with any and every issue (one of the most significant therapist red flags), is most likely not very good for anyone.
How can you find the right therapist?
Therapy is an individualised process; it is different for everyone and is based on personal contexts. This is why finding the right therapist is not easy. Just like friendships or romantic relationships, there’s no certainty that you’ll connect with or feel understood by every therapist, and it involves a component of trial and error.
You might feel a sense of connection and comfort with the first therapist you meet, or perhaps you would need to consult a couple of therapists before finding the right one. If things don’t work out on the first try, then it is not a question of “should I stop therapy?” but a question of “should I look for another therapist?”
After the first few sessions, therapists often realise that they might not be the right match for someone or that they might not be fully equipped or trained to help an individual with a particular issue. In such cases, the ethically right thing for them to do is to let the client know about it and offer a referral to another therapist who might be better equipped. A good therapist knows that their first priority is the client, and if the client will benefit more by working with another therapist, that is what a good therapist should suggest.
Ultimately, it all comes down to your requirements - the affordability and accessibility of the therapist, whether or not their approach to therapy resonates with you, and most importantly, how comfortable you feel creating a space for yourself in the therapeutic setting. It is also essential to remember that therapy is not a space of hierarchy; it’s about being on an equal footing and knowing that your therapist does not claim to know your life better than you do. They are simply there to guide you while you explore and work on different aspects of your life at your own pace.
What are some signs of a good therapist?
Now that we’ve figured out what finding a good therapist entails, the question arises - how do I know I have a good therapist? There are certain common qualities that all good therapists have, and these can act as a guiding point to help you decide whether you've found a good therapist:
- They’ve worked with clients with the same goals as yours.
- You feel heard by them. They don’t talk over you; instead, they let you share your perspective on your experiences.
- They don’t contradict or invalidate your experiences and emotions. Rather, they help you work through those feelings without imposing their ideas. If you ever find yourself thinking, “my therapist makes me feel bad about myself”, you need to discuss it with them.
- They can communicate their reflections and insights in a way that does not display a sense of superiority.
- A good therapist checks in with you every step of the way, letting you decide how you want things to go, which goals you wish to work on first and ensuring that you’re not being rushed into broaching uncomfortable topics that you’re not yet ready to discuss.
- They’re able to acknowledge their shortcomings and are willing to educate themselves to support their clients better.
- They understand that trust-building is a slow process that requires communication and patience. They don’t expect you to start opening up to them from the get-go.
- Most importantly, they understand that you are the expert in your life. They don’t give you any advice because they know they can’t be in your shoes and fully grasp the intricacies of your lifestyle and experiences.
Therapy is a life-altering experience for many, and well worth the process of finding a good therapist. But that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. If you’re looking for a good therapist who is just right for you, Rocket Health’s online therapy services can help!