How to Find the Right Relationship: Therapist Edition
Updated: Dec 26, 2022
When we’re searching for a therapist, we’re not usually thinking “I hope we have a great relationship!”. We are most likely in a headspace where we might feel out of control or like our life is unraveling before our eyes. Sometimes, we’re even in the middle of a crisis. All of these factors mean we usually meet with the first available therapist, and often, that’s not a bad thing. If we need the help, it can feel like a life raft being thrown to us once we sit down with a therapist - any therapist.
However, as we go along in therapy and the dust settles, it can feel like there’s something missing if we aren’t vibing with the person in front of us. The more they ask us to bare our souls, the less likely we might want to. This is what I would call a “yellow” flag. We probably need to slow down, and ensure this is the right fit for us. Now, I say “yellow” and not “red” flag because maybe we aren’t the type of person to bare our soul...so perhaps leaning into the discomfort is an opportunity for tremendous growth.
Connecting with the right therapist does have its advantages though. Research suggests that the strength of the relationship between the therapist and client is the number one factor that leads to successful therapeutic outcomes. We can refer to this type of relationship as the "therapeutic alliance". This alliance fosters a sense of comfort with your therapist which helps you get to your goals faster. So, how on earth do we find the “right fit”? It might feel like goldilocks and the three bears in that we need to test the porridge - which is connecting with a few therapists before we find the right one.
Here are some tips on how to find the right therapist:
Many therapists offer free consultation calls where you have an opportunity to connect and check out the vibe. Ask yourself: Do you click? Feel comfortable when they ask you questions or speak about their experience? Take advantage of these and come prepared with any questions you might have.
Find out what type of training they’ve done and see if it aligns with your goals and values. For example, are they a social worker, counsellor, psychotherapist, or a psychologist? If you’re not sure what the difference is, check out our blog post.
Explore their preferred therapy approaches or modalities (the type of therapy treatment they utilize in their practice). Not all therapy modalities might be effective for you. Take some time to explore what type of therapy you are looking for, if that is important to you.
Ask what they specialize in. It’s like how you probably want to see a cardiologist if you have a heart condition rather than just your regular physician. If you are looking to get counselling for specific challenges, it’s helpful to know that the therapist you choose has experience working with those challenges or even specializes in them.
Look for a therapist who understands your culture and gender. Sometimes it can feel more comfortable working with someone who shares a similar background to you. Or you can find someone who skillfully uses their empathy and curiosity tounderstand the cultural nuances that are important to your experiences. You can find this out in the consultation call by asking the therapist who they have experience working with and how they practice cultural humility.
Reflect on who you might be more comfortable working with. Is there a certain gender you feel more safe with? Ethnicity? Race? Sexual orientation? When you have a good idea of who you’d like to work with, that can help you narrow down your options.
These are just a few ideas on how to find a counsellor that reflects your needs. At the end of the day, it’s completely up to you on who you choose and why. The main takeaway here is to feel safe, hopeful and connected to your therapist.