You’re thinking about starting therapy. Maybe a friend has shared that their experience has been rewarding, or maybe, after relentlessly pursuing self-help avenues, you came up with the idea on your own. No matter how it came to you, you’re ready to start your journey.
These days, most therapists offer free consultations, brief phone calls that serve two purposes: 1) they get to learn a little about you, and 2) you get the opportunity to learn about their approach and decide whether they’re right for you. The question is, how do you know if they’re the one? And if you’ve already started therapy, how do you know your therapist is the right fit for you?
When it comes to the therapist-client relationship, fit is important. You’re not the right client for every therapist, and not just any therapist is right for you. So how do you know when to stop searching and begin therapy?
1) YOU FEEL COMPLETELY UNDERSTOOD. Maybe during the first few sessions, you spend a great deal of time telling your therapist about who you are and why you’ve come to them, but as the sessions progress, you should feel like they get you. Even when you’re having a hard time articulating your thoughts or feelings, you feel like they can finish your sentences simply because they understand you so well.
2) YOU NEVER FEEL JUDGED. You feel like you can tell your therapist anything, because no matter how what you share, they never judge. They don’t judge you when you reveal the darkest parts of yourself; they don’t judge you for your judgments; they don’t judge your values, and they certainly don’t judge your struggles. Because they don’t judge you, you feel free to say whatever’s on your mind.
3) YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT THEM BETWEEN SESSIONS. This is really important: during the week, do you ever think about what you want to tell your therapist at the next session? When you’re stressed or going through a difficult time, do you ever picture yourself conversing with them, imagining what they might say or how they might respond? That’s an important indicator that you’re feeling attached to your therapist – that you trust them and value their input.
4) YOU’RE MORE INSIGHTFUL. As therapy progresses, you’re learning a lot about yourself. You’re more in touch with your emotions: you can better identify what you’re feeling, you have a stronger sense of your strengths. You also have a better understanding of what’s contributing to the issues that led you to seek therapy. Your therapist provides really interesting insights that resonate deeply. In therapy, no matter your objectives, you should be gaining self-awareness.
5) YOU’RE GROWING. Therapy isn’t just a place to dump your feelings. When you start therapy, you have goals, and as time goes on, you should feel closer toward them. Whatever the issue or problem you’d like to work on, you’ve noticed progress. Maybe you’ve noticed that your relationships with others have improved. Maybe your relationship with yourself has improved. Your efforts in therapy are paying off, and you’re noticing change in key aspects of your life.