When you decide to look for a psychotherapist to talk with, chances are good you’re already not feeling your strongest. Maybe you’ve called Meridian because someone in your life recommended it, or you’re feeling angry and don’t know why, or you’re not sure what to do with your life, or you’re sad. Whatever your reason for calling, it’s likely you just want things to be better.
Given that kind of stress, how do you pick a psychotherapist? Maybe more important, how do you know you’ve picked the right psychotherapist for you?
Many psychotherapists believe that we become who we are through a complicated journey, starting with what we learned from the adults around us when we were growing up, which has turned into what we’re applying as adults. We’re who we are because of the relationships we’ve had, what they’ve felt like, and what we think we’ve learned through them. However, often what we’ve learned, the assumptions we develop about how our relationships will go, is out of our direct thinking: it’s as though we keep following a script that we’re unaware of, that we don’t recognize fully.
Since our relationships have contributed to how we’ve become who we are, many psychotherapists believe we should use another kind of relationship – a psychotherapeutic relationship – to help us first understand more about how we became who we are, and then start to feel able to make some changes.
That means the relationship you have with your therapist is itself an important tool.
Here’s what we think you should feel about working with your therapist – how to know whether it’s a good fit:
- Talking about your most important feelings can be tough; so you’ll want to feel that you trust your therapist, or feel that you’ll be able to come to to trust your therapist.
- You’ll want to feel that your therapist is really listening to you, and is trying to re-state what you’ve said, to demonstrate that they truly have listened. You should feel that your therapist’s goal is to understand what you really think and feel, and to be able to be corrected when the therapist gets it wrong.
- You’ll want to feel that your therapist is not being judgmental. Often we have critical voices in our minds telling us we’re doing something wrong; and sometimes we believe others are as critical of us as we are of ourselves. But your therapist should seem as though they’re trying to understand what the critical voice is saying, and where it comes from, rather than agreeing with that critical voice.
- Your therapist will offer their thoughts about what you describe. You may think they’re right; or you may not want to believe they’re right; or you may think they’re flat wrong. It’s important that you feel safe in telling your therapist how you feel about what they say; or that your therapist is trying hard to help you feel safe enough to push back when you need to.
- If something doesn’t feel right about your sessions, you should feel able to tell your therapist about it and believe that your therapist won’t become angry or hurt. Your sessions are about you and your needs; nothing else. It’s OK if you think it’s not a good match between you and your therapist; and you don’t have to explain why it feels that way. But it is helpful to let your therapist know that that’s how you feel. He or she should either help you find another therapist for you to talk with, or tell you how you can contact our Office Manager to talk with a different therapist. That’s all it takes.
And if you have questions about any of this, please let us know. We’re happy to try to help.