When it comes to finding a professional to confide in, most of us have the nuts and bolts covered—location, availability, fees, credentials, types of therapy offered, etc. But, how do we know we’ve found “the one”? While you might not find the perfect therapist, we can (and should) try to gauge the “goodness-of-fit” we have with that person.
Goodness-of-fit can vary from moment-to-moment, and stage-to-stage, so you may experience your therapist differently at various points in times. Some people work with the same therapist intermittently over a lifetime, while others engage with several therapists. No matter your experience, finding a good fit can be a challenge—unless you know what to ask yourself.
These four, straight-forward questions can help you determine if you’ve found a good match:
Question #1: Do I want to come back?
This is an easy one to answer when it comes to most situations. Engaged, nonjudgmental, empathetic—yes, yes, yes—all objective qualities that make for a great therapist. What does this translate to though? If the trend includes feeling safe, understood, and that returning to talk more will be helpful, these are indicators you’re currently working with a therapist who is right for you. Therapy requires us to dive deep into difficult and uncomfortable aspects of our lives, so it’s crucial to feel create a foundation of trust.
Question #2: Am I managing things more efficiently?
Making progress with your therapist isn’t necessarily about your life improving. It’s about your ability to cope with life improving. Hey, things change over the course of therapy—you might move, become ill, or experience a loss of some kind. But, if you notice that situations which used to make your blood boil now lead to more of a simmer, that’s another positive sign you found the right therapist for you.
Question #3: Can my therapist admit when he or she messed up?
A therapist’s ability to own up to their flaws is critical. Like any human being, we have times when we struggle or drop the ball. Your therapist should be able to receive negative feedback from you. Some do this with more ease than others, but we expect it. Sometimes we even invite it.
Question #4: What if I don’t think I’m working with the right therapist?
Your therapist should be able to discuss this uncertainty with you. There’s a range of comfort levels in this regard. The conversation should either confirm your decision to move on or help you reconsider it. If you’re met with defensiveness, there’s your answer. Your therapist might help you realize that wanting to end the work is really about a difficult topic coming up in the treatment. You might decide to stick around or return when you feel more ready.
After you’ve asked the questions, it’s okay to see your therapist on a trial run basis. If it doesn’t feel right, keep looking. That therapist might not be a “good fit” but, with time, someone else will be!