June 22, 2023

How to Tell if Your Therapist Is a Match

You’re in your first therapy session, chatting with your potential clinician. They ask you questions about your history and your current needs. Inside, however, you may be wondering, “Is this person right for me?” Whether you are brand new to therapy or you’re an old pro, knowing if a therapist is right for you can feel like a challenge. Here are a few tips to determine if a therapist is a match. 

Know Yourself 

The more we know ourselves, the better it serves our relationships. The same is true for the therapeutic relationship. Take an introspective moment and ask yourself, what do I connect with? What types of personalities and approaches do I respond well to? Which do I respond the worst to? Do I need a push towards my goals with some tough love? Or, do I need gentle compassion in order to open up? Think about the people in your life you’ve been able to connect with. What qualities and characteristics do they share? What ways do they relate to you? Or, consider the times it went the opposite way. Remembering that drill sergeant coach that made you shut down in high school is a good indicator that approach will not work for you. 

Part of knowing yourself is also recognizing the importance of meeting with a clinician who has shared lived experience. There are many therapist directories that are specifically for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) clinicians and potential clients, such as Therapy For Black Girls and Latinx Therapy. As a queer clinician, I include this as part of my Psychology Today directory, as I know this can be very important for potential LGBTQIA+ clients. 

We are all wildly different. What we like, our personalities, the company we keep, our pet peeves, all of it varies so much from person to person. This is why what everyone needs from a therapist will be different. Thinking about who you are and what you will need will help guide you towards the right therapist.  

Does Their Approach and Experience Meet Your Goals? 

Before even booking an appointment, ask yourself: What am I looking to work on? Then do some research. If it’s anxiety, maybe Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or mindfulness would be beneficial. For trauma, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing are frequently utilized. Maybe there is a treatment your friend is using and it’s piqued your interest. Do some research into what could benefit you. If you are not sure but know you need to talk to someone, that’s okay. Even a general sense is direction. 

When looking for a therapist, see if they work with your treatment needs and offer the intervention you are looking for. All therapy directories will list specialties and treatment modalities. 

Once you have booked your session, ask your clinician if they have worked with people like yourself. What has their experience been and how can it help you? Have they seen it help other clients? Some therapists will share this information upfront at either the consultation or first appointment. If they don’t, ask. You will not know if you don’t ask. 

Chemistry and Connection

This one is harder to pinpoint. It can be unclear what connects us to someone or what feels like chemistry. But I’m sure you have felt it: when you meet someone for the first time and find it easy to speak with them, that the flow of a conversation comes naturally. Meeting with a therapist is no different. Does it feel comfortable with mutual interest? Do you feel seen and accepted? Is there a feeling of, I like this person and I think they like me. Therapy is proven to be more effective when the client believes their therapist likes them. For more on this, read my previous Remble article: Don't Worry If Your Therapist Likes You (Because They Already Do)

I do advise with this piece of feedback to give it time. It’s normal for a first session to feel a tiny bit awkward or clunky, especially if you are brand new to therapy. Give it a few sessions and if you still find yourself feeling guarded and judged, it’s likely time to look elsewhere. 

Finding a therapist can be like shoe shopping. It can take a minute to try some people out and see if they are a fit. Some you will know right away, others may take some time. I recommend trying at least two sessions with a clinician to see if they could work. Be patient with the process. Once you find someone that is a match, the time waiting will feel worth it. Your mental health matters, so give finding a therapist the attention it needs. 

Want More Help?

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