Does It Matter Who My Therapist Is?
Seeking therapy can be one of the most significant steps towards self-improvement and mental health. However, when it comes to finding a therapist, clients often have hesitations, one of them being the question, "does it matter who my therapist is." The answer to that is yes, it matters. The relationship between you and your therapist can significantly impact the success of the therapy, which is continually supported by research on the matter. It is essential to take the time to find the right therapist for you to help you feel comfortable, safe, and supported. Below, we will explore the importance of finding the right therapist.
Make the Right Choice
1.Trust and Connection:
Finding the right therapist is crucial, as the relationship between you and your therapist is built on trust and connection. The therapist's job is to help you navigate personal struggles and challenges, and it requires honesty, vulnerability, and trust. Therapy is an intimate and collaborative process. Your therapist will get to know you quite well and function as a support to you, offering insights and tools to help you navigate life’s challenges. The therapist-client relationship is at the core of good therapy, making the right choice of therapist is a significant decision. The right therapist should make you feel heard and understood, provide you with a safe space to share your thoughts and feelings, and work with you to develop coping mechanisms to manage your emotions.
You are not looking for a friend, though your relationship with your therapist may be friendly, but most importantly somebody you feel like you can trust and respect. The therapeutic relationship will grow over time, so during your consultation and initial session, you should be forecasting your ability to have this type of relationship with the therapist your talking to.
2. Therapeutic Approach:
Every therapist has a different therapeutic approach, and one approach may be more effective for you than others. Some therapists focus on a solution-focused approach, helping you set specific goals and work towards them, while others focus on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), where they help you identify unhelpful beliefs and behaviors that negatively impact your mental health. Some therapists also use mindfulness and meditation techniques to help you manage your emotions and cope with anxiety and stress. It is essential to find a therapist that aligns with your goals and needs.
You don’t necessarily need to know the theoretical orientation of your therapist, unless you’re looking for something specifically, or have had a previous positive experience with this orientation. What you need to be able to do is identify what is wrong, or what you want to work on, and ask them how they can help you. You can save yourself some trouble and time by narrowing down your search to what area of specialization or expertise you need. If you’re looking for couples counseling, search for couples counseling. Though there is considerable overlap, training, and foundational education; there is not always expertise or what is called a “scope of competence.”
3. Understanding Your Demographics:
The therapist's demographics can play a crucial role in building a trusting relationship. For example, if you belong to the LGBTQ+ community, you may feel more comfortable with a therapist who identifies as LGBTQ+. If you are a person of color, you may feel more comfortable with a therapist who is also a person of color; or maybe you’d be comfortable with someone who is culturally competent and has a background working with people from diverse backgrounds. Choosing a therapist who understands and is sensitive to your identity and life experiences can help you feel more comfortable and understood, leading to a more successful therapy experience.
Effective and productive therapy does rely on a trusting a collaborative relationship between you and your therapist. This is a great place to be honest with yourself about what you need and who you need it from. This could differ for you based on phase of life, your presenting problem, or even the endorsement of someone you trust. Beyond the intersectionality of diversity, I think it’s also helpful to consider personality, communication style, and even values. Therapy should help you feel comfortable, even in the discomfort, and safe. You’re looking for a place for emotional intimacy and authenticity, even if you don’t know that’s what you’re looking for.
4. Availability and Accessibility:
Finding the right therapist can take time and effort, but it is worth investing in. Some clients may prioritize accessibility, such as location and availability, or even if they’re providing virtual appointments. A therapist who is close to your home or workplace with flexible scheduling may be essential for some clients. Others may prioritize a therapist who focuses on a specific area, such as anxiety or depression. It is essential to explore your options and find a therapist that aligns with your preferences. Though it might sound silly, a great question during a consultation or at the point of sending an inquiry, is to be specific about your availability for appointments. If you need an evening or weekend, it’s important to be up front about that. It could be the difference between disappointment, a spot on a waitlist, or a booked appointment.
5. Continuity and Long-Term Success:
Lastly, finding the right therapist can make a significant impact on the long-term success of your therapy. A therapist who understands your unique struggles, personality, and goals can help you build resilience and healthy coping mechanisms that will benefit you outside of the therapy session. Continuity is crucial in building trust and working towards your mental health goals.
Time to Find Them
It does matter who your therapist is, and you’ll be able to find the right one. The choice you make can be re-evaluated along the way; you’re not stuck with a therapist that doesn’t feel like the right fit. This is true from the initial consultation, your first appointment, or somewhere further down the road. The relationship between you and your therapist can have a significant impact on the success of the therapy. Finding the right therapist who aligns with your goals, needs, and values can help you build a trusting and supportive relationship that can lead to long-term success. The right therapist can support you as you overcome challenges, enhance your well-being, and engage in personal growth. There are a lot of great therapists, but you do need to find the right good therapist. Some of this blog has made it seem like you’re looking for a therapist soulmate, it’s not as dramatic as all that though. Not everyone will be the right fit, but there are definitely many right options. Take the time to explore your options and find the therapist you feel most comfortable and safe with. Remember that therapy is an investment and a collaborative effort, and finding the right therapist is crucial in achieving your mental health goals.
I hope that this helps you feel more confident about starting, or returning, to therapy in San Francisco. If after reading all of that, you’re still swirling with questions feel free to call me at 415-990-1452 for a free 15-minute phone consultation and to get some questions answered. I would be happy to hear what is happening for you, what you’re looking for and provide some direction to finding the right therapist for you.
Additionally, if you are seeking help with couples therapy, drugs and alcohol, life transitions, discovering yourself, or therapy for men’s issues, you can read more about how Caleb Birkhoff might be able to help by clicking here!