Even when working with the best of therapists, the process of therapy can, at times, be very uncomfortable. It requires vulnerability and the exposure of weakness when most of us would like to see ourselves as strong, autonomous, and confident. Disclosing personal information to a relative stranger is never easy but, taking the time to find the right person with whom to work can make all the difference in the world when it comes to your personal growth.
More than academic or scientific knowledge, your therapist’s ability to connect with you and vice versa will probably have the greatest influence on your success in therapy.
While there have been many new discoveries and changes to the field of psychology since Freud’s time, the general structure of talk therapy remains familiar. You can more-or-less expect to meet with a practitioner, one-on-one, in their office, for roughly an hour at a time to discuss your concerns. However, structure aside, there are things to consider before choosing a therapist and it is always advisable to meet with a few before deciding with whom you will work.
You should start by asking yourself the question, “What type of person do I see myself working with?” Regardless of their training, therapists, like anyone else, each have their own personality. Some may be more talkative or less talkative, more comfortable sharing personal information or less comfortable doing so. Others may provide a lot of direction and advice whereas others may focus on listening, asking questions or restating your concerns. Some are more confrontational and others less so. Perhaps you have an age or gender preference or are looking for someone who specializes in your particular culture or subculture. These are valid considerations and, with the wide diversity of therapists and therapy models now available to us, those in urban markets especially, can and should research and explore their options.
While your connection to your therapist is of foremost importance, the difference between the types of therapy available are significant enough to warrant some thought. Without going into too much detail and giving only the broadest of generalities, some of the more common modalities include cognitive behavioral (in which the therapist is likely to provide more direction and advice), analysis (in which the practitioner is less likely to interact verbally in order to facilitate the client’s deeper exploration of the self), and humanistic or client-centered therapy of which there are several subcategories (in which the course of therapy is determined by the client and the primary emphasis is placed on the therapeutic relationship.) Therapists working in a specific modality may also be specialized in techniques or theories beyond their chosen modality. These techniques are typically very directed toward the resolution of a specific problem. For instance, a person looking for help with trauma may seek out someone trained in E.M.D.R. (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and someone looking for a couple’s therapist may look for an E.F.T. (emotionally focused therapy) practitioner. Again, within any and all of these categories, your relationship with your therapist and their way of interacting will likely have a greater influence on the course of therapy than the modality itself.
Most therapists are more than happy to recommend other practitioners if you feel they are not a good fit. A good therapist understands the importance of a good connection and realizes that sometimes they are just not the person you need. You shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable about exploring your options when it comes to your personal growth and mental and emotional well-being.