I realized that I always talk about my journey in therapy and encourage others to start therapy for themselves, but I never talk openly about what makes my therapist so dope. I’m hoping to change that today and encourage you even more to start your growth journey in therapy.
Let’s start with a bit of transparency — finding the right therapist can be difficult for some people. It’s just like finding a wedding dress or a brand new car. For some, they chose the first dress or car they saw because they knew that was the one from the moment they laid eyes on it. For others, they had to shop around until they found the right dress or the perfect car. But no matter which path resembles yours, you’ll always know when you found the one. Finding a therapist can be the same way.
Before you go searching, it helps to know what you’re looking for in a therapist. Be real with yourself. For me, I feel more comfortable having a therapist of color that identifies as a woman. Why? Because I’m a person of color and a woman. It’s easier to open up to someone whose identity closely resembles your own. So, start asking yourself questions so you’ll know what you want in a therapist, and then we can begin to understand how to know when you’ve found the right therapist for you.
1. Talking to them feels comfortable and natural.
In therapy, you’ll be spilling secrets, discussing childhood trauma, and reflecting on who you are inside and out. These are deep, heavy, and vulnerable conversations that you’ll have with your therapist. It’s going to be pretty difficult to open up to someone you don’t trust, and your journey to growth will be stunted as a result because you’re not allowing yourself to be fully vulnerable, and rightfully so.
Talking to your therapist should feel like you’re talking to a close friend. No, let me be specific. It should feel like you’re talking to a specific type of friend. NOT the friend who judges you and makes you feel bad for your decisions. NOT the friend who enables you and makes excuses for your poor decisions. NOT the friend who makes everything about them no matter what you say. We all currently have or had friends like this, and this is not the type of person we need in our therapy sessions. Okay?
Your therapist should not judge you, but they should be able to call you out when you’re wrong. They should be able to praise you and hype you up when you do something good, especially if it’s something you’ve talked about working on in your sessions. Your therapist should not enable your bad decisions, but they should be able to get you thinking about how to avoid mistakes like that again while also giving yourself grace if you do slip up again. Your therapist should be all about BALANCE.
2. You leave the session with a new perspective.
While it does feel great, venting isn’t the only thing you should be doing in therapy. There’s a time and place for venting, but there also should be plenty of time for discussions and questions. (And before you ask — yes, therapists do more than just say, “How does that make you feel?” It’s not always like what you see on TV and in movies). Their questions should make you think about your word choice, your actions, where these choices originate from, and how it makes you feel.
You should leave your session feeling like you have a fresh perspective and a new outlook on your particular situation. No one wants to pay money for a therapist who agrees with everything you say, doesn’t challenge you at times, and only asks, “How does that make you feel?” Therapy is and should be a truly life-changing experience that allows you to reflect on parts of yourself or your life that you never even thought of before. Therapists combine psychology and emotions to bring you to a new level of growth that you never thought you could reach.
3. Your therapist isn’t afraid to reveal information about themselves sometimes.
People often think that therapy is only supposed to be about you, and this is simply wrong. Yes, you are the focus of each session, but you can’t expect to fully connect with someone you know nothing about. So your therapist should offer opportunities to talk about themselves briefly where it makes sense to do so.
For example, my therapist is quick to say, “Girl, I struggle with that too sometimes, so you’re not alone in that.” She’ll even sometimes say, “You know what? That same thing happened to me too in the past, and this was my thought process at that time.” These small bits of information about herself help me relate to her. As she’s revealing that she went through something similar, it makes me feel better to know that I’m not the only one who is going through this, which is a fairly common thought when you’re right in the midst of hardship.
The small tidbit of information that she chooses to reveal allows me to connect with her more because I have an understanding of who she is and what she struggles or struggled with before. Her willingness to be open and vulnerable allows me to feel comfortable being open and vulnerable as well.
I hope that reading this post encouraged you to start therapy and find a therapist that you click with. People always assume that therapy is only for those with a problem, and that’s incorrect. As long as you want to grow as a person, therapy is for you. With the right therapist, you can truly grow the way you always envisioned you would.
If you’re already in therapy and you don’t have a therapist that you connect with, I hope this post inspired you to respectfully ask for a new therapist. Don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings because your therapist would want you to make a decision that fits your needs and wants. If that means finding a new therapist, then that’s what it takes. Remember, starting over is better than staying in the same unhappy place.
“That’s why therapists are important. Without them, we are very unreliable narrators of our own stories.” – Ruth Brenner