Last week I covered four ways to find a therapist, counselor, or life coach in Nashville. This week I want to help you discern which of these helping professionals will best be able to support you in your journey towards health.
There are two reasons why you should take time to reflect on this relationship. First, a good connection between the counselor and client is a proven predictor of good therapy outcomes. When you trust your therapist and feel comfortable with him or her then you are more likely to move towards your goals. This therapeutic alliance is a strong indicator of the potential success of your journey. You should not make this decision without giving it some thought and attention.
In addition, if you find yourself with a therapist or counselor that is not a good fit, then you are more likely to become discouraged and possibly quit therapy altogether. The process of researching counselors, scheduling an appointment, and being vulnerable with a stranger is a brave and emotionally taxing experience. If you don't connect with the therapist in the first 50 minutes of a session then you may not want to work up the courage to try again with them or anyone else.
To help you in this discernment process I reached out to a handful of trusted Nashville counselors, social workers, and pre-licensed professionals for their wisdom. I asked them to share their perspective on how to know if you have a good therapeutic alliance. Here is what they had to say:
"I'd say one of the biggest signs you've found the right fit is if you leave therapy each time feeling BOTH accepted/supported AND challenged. These are not mutually exclusive! It's also a great sign if, after a few sessions, you think "wow, I can't believe he/she just gets me so well after only knowing me for such a short period of time". - Jonathan Durham
“One of the most helpful parts of therapy is the therapist/client relationship. You can usually tell when you have found a good therapist if you feel safe enough to open up. A good therapist also knows how to ask questions that encourage you to go deeper and help look at problems from a different angle. A lot of therapists offer free phone consultations which can be a great way to get a better feel for a potential therapist.” - Andrew Smith
"Investing in therapy is really investing in yourself, so it's important to find a therapist who you feel comfortable with. Since you will be sharing personal information with this person, think about the type of person you typically connect with and the qualities you look for in a friend. This will help you to narrow down what you're looking for. Pay attention to the qualities of the people you trust who challenge you and push you to be your best self, as these are qualities you likely want to look for in a therapist. Ultimately, once you meet a potential therapist, you will be able to feel whether it's a good match or not. If it's not, keep looking, you'll find someone!" - Maggie Hope
"Do they have something to offer you? Do you feel hopeful about the work you can do with this therapist? To address this, you might ask questions about their modalities, training, experience, etc. Finding a good therapist is about more than just “connecting” with someone. I’ve personally done great work (as a client and a therapist) with people that I didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy with. I also think it’s important to find someone that is open and inviting of feedback around progress/how you’re experiencing the therapeutic relationship. Make sure that you feel like you can honestly express how therapy is going so that you can get the most out of your experience. Therapists should be proactive about making sure treatment is working: are we meeting your goals? Are you getting better? How is this working? How are you experiencing me? What is most and least helpful about our work together? And you should feel safe enough to answer these questions honestly. Lastly, don’t stay with a therapist that isn’t a good fit! Don’t give up too soon, but don’t stay in a therapeutic relationship that isn’t helping you meet your goals, grow, heal, change. " - Elizabeth Nunley
"The relationship is primary, so it needs to be someone you feel comfortable with. The approach/technique is secondary. If you don't feel comfortable then nothing they do will be likely to help. If you get 2-3 (or more) sessions in and feel that it's just not going anywhere, then it's time to find a different therapist. Don't give up on therapy just because the first person you work with doesn't work out. The majority of therapist will absolutely understand this (and are probably aware that things aren't progressing too) and will even help you with a referral if you want." - Jay Tift
"There are a few things that I have seen work in helping clients find the right therapeutic fit for them. First, its about a mutual invested relationship. Both individuals (client & therapist) will collaborate in therapy together. In this process it is important to feel seen, validated and heard as therapy continues. Second, feeling a level of safety is key. One must be able to trust in order to share the deepest parts of oneself. Third, they are growing. Change is actually happening. It may not look like they though but it is happening. In closing, its a brave move to pursue counseling. At times it feels uncomfortable, silly and scary to seek out a professional to sort through life challenges. Once you feel heard, seen, safe and see growth I believe you have found the right fit. Go for it. Your heart will thank you." - Meg Kandros
Hopefully one of these pieces of perspective can help you in discerning if your therapist is a good fit for you. Remember, if you do not connect well with your counselor it is okay to give it some time to see if the alliance grows over a few sessions. If you do not feel like the connection is improving, then it is okay to ask your therapist to refer you to a colleague that is a better fit for you. You deserve a therapist that is a good fit for you.
Each of the clinicians quoted above practice in Nashville and might be a great fit to help you meet your goals. If you have checked out my website and think that I might be a good fit for your journey towards health, then feel free to contact me at Jessica@JessicaMcCoyCounseling.com.