Choosing a medical caregiver, like any good consumer behavior, involves comparison shopping.
Mindful of the restrictions of your health-care plan, cost, geography and/or time, choosing a psychological therapist is no different from choosing any other medical provider. In some ways, it’s even more important to have a good match between doctor and patient, because for most people, the mind is the most difficult body part to open to scrutiny.
Writing on PsychCentral.com, clinical psychologist Charles H. Elliott offers therapy shoppers several tips to ensure a good marriage between therapist and patient.
A range of factors can undermine the therapeutic relationship. Maybe the therapist reminds you of someone you dislike or with whom you have an uncomfortable history. Maybe you don’t even know why it just doesn’t feel right.
It doesn’t matter, Elliott advises, whether or not you can identify a reason for a rocky relationship. The fact that you’re uncomfortable is reason enough to question whether a practitioner is the right one for you. If he or she isn’t, you’re not getting the best care.
After a couple of sessions, ask yourself these questions in order to assess if the match seems to promise a successful outcome:
- Do I feel at ease in discussing almost anything with my therapist that I feel is important?
- Do I feel safe when I’m talking with my therapist?
- Does it seem like my therapist understands and truly hears what I have to say?
- Does my therapist look interested in what I have to say?
- Do my therapists’ reactions to what I say feel nonjudgmental and uncritical?
- Does it feel like my therapist cares about me and my problems?
If you’re uncertain about several answers, or if any one is a strong “no,” that’s a clue to discuss your concerns with your therapist. If he or she is defensive or evasive, if the discussion makes you feel uncomfortable, you probably need a different caregiver.
The one exception is if you have relationship problems in general, and struggle to feel safe talking even with close friends or family. That’s a tip that communication/relationship issues should be part of the therapy itself.