Both clients and colleagues often ask me this question so often that I figured it warrants a post of it's own. There are many elements to be attentive to when seeking a therapist. And of all those elements, the one I encourage you to be the most attentive to, is fit. Why? When the stuff you are working through has to do with the delicate art of relationship with self, with other, a lack of satisfaction in relationships, feeling lonely... The healing of therapy is relationship. In the therapeutic relationship you work through the obstacles that hold you back in life — this work may not be easy, in fact we can assume it will be challenging — your therapist's role is to help keep it manageable but we need you to be part of that process.
Imagine that you are shopping for a perfect pair of jeans.
You know, the ones that make you feel like a rock star, they fit just so perfectly.
I'd bet you also know when you put on a pair and the fit’s sort-of deal-able and when it’s a no-go. I’m going to ask you to use that as a reference point.
Imagine that you are in a fitting room trying on a few pairs and I'm there offering you a selection to try on. You needn't show me each pair you try on, but I do need some feedback if I'm going to help you find the rockstar fit. Is the pair you are trying too big, too small, wrong cut, wrong wash, etc… eventually we will fine tune and find the right pair and you’ll know when we do!
We want you to feel like a rockstar in those jeans, and likewise in therapy. For therapy to work really well and for us to fit well together I need your constant feedback so we can adjust to meet your needs.
I need to know when things don’t fit. I need to know when things don’t feel good. When you are uncomfortable. When you feel too vulnerable or unheard. And that applies to both what happens in my office, and also what happens outside the office. We need to be mindful of these moments.
I'll interpret and reflect much in our work but that doesn’t mean my interpretation always fits. In fact, I expect it often won’t. That's why it is your role to tell me what doesn’t fit. If you don't tell me, I can’t know. So is also true in all of your relationships, we are simply honing that skill in our work.
All of your relationships are reflections of yourself.
Therapy is one of these relationships. My role is to be a mirror and to help you see yourself. Sometimes you might enjoy that reflection. At other times it may feel abrasive.
I ask for feedback so that we can talk about what that feedback looks like. Perhaps you don't feel like coming to therapy one day. Or you come but don't feel like talking. Or you are angry, or... (You get the drift.)
We'll come back to this time and again in our work.
This constant exploration of what fits is the work of relationships, and relationships are the work of therapy.
Ready to learn more? I offer FREE 15-minute phone consults.
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p.s. Visualizations often help people relate to and retain information better—which is to say that you are more likely to remember this perfect pair of jeans analogy. If you enjoy watching TED talks, check this one out. Pay attention to the Baker/baker paradox.