Whatever your reasons for seeking therapy, you deserve to find a therapist who fits you. Think of your first few session with a therapist as a mutual assessment. Here are five questions that I would encourage you to ask yourself when considering whether a therapist is a good “fit” for you:
1. What is the therapist’s general approach to clients?
Different therapists approach the therapeutic relationship in different ways. Some therapists are more active in session, while others take a more non-directive role. There isn’t necessarily one “right” way to do therapy; but it’s important to ask yourself whether the therapist’s approach fits you and your needs. As a therapist who draws primarily from the Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT) tradition, my approach is goal-directed, active, and collaborative. In the first few sessions, I will spend most of the time listening, asking open and curious questions, and attempting to understand the problems that face you.
You are the final and most important authority on your life and your therapy process.
Also during the first few sessions, I’ll help you to articulate your personal goals for therapy, with the purpose of arriving at a set of objectives that we will work on together. I’ll also let you know for how many weeks I would suggest we meet. In later sessions, I’ll begin to take a more active stance, often making suggestions of tools and techniques that you may find helpful.
It’s important to know that not all tools are for everyone. That’s where collaboration comes in. You are the final and most important authority on your life and your therapy process. Although I’ll present you with options of tools that have worked for people in the past, you’ll need to choose which one’s you’d like to try. By putting our heads together in an atmosphere of open, nonjudgmental problem-solving, we will attempt to find the best way forward for you.
2. Do you find the therapist trustworthy and likable?
When it comes right down to it, therapy is a relationship. It’s important that the therapist be someone that you trust, respect, and even like. By necessity, therapy isn’t always easy or enjoyable—it often requires facing up to one's problems and patterns. So, it’s essential that the professional companioning you on your therapy journey be someone that you respect and feel “gets” you.
The important thing is for you to find a therapist who fits for you at this point in your life.
With all this said, therapists also should have good boundaries. Therapy isn’t the same as a friendship. It’s a professional relationship with the express goal of helping you to change your life for the better. If you decide to work with me, I encourage you to take the first few sessions to ask yourself whether you feel I am a good “fit” for you and your problems. Not all human beings fit well with one another, and that’s okay. The important thing is for you to find a therapist who fits for you at this point in your life.
3. Does the therapist have expertise working with issues like yours?
Just like medical doctors, psychotherapists have areas of expertise. Like most therapists, I have skills in working with issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress. In addition, I have specialized skills in working with people experiencing the following issues: grief and loss, serious physical illness, caregiver stress, as well as trauma and PTSD. I have advanced training working with veterans, with patients and families in hospice and palliative care settings, as well as those with spinal cord injuries. In addition, I specialize in working with individuals who are functioning well in their lives, but who are facing issues of purpose or meaning in their careers as well as career or life choices.
4. How available is the therapist?
Certain problems require more frequent therapy meetings, and some people may value a high level of availability in their therapist. Unfortunately, my availability is limited. As a full–time professor and writer, I generally meet with clients only one day a week (this day can shift from semester to semester). I am also limited regarding the number of clients that I can see at any time. Nonetheless, I would very much value the opportunity to speak with you regarding whether I am a good fit for the problems you’re facing. I am often not immediately available by phone, so please leave a message and I will return your call as soon as possible. My contact information is posted on the main page of this web site.
5. Do you think the therapist has the potential to provide the help you’re looking for?
There is no “quick fix” to the problems most people face. It’s rare for therapy to only take a session or two. For most problems, therapists will recommend meeting once a week for at least a few months. So, it’s unrealistic to think that you’ll be “feeling better” within the first few meetings with a therapist.
Nonetheless, during these first two or three sessions, it is important to ask yourself whether you believe that there is at least a potential that this therapist will be helpful to you. Part of the answer to this question will come from the information you’ve gathered in response to the previous four questions. And, frankly, part of the answer to this question will be a “hunch” on your part. Either way, there’s never an obligation to continue a therapy process that isn’t helpful. If you work with me, I’ll ask you for regular feedback regarding what about our therapy is working and what isn’t. Our goal will be to do more and more of what works for you.