When making connections with other people, there may be some with whom we get along better than others. These individuals may enable a space where your needs are met, and you might be able to do the same for them. While many different factors involved in what makes a relationship tick, it has been noted that finding a good ‘fit’ with a therapist is akin to finding such a space elsewhere at work or in your personal life, and can affect the way you form a rapport, discuss your concerns, and the overall success of the therapeutic relationship.
This goodness-of-fit is important to take note of at any point along one’s recovery, but particularly so when one is just beginning therapy with a professional. After such an observation is made on the part of the client and the therapist (based on factors such as discussed below), they could choose to discuss it and decide whether they wish to develop the relationship further or talk about other options, such as referral of the client to another therapist who might be able to provide a better fit.
You could use different ways to look for such a fit:
- the simplest but sometimes time-consuming method is by trial and error. You could go ahead and schedule a session with a therapist and take a few sessions to see if their service is a good fit for you. And if not, you could choose to meet with a different professional till you find the fit you’re looking for. However, there is a chance that this method may take more money, energy and/or time than you have at hand
- you could take some time to research various platforms and lists of mental health professionals open to taking in new clients online or in your city/area. Learning more about various therapies, therapists’ and their approaches through their websites or social media platforms may further provide you with an idea about their work
- if you know of someone who has taken or is taking therapy currently, you could reach out to them (if they are comfortable in doing so) to share how they’ve been doing with their therapist. You could subsequently ask for their therapist’s details if you feel that the support they provide may be helpful to you as well
- you could ask a therapist if they could offer an initial consultation at no cost, which would help provide a better idea about their approach than just your own research could provide to you. If you’re under a tight budget, you could also ask about any other options they provide to help make their services more affordable to those who need it
While searching for a fit may still take time and effort, looking at the following aspects may help you make a decision about your therapist:
- Feeling trusting and safe within sessions: As mentioned earlier, within therapy, you will go on to form a relationship with your therapist based on which your concerns would be talked about. While it isn’t necessary to like your therapist or their approach at all times, as what you discuss is likely to bring up difficult emotions and thoughts. But if you feel that more often than not you come out of sessions feeling worse, or that the professional doesn’t quite ‘get’ you, you can let your therapist know of this and see if you wish to make a change.
- That being said, it can be hard to understand whether a fit is good or not based solely on the initial session or impression. Alternatively, it may be helpful to think of the first few sessions to not just go ahead with the discussion of concerns but also to understand the fit.
- Asking about the therapist’s competence: Around the time you start your therapy, you can ask the therapist about their education, qualifications, and professional experience. If you are aware of any specific concerns you want to work on, it might also help to ask if they having prior experience in dealing with concerns such as yours, along with the demographic/culture they usually deal with.
- Asking about the therapist’s per session fee: Its important to take in the financial considerations before embarking upon your therapeutic journey, as this process could be paced differently from what you initially thought. Take time to first decide what is affordable to you, and then reach out to the therapist to discuss their fee, and if they provide any options to better suit your budget. For instance, many professionals, including our team at this platform, take their fee on a sliding scale, or may provide a pro-bono initial session
- Asking about the therapist’s approach and style: Every therapist has their own approach to dealing with their clients, which in part comes from the kind(s) of therapy they are trained or training in. Hence, asking them about their specific approach could help you understand whether the same would be compatible with the kind of help you’re looking for in the present time
- Asking about the therapist’s availability: Depending on the time and space you need, you could enquire about the therapist’s availability within a week, if they provide sessions on an immediate or urgent basis, if session extensions could be accommodated (and related charges), or discuss alternative communications in between sessions.
- Feeling comfort within their communication style: Generally, the more open a therapeutic space is, the easier it might be for you to form a rapport and work on your concerns. The way a therapist communicates with you (within or outside of sessions) is an important contributor to such a space – it is thus important to note how supportive or conducive their communication seems to be to the goals you wish to achieve in therapy. For instance, even as the therapist might take time in responding to your texts due to a busy schedule or on their time off, if this time taken bothers you, could choose to discuss it with them
- Developing healthy boundaries: The therapeutic space is professional in nature, and built in a way to enables you and your needs. Aside from appropriate and relevant self-disclosure that is meant to help you, the session time ought to be spent on working with your concerns.
The therapeutic process can be complex at times, where the individual taking therapy (and often the therapist as well) would experience and find ways to cope with emotions, thoughts or behavior associated with distress and discomfort. Such discomfort can also be expected as coming from going or being in therapy itself; however, what you experience within this space could possibly be a reflection of what you experience in other relationships or spaces as well, making the time for your therapist good for trying and actualizing any changes you may wish to create in life, or talking about things you might not, outside of the session. The space for therapy thus has the character of enabling you to be more ‘brave’, and not just ‘safe’.
The reasons for a fit not being ‘good’ could be many, but it is important to take note that this is not a reflection of something being ‘wrong’ on either the part of the client or the therapist; rather, the concept of fitness is to be reviewed in terms of compatibility between individuals.
This article includes opinion a mental health expert. But we were humans long before we trained as professionals, and so are always looking to learn better! If you found that any of the above is inaccurate, irrelevant or unhelpful, or would like to suggest ways to make this article more helpful in any way, please let us know in the comments below.
Read the article, and wondering what’s next ?
- I want to take action now: If reading the above information has led you to decide that what you need is professional help, here’s a little bit about how our professionals work in case you would like to schedule a free consultation with us: our professionals’ work is based on a ‘recovery-oriented’ model, which believes in providing a space where each individual feels in charge of their own meaning of recovery from mental health concerns/illness. The aim of support isn’t just to reduce symptoms or to go back to the level of functioning that was, but rather to learn to emphasize one’s resilience and to hold space for those in distress as one is attempting to achieve short- and long-term recovery/life goals
- I need to learn more: If you wish to know more about Therapy, please go through these FAQs; you could also look up articles on our blog
- I want more help about how to broach the topic of my mental health with friend/loved one as/before I book a session