To put it mildly → I’m freaking out! My psychotherapist of twelve and a half years is closing her private practice next month. This means I’m involuntarily in the market for a new therapist. I suppose I knew this day would come, I just really, really, really hoped it wouldn’t be so “soon.”
When we met I was in the worst condition of my life. I had undiagnosed bipolar disorder and was in active addiction. From what I understand, many therapists won’t see someone in active addiction, but for some reason she did. And then she helped save my life!
A relationship with a therapist is built. It takes time to fully establish trust.
It’s not something I’m looking forward to doing again. But I don’t exactly have a choice, now do I?
Just the thought of it seems exhausting. I feel as though I have to not only tell a stranger my wild ass story, but also express it in some kind of way. It’s hard to explain. Every detail is infused with emotion and means something different to me. My current therapist already knows everything because she’s experienced much of it right along with me. Well, not right along with me, but you know what I mean. I realize and appreciate that she’s got to do what’s best for her and her family — but it still stinks!
Oh well. Life is change. And apparently this change, no matter how uncomfortable, is meant to be. So I think it’s time I get out of the problem and start focusing on the solution.
For me the solution begins with looking up a list of therapists in my insurance company’s PPO. Next I will take that list to my therapist to get her recommendations. I will also get my psychiatrist’s recommendations. I suppose that I will then make an appointment and begin a new chapter in my life.
5 Things to Consider When Selecting a New Therapist
- Trust: – We have to be honest in therapy in order to reap the full benefits. Trust enables this. But complete trust takes time to establish. It’s unrealistic to think we would ever completely trust a stranger upon meeting them for the first time. But we should get a general feeling after a few sessions. Therapists handle our confidential information, health and finance related. They need to be trustworthy.
- Mutual Respect: Upon meeting, our prospective new therapist should treat us with respect. We should feel that if we do go forward with more sessions, we would feel comfortable opening up and being vulnerable — completely honest and vulnerable. We should not feel judged in any way. Therapy should be a safe place where we can talk openly and share our inner-most feelings, without fear of judgment.
- Experience: If possible, choose someone with at least a decade of experience. Studies have shown that the longer a clinician has been practicing, usually the better client outcomes. But research doesn’t seem to show much difference in quality of therapy outcomes based upon a clinician’s degree or training – according to this PsychCentral article by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
- Gut Instinct: Too often this gets ignored. We’re usually alone with our therapists, we want to be safe. We also trust them with lots of confidential information, we want to be sure they take that seriously. Plus, we don’t want to waste our time and/or money. If there’s a nagging feeling that something isn’t right, we should be asking ourselves why. There needs to be a good level of comfortability and trust for therapy to be successful.
- Different Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Bad: I’m already telling myself not to compare a new therapist to my current/old one. As often as I say ‘don’t put people on pedestals,’ I’ve done so without realizing it. There’s a saying I first heard in A.A. (they stick to the brain), ‘don’t compare, identify.’ I believe it can be used in many scenarios, including this one.
My therapist told me that I should have a good idea of whether or not a new therapist is going to be a good fit after two-to-three sessions. She said that if I don’t feel it is, don’t go back after those two-to-three visits. She stressed that bad therapy can actually be harmful.
Do you have any helpful tips or pointers for selecting a new therapist? Share them in a Comment!