Walking into therapy can be a little daunting. So much stigma surrounds mental health and its care that taking the steps to actually make an appointment with a professional can be a huge undertaking. Whether you are a seasoned therapy veteran or a counseling rookie, meeting your therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist for the first time can be intimidating:
“Hello complete stranger. I am about to tell you the most intimate details of my life within minutes of meeting you.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were some way to gather some details about these mental health professionals prior to meeting them? Ah, the internets! You can begin to know your therapists before ever taking a step into their office. With websites like healthshire.com, you can search for providers in your area, and see what type of services they provide. You can learn about their educational/professional backgrounds, preferred methods of treatment, and specific populations with which they work. You can even learn about their interests, hobbies, whether they’re dog or cat people (a very serious distinction), favorite bands, or their latest obsession on Pinterest.
The relationship between provider and client is one of the most important aspects of therapy. Research continually shows that while therapist style and chosen interventions and techniques contribute to treatment results, the bond, trust, and rapport that develops has the most profound effect on positive outcomes. The connection between therapist and client is key.
The first session with a therapist has a pretty standard operating procedure. You can think of it as a first date of sorts (Please note: This is an analogy. Please do not attempt to date your therapist. If your therapist tries to date you, that is a very big ethical and legal no-no. A deal-breaker if you will). It is a “get-to-know-each-other” type of situation. Your providers will more than likely introduce themselves to you, explain a little about the process itself, and then start asking you some questions. These questions are designed to help the therapist learn more about you, your situation, what brought you into their office, what your goals are, and ultimately, how they can best help you.
It is also a perfect time for you to ask questions. You might not be the one holding the fancy clipboard or notepad, but you have an equal stake in this relationship. People who seek therapy often feel vulnerable, helpless, and a little lost. This is a beautiful opportunity for you to empower yourself.
If at the end of the session (or any subsequent session), you don’t feel the proverbial “click” or connection with your therapist, you have to remember that it is perfectly okay. There are over 7 billion people in the world. That’s like…a lot of people. Not all of them are going to get along famously. Your comfort level is one of the most fundamental aspects of a positive therapeutic experience. If you’re not comfortable with your therapist, how will any authentic work take place? That’s a rhetorical question, but I’ll answer it anyway: it won’t.
Your therapist understands this. It’s part of our training. Our feelings won’t be hurt if you decide that you’d like to work with someone else. Sometimes, just voicing your concerns can open up opportunities for exploration and conversations that can lead to a deeper understanding and the beginnings of a genuine therapeutic relationship.
Your voice matters. Find it. Use it.
If all else fails, you can always use the time-honored ode: “I’m just not that into you.”