In the years I have worked as a therapist I have been blessed to work with, and hear about the work of, many wonderful professionals in my field, all of whom have provided a positive, life enriching experience for their clients and have nurtured some form of positive change.
However, I have also heard from clients of negative experiences with therapists, including one lady who saw a counsellor who seemed to be doing nothing more than constantly re-enforcing her own negative opinions of herself, week on week, another whose therapist interrupted a session to take a personal phonecall, and another who used the therapy to discuss their own problems!
Clearly these extreme examples are completely unacceptable, and represent, in an exaggerated fashion, what can occur when a therapist is not present for their client in a professional manner. But what about if you just don’t quite “click” with your therapist?
Therapy is an intense, in-depth and sometimes, difficult experience through which you may reveal deeply personal aspects of yourself to another human being, you have the right to choose who that person is and whether they are “for you”, irrespective of their qualifications, their experience or their recommendations from past clients. Not every therapist is for everybody, and that is ok.
The therapist “for you” should ideally be someone you think you can engage with, develop a bond of trust with, and feel secure and safe in their presence. Therapy is in its essence, a relationship and as such, it should be nurtured and entered in to, with respect and positive regard for the other.
A therapist’s role is to offer, through their own theoretical training and understanding, reference points or reflections that you as the client may gain insight from. They are also there to provide a confidential and safe space for you to explore yourself and any difficulties that you might be having.
They should not be there to make negative comments about you or your decisions, or to try to enforce a certain direction or idea upon you. They may however, offer “challenges” or differing opinions, to provide you with a change of perspective or an alternative way of thinking, and indeed a good therapist will do this.
A good therapist will also make you feel ”heard” and engaged with, this does not necessarily mean that they will be available to you outside of the therapy hour, and most schools of training encourage therapists not to do this, as it keeps the therapy safely contained within “the space”. But they should make you feel respected and listened to, during your time together.
There will be some therapists who might be wonderful, highly qualified and experienced professionals that you get a sense just might not be “for you”. You also may feel drawn to a particular individual. Go with this feeling. Our unconscious gives us a wealth of information through our “gut feeling”, and where possible, should be acknowledged. It is our own internal radar emitting all kinds of messages and signals for us to pay attention too, if we can only calm down the “monkey chatter” enough to listen!
Whoever you choose, don’t be afraid to question or challenge them, as this is all very useful information for your therapeutic process and relationship together. Also, dont be afraid to share any concerns or questions you may have, a good therapist will feel comfortable and accepting of these feelings, and will be happy to explore them with you.
Therapy can be a wonderful experience and can provide life changing moments to those who go through the process, but it is also an intensely emotional and personal journey that may at times feel overwhelming, and difficult. Choose your travel companion wisely.