Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy have been shown over the years to be incredibly effective at helping people recognize and change their behaviors and improve their lives. However, with as much potential as therapy has for everyone, some people seem to have success with therapy while others don’t.
Some of this stems from the individual expectations going into therapy, some from how much effort they actually give, and some from whether or not there was a good fit between client and therapist.
Many people go into therapy thinking (expecting) to just talk about heir problems and their lives with miraculously improve. Wrong. Others simply don’t implement changes suggested by their therapist for a multitude of reasons. But more often than not, failure in therapy is the result of poor relationship between client and therapist. Sometimes people just don’t connect and that’s ok. Sometimes clients aren’t ready for change (despite thinking they are) and that’s ok too. And sometimes therapists just don’t do a good job of setting expectations with clients and creating an environment that promotes change for the client. That’s not ok.
If you’re thinking of exploring therapy and wanted to ensure your journey is successful, here are some things to keep in mind.
An evidence-based approach to therapy
The American Psychological Association defines an evidence-based practitioner as someone who integrates their clinical expertise with available/relevant psychological science and the clients values and cultural contacts to guide this intervention.
Basically this means your therapist should be using proven techniques in a way that work with your values, preferences, and needs. It’s not about your therapist, their beliefs, or what they bring to the table. It’s about what they have to offer and how they can offer it so you might be positively impacted.
Furthermore, they should be spending time explaining their approach and philosophy to you so you understand exactly what you’re doing. You should never walk out of therapy session wondering why you were or weren’t talking about something in particular or feel a lack of direction and purpose to your sessions.
A Collaborative Partnership is key to success in therapy
The biggest mistake people make when looking for a therapist is not spending enough time doing just that; looking.
It’s important to shop around. Read about their backgrounds. See what others have to say about them.
I don’t know you about you, but I want to work with someone who takes themself seriously and presents themself in a professional manner. Do they have a professional looking headshot or a selfie taken with their phone? Something as simple as this says a lot about the approach they take to their work. Do they have a website? Does it look professional and have a lot of information about their practice? You want to find someone who presents a transparent approach and doesn’t leave things out like if they take insurance or how much they charge.
Find somebody willing to give you a free consultation on the phone to make sure you’re a good fit and you feel comfortable talking to them. The last thing you want to do is spend time searching, figure out a way to book an appointment into your busy schedule, and show up (and pay) for the first session only to realize you don’t or can’t even have conversation with them.
The best therapists create an environment at the onset of therapy that allows you to feel comfortable opening up, not judged, and create a welcoming environment. You also want to know your therapist is competent and has your best interest at heart.
Finally, you want to look for somebody that is willing and able to challenge and push you when needed. The most common complaint I hear from clients about their previous therapy experience is their former therapist didn’t push them enough.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.