It seems every time I tell someone I’m a therapist, I’m met with: “Why can’t I find a good therapist?”
Studies show the most important factor in determining a successful outcome in therapy is the relationship you have with your therapist. Not their credentials, not where they went to school, their gender, how comfortable their couch is, or if they have free drinks in the waiting room.
Simply put, how comfortable and connected do you feel with them? Do you trust them? Do you feel judged? Are you often wondering what they’re thinking? Do they tell you when you ask? How do feel when you wake up and you realize you have an appointment with them that day?
4 Reasons You’re Asking yourself, “Why Can’t I Find A good therapist?”
Not Doing Enough Research
If you’re just going to Psychology Today (or any therapist directory) and simply searching for a therapist who takes your insurance, is close to your home, and fits conveniently into your schedule, this is probably why you’re asking yourself, “Why can’t I find a good therapist?”
Finding a therapist may seem daunting – especially if you’ve never done it and don’t know what to look for. Naturally, you’ll try to make it as easy as possible. If you were hiring a financial planner to manage your retirement, wouldn’t you want to know about their experience, training, investment philosophy, etc.? Why not do that same level of research when it comes to finding a therapist you’re trusting with your emotional well-being?
Ask them their approach to your particular problem. Do they have experience treating your issue? Have they had success treating your issue? How long do they think it will take? Do they think they can help you?
If you don’t understand an answer, ask for clarification. This is a great opportunity to get to get to know their personality. Do they get defensive and give you a bunch of industry jargon? Or are they patient, understanding and seem concerned with making sure you understand?
Not Trusting Your Instincts
First session came and went and something rubbed you the wrong way. Maybe a thoughtless or inconsiderate comment. Maybe they didn’t look you in the eye when they shook your hand. Maybe they didn’t even offer to shake hands. It doesn’t really matter. The point is, something didn’t feel right. At this point, it’s easy to become victim of the mindset: I’ve already gone this far, I might as well keep going.
You might not instantly feel compelled to pour your heart out when you first meet your therapist. However, there is a certain degree of comfort, which only you can determine, that should be experienced during the first session.
Trust your instincts. Better to have wasted a couple hours and a couple hundred dollars than weeks and thousands of dollars.
Let’s be clear: I am not saying the $200 per hour therapist is going to be better than the $125 per hour therapist. I’m also not saying when it comes to finding the right therapist, you get what you pay for. There are plenty great therapists undercharging for their services. But if price is the most important factor in choosing a therapist, you’re probably going to be disappointed.
There is no bigger investment you can make in life than in yourself. Don’t price shop therapists. You will be disappointed.
If you go to therapy once a week and talk with a therapist for an hour, and expect your life to change for the better, you will be very disappointed. It’s easy to blame the therapist or believe therapy doesn’t work after this.
Ask yourself: what do you expect the process to look like? Most people come to therapy thinking the therapist is going to do all the work and fix them, their life, their spouse, their kids, etc. And this incorrect belief is understandable given the grossly inaccurate portrayal of therapy perpetuated on TV and in movies.
If you don’t explore, implement, evaluate, practice, or reflect between sessions what was discussed during sessions, you’re going to be disappointed in the results.
Sometimes it’s not that they aren’t a good therapist, it’s just that they aren’t a good therapist for you. It’s not realistic to expect to connect with everyone you meet. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Be your own biggest advocate and you will be rewarded.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in Woodbridge, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists sort out unpleasant emotions, regain balance in their life, and take control of anxious thoughts so they can move From Surviving to Thriving.