Hannah Whisler, MSW, LCSWA
How to Know You and Your Therapist are a Good Fit
Maybe you’ve been in counseling before or maybe this is your very first time, and after scheduling the first session with your counselor, you ask yourself “How do I know this is a good fit?” ‘What does “good fit” truly mean?’ We’re going to tackle that. “Does it really matter?” Absolutely.
The best way to describe a good fit between a client and a therapist is when you feel comfortable returning to that counselor and you imagine progress being made because the counselor has expressed they have a good sense of what you need or how to address the situation/issue you’re experiencing. Another indication of a good fit is that you feel you have opportunities to continue sharing vulnerable details of your life because that counselor feels trustworthy, reliable, and safe. I realize the idea of openly sharing to a stranger isn’t something experienced on a daily basis and it may not even come naturally, but the whole idea is that you can imagine getting to that point with your counselor because they have already created an environment that feels welcoming. Since this might be new or you feel like you haven’t quite found the right fit, I want to give you a few pointers of things to look for when deciding whether you’re a good fit or not.
4 CHECKPOINTS TO PONDER
The counselor seems reliable and dependable.
This to me feels most important. In order to trust, we must first have an understanding that who we choose to trust will be someone who is consistent - by word and by action. We might be choosing to come to counseling because people in our life haven’t been dependable, so having a place that is consistent allows us to first trust, and then be honest and open. Is this person creating an atmosphere that feels stable? This might look like being on time to appointments, or following up on what they said they would.
Understanding the therapeutic relationship
Once we trust the counselor, we then feel the opportunity to share our vulnerable thoughts and emotions. In order to best understand whether you’re a good fit, it would be important to define who a counselor is and what role they play. A counselor is someone who is professionally licensed to offer support and guidance to those seeking help with mental health disorders, engaging personal testimonies, understanding relationships, as well as processing hardship and working toward healing and growth. What some may find difficult about the therapeutic relationship is feeling that you don’t know your counselor on a personal level, but reflecting on the defined role of a counselor, it seems that it is in the client’s best interest to receive a clinical perspective, rather than a personal connection. This idea plays a part in evaluating whether you’re a good fit or not, because after a session or two, you may feel like you shared more than the counselor. You may also not know as much about the counselor as they know about you, but normally this is on purpose.
3. The counselor understands your needs
Each counselor has their own style or approach, which also impacts the therapeutic relationship. If you feel that you don’t mesh well with their style, then you may not feel open to share or participate in sessions. I would recommend that you imagine your ideal counselor and write down a few of the qualities that you’re looking for, but also be open to counselors that might not check off all the boxes. Specific scenarios, situations, or memories might be easy to reflect on in counseling, but I would encourage you to consider what it is that you’re hoping to receive after speaking about those things. Is it that you want a better understanding of your behaviors, thinking patterns, how you relate to others, how these situations continue to impact you? Having a better understanding of the “why” behind counseling might also help you identify the type of counselor you’re seeking and what approach they would take.
Here are a few questions to consider asking your counselor...
Do you have experience working with someone like me?
What does a typical session look like?
How would you approach *this* situation or behavior?
I’m looking for someone who ______, is this something you offer?
4. You’re learning something new and recognizing growth
If you haven’t made goals with your counselor, I’d recommend writing down a few S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-related) goals for yourself and looking back every so often to measure your progress. Progress looks different for everyone. This might look like learning something new, becoming more aware of a behavior or tendency outside of counseling (cognitive dissonance), or slowly making moderate changes to improve your mental health.
I hope that you have found this helpful. Finding the right fit might take some time and dedication, but it’s worth it. A good place to start is by looking through our list of counselors.
If you’d like to start a conversation about the counseling journey, please visit my page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org