Seeing a therapist or psychiatrist is an emotional and financial investment in your overall health and well being. When you hit a wall with your therapist, it may be hard to admit that it’s time to consider other practitioners. However, finding someone you trust and work well with is the key to progress in any therapeutic relationship. Below are some tips for figuring out if your next appointment is scheduled with the right person:
1. They don’t have the essential characteristics
Hands down, the most important skill a therapist should have is to be able to understand your struggle and make you feel that they are in it with you. When searching for a physical therapist or chiropractor, you may be interested in finding someone with the best technical skills. However, an effective therapist embodies several critical interpersonal skills, such as empathy, warmth, genuineness, and positive regard, regardless of what type of psychotherapy they focus in. These are characteristics you may not be able to find listed in a directory or in a practitioner’s list of degrees and qualifications. If you find your therapist lacking any of these skills, it may be time to have a conversation with them discussing how you feel about your sessions.
2. You don’t feel like a team
A therapeutic alliance is critical for optimal interactions. A therapeutic alliance can be defined as having two parts; firstly, you should feel that the therapist is providing a service that is needed. Secondly, you should view the therapy experience as a process in which you are working together with the therapist to achieve specific goals. Some researchers go as far as to argue that a therapeutic alliance is the key to making any form of therapy work for the whole range of psychological issues. What is crucial here is that it takes two people to have a team. So it may be that you and your therapist are both trying and independently are awesome individuals but lack the chemistry to work well together.
3. There’s no secure attachment
The idea of secure attachment first became popularized by John Bowlby in the context of parenting and future behavior in children. However, this concept can be applied to the relationship between you and your therapist as well. In a therapy session, you should feel comfortable exploring painful or frightening experiences while relying on your therapist as a secure base. The ability to examine these experiences promotes change in some of your thinking processes and can lower your stress levels. But if you don’t feel right sharing delicate experiences, it will be hard to make any progress.
4. You don’t feel motivated to change
Clinicians often view motivation for change as positively correlated with the outcome of therapy. You may or may not have entered therapy willingly, but once you are there the therapist should work at helping you realize your own motivations to change. Without intrinsic motivation, you are at risk for changing due to unstable reasons or for not changing at all and increasing frustration.
With all of this in mind, it is important to acknowledge that no therapist or psychiatrist will be right for you unless you accept the benefits of treatment and have some desire to change. Therapy is a wide two-way street with many roadblocks that can pop up along the way. Both you and the practitioner must commit to a therapeutic alliance and have some chemistry to make way for a smooth, successful journey.
One final recommendation: if you are unsure, bring it up with your current therapist. Their openness to discuss these issues with you may be the most clear evidence that they are truly ready and able to help you.