Individuals who struggle with mental illness are presented with a myriad of challenges. We often labor to find the right balance of medication and therapy. Finding a helpful and supportive therapist may seem quite impossible at times. However, finding just the right fit for you is possible, and it’s also exceedingly important.
First diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1998, I have seen, and dismissed, over a dozen different therapists. However, for the past six years I have developed an incredibly beneficial relationship with my therapist. Having experienced some of the worst therapists, and finally finding the best, allows me to offer some suggestions for finding your perfect fit.
Find a Therapist Who Listens
I know this sounds simple. Isn’t it basically their job to listen? Be that as it may, many therapists don’t genuinely listen. If they’re distracted with taking notes or seem to be faking interest with occasional head nods, you will notice. Trust your gut. If it appears they’re not truly listening, you’re probably right.
Find a Therapist Who Respects You
While your therapist may be the one with a medical degree, you are an expert too. No one knows and understands your symptoms and struggles better than you. Make sure your therapist understands this too and appreciates your input, as opposed to reframing your problems to fit some model of the DSM-V.
Find a Therapist Who Is Flexible
Bad days are a part of mental illness, and sometimes those bad days are so severe they prevent you from leaving bed. Find a therapist who understands that you may occasionally miss appointments and is willing to work with these hiccups.
Find a Therapist Who Is Non-Judgmental
You would hope that all therapists possess this quality, but that is unfortunately not the case. Some therapists expect your best behavior in their offices. However, when I’m angry or anxious, I curse a lot. My therapist never judges or condemns my actions.
Find a Therapist You Trust
You can’t gain healing or comfort from therapy unless you are honest. If you’re uncomfortable being honest with a therapist, move on and find a better fit. There should be no guilt about ending treatment with a therapist that’s a misfit for you.
Because we each have different personalities and unique pasts, remember that even the most highly-respected therapist may not be your best fit. Find a therapist that best fits your needs.