Recently, more and more people have been sharing with me that they are considering therapy.
This could well be good news. It’s heartening that people are considering talk therapy as a viable resource to see them through their time of trouble. God knows there are enough times when we all wonder how it works, and if it does at all. But it works for enough people, so trying it, with a good therapist, is a good idea.
As I see it, there are three steps to reaching the therapist’s office. First, you realize you need therapy. Second, you start looking for a therapist. Third, you actually decide on a therapist and go and see them.
There is often either a hesitation or an eagerness when we transition from looking for a therapist to finding ourselves in their office. This hesitation or eagerness is normal, but can also color our perception of how the first session actually goes. This is why I say, try therapy.
Try it for at least 4 sessions. Based on personal experience and talking to some therapists, I’ve realized that 4 sessions usually span a month, in which time you and the therapist get a clearer picture of how you’re working together – if it’s working at all, or not. It’s also exhausting going from one therapist to the other, repeating the same story over and over again, especially since it’s likely that you’re already in a state of crisis*.
Sure, I understand that 4 sessions with the “wrong” therapist is a waste of time and money, which is not always possible, but I have to break it to you – there is no other way.
To objectively know the best therapist, if there was such a thing, would necessitate you trying every therapist out there, under exactly the same circumstances, so that you may objectively compare them. This is not going to happen. Clearly, neither is it advisable.
Thankfully, you don’t have to go on such a hunt. I’m confident when I say that there is no such thing as “the best therapist” that can be found – not via word of mouth, not via “user-reviews.” There are certainly good and bad** therapists, but amongst the good therapists, any could be your best therapist. Instead of best, try aiming for the good-enough therapist. This is not a compromise. You should definitely see a good (and trained) therapist, and a good therapist who further makes you feel better – both through your intuition and her (or his) manner. This kind of a good therapist can become your best therapist, when you feel a sense of comfort and acceptance from them.
It’s possible you feel this immediately, and it’s possible that you don’t like them at all (this does not necessarily make them a bad** therapist.) There will certainly be cases where you’re absolutely right. In these cases, with something like therapy, you follow your gut. But if there is any space in your mind about the possibility of a fit, before moving on to the next therapist, give this one a little more time – 4 sessions, if you can manage it.
Because of our anxieties, excitements, and even the therapists’, we need to give it about 4 sessions to see if the combination of you and the therapist in question is working or not. It’s still not a foolproof method, but it’s a good-enough one.
*If possible, try and find a good-enough therapist well before the final stage of crisis such that you pad yourself with their support to face whatever it is that is troubling you.
**It’s a little too simple to push therapists into binaries of good and bad, right and wrong, but for the sake of that very simplicity, I have used them for this article. So if you’re looking for a therapist, please try and not judge them in such binaries, but instead try and see how they can help you, and if you feel comforted around them.