How to Choose a Therapist
When I entered therapy training in 2007 I had never seen a therapist! People in my program would ask “So common, what’s your trauma? You must have something!” The truth is that we all have many somethings, but at the point in which I entered grad school I really didn’t identify in any way with “trauma”. That’s why I tell people that you don’t have to have any of the big-T Trauma’s to find therapy incredible valuable as I eventually did.
I started into therapy after my program and began to realize what it really could be – it was like a vessel for my inner journey and it held the nurturing, attunement and feedback that I needed to really “listen in” myself and to walk more confidently without bumping into my own embedded cultural conditioning (self-doubt, judgment & inner criticism) so much and instead identifying that disconnection from myself that can easily be seen as the trauma of everyday life. And because I chose therapists who held wisdom beyond my years, they were like guides who offered the perspective and the skill of how to care for the bruises with me.
When it comes to our individual psyches, we need a therapist who can hold whatever it is you hold. This doesn’t mean they have to have gone through the same thing and while therapist’s can sometimes get caught up in the “modality of therapy” being used, it’s not about that either. Some clients will have bruises, some have burns. Some have chronic illness and more serious injury and need surgery promptly. But unlike a hospital treatment, I am not the surgeon. My office offers the shelter for examination of the inner world. My therapy approach offers you the tools to go gently inward, see what’s there, navigate amongst those (often) many issues and find a fresh way forward.
Know that what therapeutic orientation you are curious about has probably been highly influenced by what we’ve heard before and so what the current trend is where we live and in our world. I notice therapists still get caught in this trap even though research shows no theory more effective than any other. I suggest you see if you can hear their voice to see if you feel cared for, notice if the words they use peak your curiosity, and see if you feel comfortable speaking directly about the issue that you’re coming in with.
I suggest you ensure that you therapist is:
~empathic and attuned
~the right combination of introversion and extroversion for you
~open to speaking directly about how they see therapy is going for you and receiving feedback about how you see therapy is going for you
~able to listen deeply, reflect back accurately, but also be another human being who challenges you at certain times too
Even though research has been showing for years that there is no therapy better than another (check out The Cognitive Behavioural Tsunami if you are interested in how research and politics have collided in this modern era to give people a false understanding of the efficacy of short-term therapies), there are the 6 Focusing Steps discovered by Eugene Gendlin and the team at the University of Chicago in the 1980’s that still remain most important in terms of successful outcomes in therapy today. These are steps you can do inside yourself during session to improve the likelihood of any therapy method to be helpful. Even if the therapist doesn’t know them, they can also learn them quite easily if they are open to it too 🙂
Without Focusing, therapy can be very cognitive as you have everything all figured out but still feel the patterns underneath. Many of the clients I see have already done cognitive or solution-focused therapy, or say that the counsellor “just listened” and they still struggle with the felt sense of what is not yet identified around the issue. Although some people need a space to talk and I am happy to hold this space for as much time as you need, when it’s natural, I like to teach this skill so that I feel that you have actually learned something that can lead to deeper shifts and new ways forward!
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“Circlework provided for me a space to reflect and feel connected to myself and other women. To be able to take that feeling—that space—with me day to day provided me with a sense of empowerment and reassurance to any challenges I may face.”
-NADIA, VANCOUVER, BC