In all stages of recovery, but especially at the beginning, having a therapist should be nothing but beneficial. Although, that is not always the case. Sometimes a therapist just is not giving you the results you are looking for. Here are some things to look for when deciding if your therapist is the right fit for you.
More than anything, you should feel comfortable with your therapist. When you are trying to cope with trauma, mental illness, or recovery from addiction, being in an uncomfortable situation can be difficult and even triggering. The presence of your therapist should put you at ease and give you a sense of security so you can dive into the difficult topics that need to be addressed without feeling wary of the person you are sharing with.
There are many different types of therapy. It is important to know what your therapist specializes in and if that specialty is what you need. This means you might need to do a bit of research before you settle on a therapist. If you are having trouble determining which therapy is right for you, there are professionals who can help you understand your goals for therapy and what kind of treatment will best help you achieve them.
While you should feel comfortable opening up to your therapist, a good therapist should also challenge you. If you feel uncomfortable, being challenged can be more hindering than helpful.
Being someone who has substance use disorder (SUD) means that you have a dysfunction in the pre-frontal cortex of your brain. That means that, in therapy, part of the goal is to reroute the neuropathways of the brain. In simpler terms, therapy is about teaching you how to think differently.
To facilitate this change, you have to be challenged to reexamine situations in a different light. You have to learn how to approach things from a sober perspective. You should not be intimidated by the prospect of a challenge; it can be something as simple as your therapist asking you to view a situation from another person's perspective.
A challenge coming from your therapist should not be aggressive but more of a gentle nudge your brain needs to break out of old thinking patterns. Some people may need a more abrasive approach because it can be harder to look at things from a healthy vantage point when you have been stuck in poor thinking for so long.
Balancing comfort with discomfort—or challenge—is a tightrope walk. A good therapist should be pushing you out of your comfort zone but not so far that the discomfort becomes counterproductive to your healing. This is where the real work happens. The brain likes to be comfortable, so venturing into the uncomfortable territory is where the real changes are made.
Having goals is a key component to knowing if your therapist is right for you. Setting goals is a great way to monitor your therapy progress. For example, if your goal is to minimize your substance cravings, compare where you were when you started to where you are two months down the line. If you notice an improvement, your therapist is probably a good fit.
It is important to note that therapy is not a one-time or two-time deal. It takes time to see results. A general rule is that if you are not seeing any improvement by your fifth session, you may need to reconsider your therapist.
This may be hard because it can be difficult to say goodbye to someone who is trying to help you or someone you have spent time trying to open up to, but it is okay to fire your therapist. Like anything in life, sometimes people are just not fit for each other, and therapists are no exceptions.
Imagine if your therapist was a doctor, you went in with a cold, and after weeks of seeing this doctor, you were not feeling any better. At that point, you might try a different doctor to see if they can help you. A therapist can be looked at the same way.
The ultimate goal of therapy is to better yourself. It is not an easy thing to do and it takes a lot of work. A good therapist should be in your corner—supporting you but also challenging you to accomplish your goals. When you enter therapy, you should have an image of a better version of yourself in mind. A good therapist will help you get there. If you are getting what you need from your therapist, great. If not, it may be time to consider switching therapists.
Finding the right therapist for you can be difficult. You want to find someone who you feel comfortable with but who will also challenge you to think differently. The ultimate goal is to be happy and make progress in learning to enjoy your sober life. This can be difficult at times but it is well worth the struggle. Whether you're not sure what you need from your therapist, you're wondering if they're the right fit, or you're already in the market for a new one, sometimes you need help. NorthStar Transitions, located in Boulder, CO, can be the place to find that help. We support those who struggle with substance abuse and can connect you with good therapists until you find the right fit. If you or someone you know is struggling, you can take the first steps by calling us today at (303) 558-6400.