Choosing a therapist

When someone asks me for advice about seeking a therapist I always say, choose who you feel drawn to, trust your instincts. I believe it is your relationship with this person that is at the heart of therapy and is the road to healing. Yes, there are many components to therapy, many theories and many techniques but it is the trust and the relationship that you build together that will enable you to go on the journey and will be the greatest site of transformation. Choose who you feel drawn to. Trust your instincts.

I believe the person matters because the relationship matters and the relationship matters because we are relational beings. We locate ourselves through our relationships with other people. We have learned who we are in relationship, with our family, our friends, our community, our society.

Often the unhealthy and unsatisfying patterns in relating we have gotten into are because we have grown up with people that weren’t able to teach us healthy and satisfying ways to relate to others. We have made it work somehow but often we come to therapy because it is not working for us anymore. We have lost the ability to locate ourselves. We are unsure of who we are and of the relationships we have. This can be terrifying and make us feel incredibly scared and very vulnerable.

When we are feeling scared and vulnerable we need to trust the therapist. We need to feel that they care deeply about our being. We need to feel that they can hear how wounded we are, how angry and disappointed, how shy, embarrassed and shameful, how lost and desperate. We need to know we can grieve and cry and that all of this is okay, we will be contained.

We might arrive thinking only a guru or a magician could do this and wish away our pain, but I believe the magic really happens when we feel the therapist is a real person too. They do not judge us because they do not have it all sorted either, they too know what it is to be deeply human. And because they know this they will be able to walk with us to those places in ourselves, unafraid. You are not alone.

This work together is affecting, this relationship very real. When a therapist enters into this journey with us they are opening themselves to be changed too. And when we see that in connection with another not only can we feel contained but we can affect the other too, we can begin to locate ourselves again. We are seen and heard and we matter, our thoughts and feelings matter, our lives matter. And if we matter here with this person, maybe we can and do matter to others and maybe our true self can find connection in the world.

 ‘[human] physiology means that in some important ways, people cannot be stable on their own – not should or shouldn’t be, but can’t be. This prospect is disconcerting to many, especially in a society that prizes individuality. Stability means finding people who regulate you well and staying near them’ - A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon.

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