I say this to all of my new clients: “I won’t be offended if you don’t chose to work with me because looking for a therapist is like dating. Sometimes you get lucky and find the right person the first time, and sometimes it takes three or four tries.”
In both situations, you have to let your guard down, and share personal information about yourself and your past. You will answer a lot of open-ended questions: What are your favorite things to do? What kind of job do you have? Are you close to your family and friends? Why didn’t your last relationship workout?
Does that sound like your last first date?
Therapy follows a similar script. Some of these questions will be very intimate and personal. You might reveal information that you’ve never told anyone before. You have to trust the listener. If you don’t trust the person in front of you, you won’t be willing to share that information with them. Ideally, you want to find that person with whom you achieve attunement and harmony; where the conversation flows naturally, emotions are exchanged freely, judgment doesn’t exist, and words of encouragement are offered without having to ask for them.
Also like dating, you might need a second date with your new therapist, or even a third date, to know if the connection is strong enough to serve you. This is especially true if this is your ‘first time’- first time seeing a therapist, that is. You may feel nervous, overwhelmed, scared, vulnerable, anxious, guarded or even suspicious and doubtful of the whole therapeutic process.
Being with the right person – be it a life partner or a therapist – should make you feel safe, secure and supported, even when you’re struggling with new or difficult experiences.
So take your time. Make sure you feel safe and comfortable when spending time with your therapist. Ask for what you need. If there is uncertainty, try again, ask for clarifiers, request another option. Never rush into anything.
The therapist-client relationship is an important one. It will challenge your thought processes. It will stimulate personal growth. It will make you more self-aware. The quality of this relationship can very much determine the outcomes of your therapy.