How to Trust Your Therapist’s Help

How to Trust Your Therapist’s Help

Learning to trust your therapist is an important part of the rehab process

Learning to trust your therapist is an important part of the recovery process. There are many psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors out there and choosing the one that is best for you may seem daunting at times. With the help of your treatment facility, the advice of loved ones, friends and your own intuition, it is possible to find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable. Of course you may find it difficult to share your feelings at first, but the right therapist will work hard to put you at ease while guiding you through the most difficult issues.

Getting to Know Your Therapist

Choosing the right therapist starts long before your first session. The first, and probably most important step, is to make a list of possibilities based on referrals from others. Finding out names of potential treatment professionals can often be as simple as a conversation with a friend, loved one or even an acquaintance. You may be surprised at the number of people who have used a therapist they can recommend. Therapy is much less stigmatized than is was even 20 years ago, and getting into treatment when it is needed is viewed by most as a healthy life choice. Another good way to find a quality therapist is through a referral from your rehab facility. If you are receiving treatment on an outpatient basis, you may be able to continue therapy in the same facility. For those who participated in inpatient treatment or treatment in another city or state, it will be necessary to find someone to see on a regular basis after returning home.

After compiling a list of potential therapists, the next step is to research each person’s background, education and experience. This can be done easily through the Internet. Most facilities have websites that provide a brief description of each therapist on staff. You can also check with your state’s licensing organization or The Joint Commission, the accrediting agency for healthcare organizations and hospitals in the United States. Knowing as much as you can about a potential therapist before scheduling an initial consultation is the best way to prepare for your first encounter.

The First Meeting

Addiction and other forms of mental illness can often make the person suffering suspicious of those around him or her. So growing comfortable with a therapist can be a challenge. Scheduling an initial consultation gives you or your loved one an opportunity to meet and discuss your potential care plan before treatment begins. Have your loved one help you choose the top three therapists from your original list and make the appointments. Associate editor for Psychcentral, Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. suggests asking questions of potential therapists. The following, taken from the book, Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice, by Robert W. Firestone, Ph.D, Lisa Firestone, Ph.D, and Joyce Catlett, MA, is a good place to begin:

  • What do you think is the goal of the therapy?
  • What is your approach to therapy?
  • What therapy methods do you employ?
  • What is the number of sessions you think we’ll need?
  • What is expected from me? (For instance, are there homework assignments?)

Once you are clear on the answers to these questions, the authors of Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice recommend asking yourself some questions. Did you feel comfortable with the therapist, and did you feel heard and understood by him or her? Other things to consider are the overall atmosphere of the office and the demeanor of the person to whom you talked. A therapist with a positive outlook on life will probably come closer to helping you change than one with a negative outlook. And finally, did you feel like the environment was a safe place to share your thoughts and feelings?

Giving honest answers to these questions will help you choose a therapist you can trust. And working with a therapist you trust is one of the most important steps in the recovery process.

The Next Steps

Sometimes it takes more than one meeting to decide whether a therapist is right for you. After a few visits, you or your loved one may decide that a change is necessary. It is important to remember that you are not obligated to continue with a particular person if you feel uncomfortable. However, it’s also important to remember, and hopefully you have already learned this in rehab, that therapy, by nature, can be an uncomfortable thing. Knowing the difference between not wanting to talk about hard things, and not feeling secure enough with your therapist to share are two very different things. Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., in the Psychology Today article, “Should You Trust Your Therapist or Yourself?” reminds patients to honor their anxiety and gut reactions. If you are feeling uncomfortable or anxious when seeing your therapist, even after multiple sessions, it may be a signal to pay attention or change course. A psychologist should never make you feel guilty for wanting to consult with another professional about your treatment.

Finding Help for Addiction

If you or a loved one struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, we are here to help you. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.