Finding the right therapist can often be as challenging as admitting you need help. Watch out for these red and green flags in your relationship with your therapist, and go one step closer to better mental health.
“The main aim of therapy is to calm the chaos in your mind, and process your emotions in a healthy way,” says Dr Seema Hingorrany, a renowned clinical psychologist based in Mumbai. Therapy is an active process to improve your understanding of yourself, work through your life experiences, and learn effective strategies to cope with your daily problems through dialogue with your therapist. Ideally, your session with your therapist should be a safe haven where you feel comfortable to open up about your life.
There are no quick and easy fixes, which is why having a good therapist who listens to you and helps you based on your needs is of the utmost importance. While finding the therapist best suited for you is often a trial-and-error process for many, there can be some basic green and red flags that you can look out for, especially when you first start therapy.
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QUALITIES OF A GREAT THERAPIST
● Your therapist gives you insight that helps you in the long run.
While seeking help is the first step, long-term positive changes in your life can only happen if you resolve any and all underlying issues. Dr Seema Hingorrany says, “A good therapist will give you insight, not advice. They will help you to process your problems, connect with past memories and through this, resolve underlying issues.” They will help you to reach realisations and make connections that you can use to better yourself.
● Your therapist makes you feel safe and validated.
A good therapist is one who believes your experiences and feels trustworthy. “You have to feel safe, and not judged, in order to open up to your therapist,” says Dr Hingorrany. “Only then can a session be effective.”
● Your therapist maintains professional boundaries.
Your therapist is not your friend. Therapists are helpful because they offer objective insight and perspectives on your problems that someone close to you will not be able to. While you may build a friendly rapport with them, it is important that they maintain professional boundaries, and do not invade your personal or social life.
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● Your therapist is sensitive to your beliefs or cultural background.
Therapists are human beings, and it is natural that they have their own sense of morality and values. But a good therapist will never enforce a differing belief or value, be it cultural or religious.
● Your therapist is open and receptive to feedback.
There is no one fix for all issues in therapy. It is important that you can communicate with your therapist if you are dissatisfied with how things are going, so that they can explore other options to help you.
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WARNING SIGNS TO LOOK OUT FOR
● Your therapist behaves unethically.
“Mutual respect is absolutely necessary,” says Dr Hingorrany, “and professional boundaries should be maintained at all times.” Phone calls outside of designated times, attempts to socialise away from therapy, breach of confidentiality, and romantic or sexual overtures from your therapist are all obvious warning signs that they do not have your best interests at heart.
● Your therapist makes you feel judged, shamed or emotionally unsafe.
You should feel physically, emotionally and spiritually comfortable with your therapist. Someone who constantly judges, belittles or invalidates you, or makes you feel stupid or guilty, will only hinder your progress.
● Your therapist pushes you to talk about something you are not comfortable with sharing.
While therapy is often painful and challenging, it is important that your therapist respects your boundaries. Pushing you to talk about something prematurely might cause more harm than good.
● Your therapist is a terrible listener.
Listening is a multifaceted skill, and surprisingly, not all therapists are good listeners. Being constantly distracted, looking at the clock, checking their phone or showing obvious signs of boredom are not conducive to a good session.
● Your therapist overshares about themselves.
It is necessary for you to remember that your therapist is there to listen to you, not the other way around. Therapists who overshare their own experiences, at the cost of you being unable to talk about your problems, might not be the best option.
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