Have you ever wondered what makes a good therapist? And are there bad therapists?
And I've avoided actually going to see a therapist in fear of having to sort through a bunch of bad ones to find a good one. This is not helpful. Quite the opposite actually. Not only have I successfully avoided even admitting that I have issues that need to be resolved, but I've also wasted time worrying about something that might not even BE a thing at all. I'm really good at this. And yes, I work in a therapist's office and have not been to therapy...much. It's kind of like the mechanic's car that always needs work. Or the contractor's house that is eternally under renovation. Working closely with so many therapists gives me the illusion that I'm fine. (Do you know what 'F.I.N.E.' means? Watch The Italian Job. You'll find out).
In doing research for our practice and creating social media posts, I've come across several beautiful visuals that can help one determine what the anatomy of a good therapist is and the warning signs of a bad therapist.
Let's start with the warning signs.
In the graphic here from crazyhead comics, the very first warning sign is 'they ignore confidentiality'.
That is probably one of the most important elements of therapy. Proper confidentiality allows the client to begin to trust the therapist in that their stories and problems, even their names aren't going to be shouted to the world. A therapist should not tell stories about their clients. A therapist should not, when seeing their client outside of the office, make any inferences or small talk about how they know that person. A therapist should not make their client feel unsafe or judged by any means. There should be no sexual attraction between the therapist and the client and if there is, it is imperative to find another therapist.
Therapist warning signs include not listening to, and talking over, the client. Dodging questions. Over-sharing. This is a big one because the therapist is not there to be the client's friend - they're there as a neutral third party who can objectively speak into their client's life with relevant information about the how and the why - not stories about themselves or their own life that might be similar. Along this thread, a therapist who tries to be your friend will leave you feeling disappointed after each session rather than empowered because they lack the ability to challenge you. They commiserate with you rather than offer practical tools and strategies to better your emotional intelligence and health.
Although there are many more which you may recognize for yourself - I want to make sure you know also what makes a good therapist because that is just as important.
Another great little illustration from crazyhead comics shows us the anatomy of a good therapist. The very first thing, is they ask questions! They're engaged and asking you leading questions which will allow you to dig deeper into your heart and soul and mind and learn about yourself. Giving good homework is always a hallmark of a great therapist. Homework keeps you thinking about the things that were said in session and helps you to come to the next session ready to keep working rather than 'Rinse & Repeat.' Therapy is self-directed. You are not going to get anything out of it if you aren't honest with yourself, your therapist and your journal.
A great therapist is empathetic. Properly empathetic. Not, "I can feel everything you're feeling you don't even have to tell me."
em·pa·thet·ic /ˌempəˈTHedik/ adjective 1. showing an ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Key difference in definition from what the world has adopted as the meaning of empathetic to what is *actually* the meaning... the word understand versus feel. Empathetic people can fully understand what you are feeling. They do not feel your feelings, and they cannot tell what you're feeling without you telling them what you're feeling.
I knew it would.
Go forth and educate.
Maintaining confidentiality is one of the most important attributes of a good therapist (yes, I do know I am repeating myself here, and it's OK. This is an important one). Confidentiality is required. It is ethical. It is absolutely non-negotiable. Get you a therapist that holds this in the highest regard. You'll have a better therapy experience.
There are more things that make a good therapist, and a lot of them are personal preference. The relationship between the client and the therapist is absolutely crucial. You have got have that vibe, you know? Not chemistry, but a certain likability as if you COULD be friends but instead you have your own personal secretkeeper who also is educated, experienced, and empathetic. Earlier I said that I work in a counsellor's office and have not been to therapy regularly.
Don't be like me.
Everyone needs someone to talk to about the things that they can't talk to anyone else about. I am starting to realize just how true that statement is.
There's a culture of comparison that humans can't seem to step away from and it is toxic. Trauma is trauma. I've spent the last 17 years shoving my feelings and emotions into a box, and pretending things are fine. They're not. I've spent years telling myself that the things that happened to me were not nearly as terrible as the things that have happened to others, so what do I have to complain about?
My friends, trauma is trauma. And it is relative to you. If we experience the same traumatic event, we will be affected differently.
Take a car accident, for example. If there are 4 people in a car that crashes - all 4 of those people will have different injuries related to where they were seated, if they were wearing a seat belt, if they were paying attention and saw it coming or not...their height, weight, and emotional state. ALL of those factors will contribute to the resulting injuries. They were all in the same car crash, and yet they all experienced it differently. That's trauma.
No one can tell you how you feel or felt about something. But you can tell your therapist about it and be validated in your feelings, FEEL them, and let them go.
Remember, no one gets out of childhood unscathed.
It's a fact.
And that's because hurt people hurt people. Your parents did their best with what they had, and as an adult it's your responsibility to figure out your issues and seek help for them. #adulting
In the end, I just want you to know that therapy with a good therapist works. Therapy is for YOU. Therapy is one of the absolute BEST things you can do for yourself and your Mini-me will thank you, repeatedly.
If I asked you to make a list of the things you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?
MickeyG is fine.
But if she could fly away, she would.