One of our favorite things to do with this blog is to write a post together. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we get to sit down and write at the same time, we just work together on a post- both bringing our best ideas to the table. It’s been a while since we did this, but we’re excited to introduce: What Makes a Great Therapist.
Throughout my 38 years, I have had a good handful of therapists, counselors and other helpers. Honestly, most of them did me only a little bit of good. I sought out a therapists because whatever I was dealing with I knew I needed help and being a self-aware, relatively intelligent person, I found that they could not offer me much more than I already knew. I want to point out that I went into these therapy sessions as a willing party-wanting help. I wasn’t dragged or forced into anything (well when I was 15, but that’s another post coming soon). I went ASKING for help, and usually leaving empty-handed.
So, I’ve had lots of not-so-great helpers until about two months ago. Two months ago, I was at the lowest point of struggling with addiction that I knew I was not overcoming even with the weekly help I was already getting. Through a series of referrals, I found Chris (who I’ve mentioned before). Chris is the best therapist I have ever seen. Ever. And seeing him has helped me to realize what makes a helper great.
Here are the top 5 things that I think make a great therapist.
- A great therapist does not interrupt you when you are speaking. Even if they know that what they have to say is important and you need to hear it, or they are so excited about your breakthrough, they wait until you are totally done talking so that you can listen well because you’ve said all you need to say.
- A great therapist rarely talks about his or her own life. If they do, it’s a totally relate-able experience. I once had a counselor who when I would tell her what I was struggling with would say, “Well you think that’s bad, blah, blah, blah, here’s my story that’s worse than that…..”. That is not helpful or professional. I know maybe 5 things about Chris and 4 of them are because I asked.
- A great therapist doesn’t give you all the answers to your problems, they make you work for it. They make you sort things out until you can come up with some answers on your own. Then they help you with answers and solutions.
- A great therapist waits. They let you sit in the silence after you’ve spoken and they wait. Because maybe you are not done and until you’ve exhausted all you have to say, you won’t be ready to listen. They wait because silence is sometimes the thing we need most to heal. They wait because maybe they are measuring their own words before they speak them.
- A great therapist is qualified for your specific need. Chris is a specialist. He has studied and worked in the area that I am struggling with. If you are struggling with trauma, a general family counselor probably does not posses the tools you need to heal. General counselors for sure have their place- I am not wanting to downplay their role, but in order to get the best help, seek out a qualified specialist.
If you think you need some therapy (and I
kind of think we all do), please don’t hesitate to seek it out. You might have to wade through some shitty counsel before you find what you need, but don’t give up! I’ve been going through the process of healing from addiction for almost two years now and it was only two months ago that I found Chris. Healing doesn’t happen overnight and you have to work damn hard to get it.
Like Celina, I think everyone needs a therapist. Especially if you are in a relationship. With anyone. So that means everyone.
I go to therapy most often with my husband. We have a great marriage. And we need help. All the time. Without getting into our business, which I am sure you are not interested in, I will just say that most people marry their opposites, and so they struggle with understanding each other and each others motives.
That’s not David and I.
We test the exact same in most personality tests there are (except the Enneagram). It’s scary. And apparently fairly rare.
We go to therapy to be safe. Sometimes we go alone, but most often we go together. And our therapist is amazing. One time on the way to therapy I asked David, “We are doing so good, what are we even going to talk about?!” We found some stuff and I actually think that was one of our most powerful sessions.
So here are my top three things to look for in therapy.
- You leave with a lot less money than you came in with. I know this sounds silly, but I really believe it- good therapy is expensive and probably should be. Therapy is an art. It is something that takes a special gifting, and a lot of training. You can find cheap therapists, or even free ones but I suggest you invest in therapy. I really mean it. Investing in your mental health, spiritual health, and in your most precious relationships is wise. We may be broke, but we are rich in relationships, thanks to our crazy expensive therapist.
- You leave feeling redeemable. There have been times when David and I have stepped into our therapists office, and I wasn’t sure if we’d come out together or alive. I thought going in for sure one of us would be left bloodied on the floor. Never once have we stepped out of the therapists’ office feeling further apart. We have dealt with BIG stuff and every single time, on the elevator ride down to the parking lot, we hug and cry and kiss, and fall more in love. Our therapist has a way of reminding us what is the most important.
- You leave having learned something. Our therapist has taught us a few extremely valuable lessons. He does this quickly and usually in some sort of weird analogy. But the lessons he has taught us seem to come up daily in my relationships. Lessons about shame, lessons about arguing, lessons about listening, and lessons about story telling- all of which have been remarkably powerful. When I leave, I feel like I learned a lot, yet I have never felt like he was teaching me. It is a remarkable thing.
So you know we are a mess. And we know you probably are too. If you don’t have a good therapist yet, find one.
If you have a therapist, and you’re not sure if they’re good, they’re not good. Break up. Tomorrow. Because when you have a good therapist, its kind of like getting engaged, you can’t stop talking about it, you tell everyone, and your life changes forever!