Making the decision to seek help is huge! And that momentum is most beneficial when it keeps going unobstructed. One example, that we will focus on here, is the decision to take action on seeking therapy. Divulging all during an intake can leave us feeling vulnerable, and then to find out we don't align with the therapist is nothing short of traumatic.
There are a plethora of therapist out there, especially since we can work with professionals all over by getting services online. Often, we just get basic questions answered, like... Are they in our network? Does insurance cover their services? Do they help with my concerns? We ideally consider their credentials and type of therapy offered.
But do we consider whether the therapist is a right fit for us? It's more common that we assume they are the professional, they know what they are doing, and they should be able to help.
Even if a therapist comes highly recommended and/or has great reviews it does not mean they are a good fit for us as an individual. Just because something was safe or worked for someone else - it doesn't mean it's going to be safe or work for us.
Not all help is helpful, and it's both our right and our responsibility to qualify the help we seek.
The most effective way to find helpful help, specifically relating to therapy, is to....
Pinpoint the specific concern and/or type of therapy desired. Find therapists that are in your network and fit your budget as well as your schedule. Some therapists will schedule a phone or video interview, other times we're stuck with the front desk that can only schedule appointments.
When first connected with a new therapist, absolutely ask questions before proceeding with intake. We suggest questions like...
Why do you do what you do for work?
What do you expect from your clients?
What does a successful relationship look like to you?
What are your goals for your clients?
How do you know you are making progress?
What happens if I don't like your suggestions or approach?
Have you ever reported a client?
How long does your typical client work with you?
How do your relationships typically end?
These are just suggestions and a few ideas. It's 'best if this is personalized and written down before an appointment. You are especially encouraged to ask if your personal stance and opinions on important topics are a concern - maybe relating to religion, sexuality, politics, lifestyle choices - anything that you believe may get in the way of them providing unbiased services to you.
When we ask questions, we are looking for more than just their answers. Pay attention to not only how they answer but most importantly how we feel about their answer.
The therapist may provide an answer that shows this to be an impossible relationship, and if that's the case, we can walk - even before getting personal. Or if they say something that doesn't sit quite right, this is the perfect opportunity to share concerns and be as detailed as possible (and being general is okay, too - example: "I don't know why, but that doesn't sit right with me"). This allows the opportunity to see this person handle feelings that might challenge their own (a kind and openminded response is the only appropriate response). That could be telling enough for us to be finished, too.
This is enough interaction in a first session to decide how detailed of an intake we want to provide. Intake questions can be answered as general or as detailed as desired. Trust is something that is earned, and we don't owe anyone our intimate details.
Between asking questions and going through intake, we will have collected a ton of information. Depending on how we feel about the experience, we can choose to go back - or not (keep in mind, that if we are seeking therapy our internal guide for what's healthy and not healthy may not be completely reliable, so don't be so quick to quit unless positive it won't work out). No matter what, it's okay to schedule a second session even if unsure or afraid - and sit on it. We can always cancel later, if necessary.
Session after session, we can choose to give more details and become more vulnerable as the relationship proves to be safe and helpful. If at any time there is hesitation or confusion on the helpfulness of any help - it's an opportunity to voice those feelings. The response can be telling on whether or not the relationship continues to be safe and helpful.
It's important to remember, that as a client - you are in control of whether or not you see this professional. And if at any time they are no longer helpful, you have every right to speak up. Remember: They provide services to you, and their job is to be helpful. And our job is to give them what they need in order to do so.
This information isn't something that's typical, so if you've never considered this or are currently struggling with an unproductive and/or unsafe relationship with a professional that's supposed to be helpful - don't worry! It can be started today, and finding helpful help is a skill that can easily be shared with our children. In our eGuide for Empowering Children with a Safety Plan, you can learn these and other general safety skills right alongside your child.
This guide is a quick snippet of some of what there is to learn about raising PREPARED Children - the Mama Bear PREPARED online course. This content along with the Mama Bear Membership is everything you want you and your child to know on having the mindset, motivation and materials to keep safe. Finding Helpful Help is only one small part to having a Safety Plan that works.
What are some things that you have found helpful and/or learned to look for in a therapist?