In the last few years, interest in counselling has exploded across Western Canada. With the pandemic, the stigma towards mental health struggles dropped rapidly. People could no longer pretend they were OK. On top of that, counselling was suddenly covered under many, if not most, insurance plans. These days, online dating profiles even highlight that it’s attractive to be in therapy. Things have changed!
Maybe you want to try it out yourself. But how? We’re very used to using reviews to buy products, so it’s easy to assume that matching with the right therapist means looking at stars on Google Businesses.
What I want to suggest today, however, is that choosing a therapist is very different from buying a new dinnerware set. Buying objects is simpler because, very often, the price predicts the quality of your purchase.
The idea of finding ‘the best’ human being, however, makes a lot less sense. The ease of connecting with, trusting and relaxing around people involves an unmeasurable number of factors. To name one of the thousands of variables: Does their appearance, body language, pace and tone remind you unconsciously of someone you knew before? Was it someone you loved? Feared?
Uh oh! Our personal unconscious memories don’t show up well in Google Reviews.
So if we can’t rely as heavily on logical data, how do we choose a therapist?
I propose we take an 80:20 approach; the ratio refers to feelings and qualifications. I’m suggesting that much greater weight be given to the felt sense you get from someone, whereas a small priority is given to facts and figures.
80% Should Be On The Feeling Of ‘Fit’
Time and time again, research has predicted that the greatest outcomes in therapy result from the quality of trust and safety in the relationship between client and counsellor. Whether they have practised for 20 years versus 2 months or whether they practice CBT versus Emotion Focused Therapy is less important than how you feel in connection with your counsellor.
Further to this, research supports that even the modality and method they use are less important than committing to one path and sticking to it. Logic is not good at predicting relationships, so please learn to trust your inner radar since commitment to therapy will go a lot smoother if your guard relaxes easily around someone!
In this sense, the transformative work you are seeking to do begins the very moment you are looking for a therapist. Just by scanning profiles on Psychology Today, you are learning to trust your gut.
You are forming a closer relationship with your heart and intuition.
20% Is For Logical Stuff
I have seen from men, in particular, inquiry emails that approach counselling like a job interview. Where did I train? Which approach do I use? How long will treatment take? What percentage of people heal? In counselling, they tend to discover that this very effort towards logic and control is a big driver in the issues of depression, anxiety and burnout that they’re trying to recover from.
While it can be very helpful if you feel magnetized towards a particular modality—such as Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Compassionate Inquiry, Internal Family Systems or CBT—counselling is more about waking up to your feelings, inner compass, intuition and life purpose. Instead of trying to find the perfect tool, your own navigation system guides you, so you learn that you were the biggest tool all along.
There is maybe a better way to word that.
But I’ll say it again: What better practice for trusting your gut and the gentle signals of emotional guidance than choosing the therapist you’d like to connect with?
Other Important Steps
First, check how’s someone’s bio, appearance and any quotations they include land for you. Do you feel relaxed looking at them? Inspired? Safe? Or do you feel yourself shrinking, anxious and imagining judgment?
Use your feelings to shortlist one to three therapists and request free chats with them. Sure, go in with some logical left-brained questions, but fixate most of your attention on how they answer the questions versus what they say. Be a detective for feelings in your body.
Choose the one that leaves you feeling the greatest glow, relief from numbness or just gives you a gut sensation that, hey, something about this person stood out.
Even at this point, don’t be afraid to attend a session or two to suss things out. At Thrive, we do not take clients shopping around personally. In fact, we encourage it. Find who you trust enough to guide you through the shadowlands toward your full self and life’s resonance!
Choosing a therapist is best done by minimizing logical left-brained pros and cons. Instead, it works best when you dig into your feelings, trusting your gut and intuition. It even presents an opportunity to begin the therapy through the selection process as an exercise in listening to your own guidance system.
For any additional help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for questions.
Carson Kivari is the Founder and Clinic Director of Thrive Downtown, with 17 years of experience helping individuals and couples overcome anxiety, depression, and burnout. He guides clients on a journey of self-exploration and trauma release to find purpose, connection, and safety. Take the first step towards healing and contact Carson today to schedule a session.