A good therapist, psychologist and psychiatrist can make all the difference in your mental wellness journey. We know for a fact that finding a great team has made all the difference for our mental health. However, we struggled for a long time to find the right people for us. Trying to stay positive, we don’t want to say that there are bad therapists but rather they may be a bad fit for you.
A hard reality is that as patients, sometimes we feel trapped in our relationships with these professionals. After all it can take a long time to find open appointments or find professionals taking new clients. If you are like us, then you may be a people pleaser and have a hard time standing up for yourself. You may have self-doubt as to what actually constitutes a good therapist or what makes a therapist right for you. Well, it’s been 10 years since we stood up and got professional help and, in that time, we have seen the whole gambit and we wanted to share 5 things that we personally look for in a good mental wellness professional. Disclaimer, this is our personal opinion and just food for thought, not advice!
1. They listen to you
There are a lot of ways to interpret this, but for us, a critical sign that our therapist listens to us, is that they remember the little details. They remember the little comments or stories we’ve told them from past sessions and they connect the dots between experiences and feelings. They ask you insightful and meaningful questions. For a long time, we did not have a team that did this, so we thought it was normal to have to repeat stories or that each session felt like the first time. The team we have now take copious notes as they speak to us, they ask us to repeat when they did not catch something. They repeat back what we said if it was a critical point. All the things that make you feel heard, valid and cared for. In our opinion, this should be the norm and not the exception.
2. They make themselves available
The wellness team we have now are readily available to us! Now, to temper expectations, this is not to say we have their personal cell phone numbers and can call them at any time. Rather, this is to say they answer their work emails or work messaging systems in a timely manner. Typically, 24-48 hours, usually much quicker. When we first started seeing professionals, this was not an option available to us. Whether the advent of technology has gotten better or we have truly found a great team. We feel that it’s reasonable to be able to ask questions to your professionals and expect a response within a few days. Now, obviously, if you have an emergency always just call 911. We just want to make sure you know, that it’s not unreasonable for you to be able to ask your team questions outside of your sessions or appointments. Just remember, they’re humans too and they have a huge amount of work just like you!
3. They include you
Your wellness journey is your own. The team that helps you are the professionals and they guide and help you. However, it’s important to remember that you have to believe and commit to your own journey. For us, we found it to be a game changer when we started to be included in wellness decisions. Now, we aren’t saying you should be prescribing yourself medicine or diagnosing yourself! What we are saying, is that a good professional empowers you by giving you the knowledge of different options. They then ask you which option is the best for you personally, and if none of them are good, they help you find a new path. Having options clearly articulated with sound reasoning and being respected enough to have a say in your own journey goes a long way. We find that when we feel like we made the decision ourselves that the path is easier to tread. Remember, your journey is yours and you deserve a voice.
4. They give you information
A common story that we hear is that a professional will put you on a wellness plan and give little to no explanation. This is particularly true with psychiatrists and when they prescribe medicines. For many, taking medicine is a big step and they have many concerns. We’ve heard stories where professionals prescribe medicine and don’t explain the reason for the dosing, the side-affects or anything about the medicine. Further, as people start to feel side effects, the doctor is not available to answer questions or concerns.
A large part of anxiety is the fear of the unknown and not having information can be terrifying. The best professionals that set up our current wellness plan have always done an amazing job in providing detailed information. They personally explained each medicine they recommended; they walked us through common dosing numbers and they provided a list of side effects and answered our questions and concerns. Bonus points for those that have provided scientific journals and case studies on the medicine or the medicine combo they are recommending.
5. They respect you
Finally, and we wish this one didn’t need to be said, but they should respect you! A good professional sees and hears you. They make you feel validated and they challenge you. They respect and see you as a person and not just as a number. Above all, many of us fear the stigma associated with seeing a professional, so they should ensure you feel safe and comfortable. They shouldn’t talk down to you or speak to you as if you were a child. They should know the challenges you have been through and they should have respect for you for it. Above all, they should make your visit feel natural and normal, because it is!
Those of us with anxiety tend to stay in bad situations because we’re people pleasers or it’s the path of least resistance. However, if you feel that your wellness professionals are not a good fit for you then you should get the help you deserve! Not everyone is going to like us in life, and as much anxiety as that may cause, that opposite is also true. Not everyone is going to be a perfect fit for you. Ultimately, a mental wellness professional wants you to feel better, if that means you need to go elsewhere, they should support you in your personal wellness journey. Note, none of this is advice, but if we were to leave our provider, we would line something up and start visiting a different professional before we terminated any service. Of course, this is completely dependent of each and every situation and only you can make the best decision for yourself.
Good therapists are a part of our mental wellness plans, but if you are looking for some other outlets, check out our article on starting a mental wellness journal. A journal really helped us have more meaningful conversations with our own wellness professionals! Also, practicing self-kindness can really make a huge difference. Finally, if you are looking for some grounding techniques to discuss with your therapist, check out our 5 favorite!
It’s easy to second guess yourself when evaluating your mental wellness professional. Ultimately, you are the final judge, but it’s helpful to find someone who respects, listens, explains, includes and cares about you.
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As an added bonus for our readers, we like to include a game of where are the Tomodotchi Pets. They’ve been hidden in 2 of the pictures within this post. Can you find them all? See below for what they look like!