The Journey before the Journey - Selecting a Mental Health Professional

When it comes to finding a Mental Health professional, it can seem overwhelming and daunting to find the individual who is the ‘right fit’ and while this can take time, it is very beneficial and crucial towards aiding in the process of healing.



In a previous piece we examined some factors to keep in mind which examined aspects like costs, scheduling, therapeutic approach, personal preferences to name a few but in this piece we will throw more light on the aspects to look out for which go beyond that because it is important to know that even if a Mental Health professional looks great on paper, if the connection doesn’t feel right, or if you don’t trust the person or feel like they truly care, fostering a rapport and making progress will be challenging.


First and foremost, you must find a professional you feel comfortable with. It help to find someone who you feel respects your individuality and opinions, and someone who feels trustworthy enough for you to not feel the need to lie to your professional or withhold important information, you are not going to get any real help. Several professionals provide for having introduction calls or a free brief consultation where individuals can speak to them and address any questions/ concerns they might have prior to scheduling your first appointment. This can allow you to get to know the person a little and ask any questions you may have. While a phone call won’t guarantee you’ll be completely able to tell whether the therapist is a good match, it may help you narrow down your options when you’re trying to choose between several individuals. Studies show a professional’s ability to show warmth, genuineness, and empathy is key to their ability to form a therapeutic alliance; so, consider this your chance to conduct a brief interview with the therapist and see how you feel about their responses. You can use this time to ask them questions you have around how they conduct their sessions, how they help individuals with similar goals and conditions as your own, how they help make individual’s feel more comfortable in sessions etc.


Look out if you feel the professional is a good personality fit for you. One of the greatest predictors of success in support services around Mental Health centers around rapport - the feelings of trust and respect which builds up between the professional and the individual seeking support. A healthy, positive and support relationship is built on positive connection, authenticity, trust to discuss your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours without fear or shame, unconditional positive regard and positive communication. Mental Health professionals should communicate openly and warmly even when pointing out areas for your growth. It is important to know that the best healing happens when an individual feels connected with their professional and feels that they are being respected. This can be especially important for those who identify as LGBTQIA, BIPOC, or from a minority group.


When it comes to looking for the “right fit”, there’s a few green flags you can look out for. This includes them being someone who has a range of qualities and exhibits empathetic behaviours such as listening carefully and empathically without judgment, demonstrating understanding about what your issues are, being respectful at all times towards you, being focused on helping empower you to find solutions rather than just processing feelings, upholding personal and professional boundaries and being open to feedback as well. It is also helpful that they are open to adapt methods to fit your needs rather than trying to make your situation fit the method, helpful in finding other resources when need, act with integrity, treat you and your time with respect, don’t offer judgement or resort to name-calling and also remain comfortable with individual’s taking the lead in formulating treatment plans. Other things you can look out for is if they interrupt you or listen to you carefully when you’re speaking; does your body feel at ease during the session as opposed to tensing up; has your time been respected in terms of being on time to appointments; and have your concerns been heard with you feeling seen, heard, and respected during the process.


Lastly, it is important to trust your gut feeling going ahead. You can ask yourself questions around whether it feels like your Mental Health professional understands and truly cares about you and your problems; you are accepted for who you are; your comfort to reveal your information and be honest and open with them without having to hide or pretend to be you’re someone that you’re not; you feel listened to non-judgementally to name a few. No matter how many professional accreditations your therapist has, your own feelings of trust and comfort should be your top priority. You don’t need a reason other than you not feeling comfortable to switch therapists - that itself is enough.


Whether you’re coping with grief, trauma, battling crippling anxiety or intrusive thoughts, having relationship issues, or want treatment for a mental illness, finding a helpful Mental Health professional can make a big difference in your journey. Someone who may be highly recommended by others doesn’t have to be the right fit for you. Remember that ultimately, finding the right therapist is a personal matter and building that human connection is at the heart of effective support.


 

Written by: Yash Mehrotra


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January, 2022