Please tell me how to therapy again
September 21, 2022 2:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm currently trying to find a new therapist. I've had a few sessions with three different therapists, and each time have come away feeling that they weren't a good fit, and haven't continued with them. I have a session with a new therapist on Friday, and I'd like to try and make sure that I'm doing everything I can to see if they're right for me.

Basically, I'm back where I was earlier this year again, with my spouse (they/them) once again struggling with anxiety and the news. We think that this might be at least in part an hormonal issue, and they're pursuing that (without much luck) with their doctor.

On top of that, we've recently exchanged contracts on a house, which has been inordinately stressful. In the process of that barrel of screaming monkeys, I pretty much lost part of my support network (said friend later confessed that he had romantic feelings for me; after I told him that I couldn't return those feelings, he decided that he needed to take a step back from being part of my life in general, which I completely understand).

All of this has not been fun, and I've been trying to find a therapist to talk to, because I need to talk to someone about all of this, and try to sort out the general noise in my head. I know that it's been wearing on me, because I've become increasingly irritable with people of late, and I'm starting to feel the temptation to make some poor choices that I know would ultimately be self-destructive.

So far, the therapists I've seen have been… not great. They've been either seemingly disengaged, apparently judgemental about aspects of my character or that of my spouse, or have borded on kink-shaming when it came to discussing aspects of my sex life.

I'm meeting with a new therapist on Friday. This guy has all the credentials, and at least seems on the face of it to be a good fit. But I'd like to go in there with the confidence to be able to come out of the session knowing for sure that if he's not a good fit, I did everything I could to check before walking away.

What's your advice for starting with a new therapist? Should I lay everything out in the first session, or should I be more cautious with what I talk about? I've been very candid and vulnerable so far, and I think that's left me feeling a bit rejected and bruised when things haven't worked out.

Really, I'm just looking for some guidance. The last therapist I had I stuck with for 8 years, and I knew after one session that she was a good fit for me. This time around is proving much harder.
posted by six sided sock to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Lay it all out there, see what their reaction is, and (here's the important part) address their reaction if it's uncomfortable to you. See if it's what you think it is, and if not, if they seem open to feedback on what they're doing. What we all take and assume to be the inherent authority structure of a therapy session makes it easy to forget that you, too, are a full participant who helps to determine what happens in treatment.
posted by less-of-course at 3:07 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]

I am in the process of finding a new therapist myself, and so I’ll be reading other folks’ advice with great interest.

Do the providers you’ve seen offer a brief intro session to see if you’re a fit? In the US, this is common, but I don’t know about elsewhere. If it’s not clear whether they do or not, it seems worth asking for: a 15-min call to touch quickly on your goals for therapy and see how they would approach work with you.

If there are any dealbreakers for you, a quick call could be a time to talk them through: has this therapist treated members of the kink community before? Do they work in A or B or C modality that you’re interested in? What practices would they bring to bear on your high-level goal for therapy? What is their interaction style - as a therapist friend put it, “what are they like in the room” with clients? You’ve experienced therapists saying things that came off as judgmental about you/your partner - how would they handle a similar situation?

I’ve actually been putting off my own search because finding a therapist can be so like dating, and I am avoiding the discomfort of trying a number of folks and feeling discouraged. Wishing you luck in your search!
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 4:34 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd start by asking yourself what you really want from therapy right now. Is it to be pushed out of your comfort zone by someone who's blunt but you trust has your best interests at heart or do you want to feel fully supported and not questioned too deeply at this time in your life? There's no wrong or right answer other than what you want. I have wanted both scenarios at different times in my life. The former was the best ultimately but it took the latter to get ready to even start to go there emotionally.

When I met my great therapist match, I didn't immediately think that she was The One but I did believe she might be the one. It was a rocky start because I was doing hard trauma work but now things are so good and I'm glad I weathered the storm. Listening to your gut is wise; a good therapist match likely feels safe but not necessarily comfortable at first, at least for me. Every relationship takes time to build and trust is something that is built over time as you know! I wish you luck: it sounds like you have a good plan and openness!
posted by smorgasbord at 7:26 PM on September 21

Unless you have a specific thing you’d like help with that takes priority over finding a therapist who is nonjudgmental (e.g., you urgently need help for a phobia), I’d make a habit of asking, before scheduling an initial session, “do you have experience working with clients in the kink community?” or something like that. In the US, I’d tell you to Google “kink-affirming therapist in [city],” but I don’t know how commonly therapists in your area advertise that way.
posted by theotherdurassister at 8:12 PM on September 21

Remember, half of all therapists perform their professional work below median standards. It can take some effort to find a good fit, but as you know, it's worth it because it makes all the difference. People put weight on the "power" differential between therapists and clients, but clients hold the ultimate power to fire a therapist. Clients have every right (and responsibility) to advocate for their needs and preferences.

Some resources I hope are useful to you:

Questions for prospective therapists -- Seven tips for therapy

Kink and Polyamory Aware Professionals Directory (KAP)
posted by dancing leaves at 6:12 AM on September 22 [1 favorite]

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