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Achieving Successful Therapeutic Relationships in Mental Health: Compatibility and Beyond

With so many options for therapy and different types of mental health professionals you can engage with, how do you tell if you’ve found a good fit?

Is your therapist a good fit for you?

For those who are new to therapy, you may assume that any therapist or counsellor you engage with will be the right choice. You may not give a second thought to whether they are the right fit for you or if there might be someone else who can better meet your individual mental healthcare needs. You may simply be happy to have found someone who’s available and fits into your schedule! Of course, those two factors are important when finding the right fit, but there are several others to consider.

Signs of good therapeutic fit

  1. Do you leave your therapy sessions feeling more confident in your abilities to handle challenging situations? If yes, then you likely have a good fit with your provider. You are making progress towards your goals and leaving your sessions feeling better than when you went in.
  2. You find yourself thinking about how your therapist might suggest you handle a particular situation. This demonstrates that you are applying what you’ve discussed with your therapist, demonstrating a shift away from your old habitual thinking and towards growth.
  3. You feel comfortable being entirely open with your therapist. It may feel natural to be closed off at first, but a therapist who is the right fit for you will help you to open up quite early on in your relationship. Your therapist should provide a trusting, judgement free experience .
  4. You feel that your therapist has your best interests at heart.
  5. They respectfully challenge you by addressing thought processes to promote growth and identifying habits that aren’t serving your goals.
  6. They are flexible with solutions and focus of therapy.
  7. You feel heard. They are a good communicator who listens well and is purposeful when speaking. They help guide you toward clarity and growth. It is their job to confirm comprehension and rephrase if needed.
  8. A good therapist will check in with you. If they emphasize your direction, insights, and progress and frequently ask for your input, you have found a great therapist.

Ultimately, you should be able to see or feel a shift of improvement from therapy. With the right fit, you’ll have more tools to choose from and feel empowered and valued through your therapeutic relationship.

Therapy red flags

A therapist that may be great for someone else, may not be the right fit for you. Here are some things to look out for if you’re trying to determine if you should move on from your current therapist.

  1. You don’t feel better or regularly feel worse leaving each session
  2. You don’t feel like you’re growing
  3. You don’t trust your therapist
  4. Your therapist doesn’t seem to understand or relate to you
  5. You can’t see them enough or have recurring scheduling issues
  6. They don’t take feedback or opposition well
  7. They overshare about their own life instead of focusing on you, their client

A significant red flag that should trigger you to end your therapeutic relationship is if no growth is happening, but you still feel dependent on your therapist and call them whenever things go wrong. This doesn’t mean that therapy is not for you, it simply means you need to find a better therapeutic match.

It is also possible that you are ready to graduate from therapy. You have got what you need from the relationship and are able to ‘go it alone’. If this is the case, you may want to end your therapeutic relationship.

Handling the therapy ‘break up’

Ending your therapeutic relationship is not like that of a romantic one. No one is leaving the situation with hurt feelings. Moving on from a therapist is a completely normal expectation. Therapy is a service you are accessing to help improve your life in some way so if it isn’t working or you have received what you need from it, you are wisely advocating for yourself by ending it.

Unfortunately, knowing this doesn’t always make it any less difficult to do.

If you’ve been engaged in therapy regularly for more than a month and something’s not working for you, instead of ending the relationship you can choose to refine it by talking to your therapist. For example, you could say: “I wanted to bring up my goal to ____. I’m concerned we are not meeting them together. Is there any way we can get closer to achieving this?” Hopefully the therapist will be open and receptive to clarifying your goals and milestones. If the therapist is not receptive, you have the confirmation you need that the two of you should part ways.

Disengaging from therapy without communication is not ideal as your therapist will be checking in for contact and may be worried about your safety depending on your situation. You don’t have to justify why you are disengaging. It’s ok to leave your message vague if that is what you feel comfortable with.

Here are some helpful scripts for parting ways that can be used via email, text message, or in conversation:

  • “Thank you for your time and assistance thus far, I just wanted to let you know I will be taking a therapeutic break for now”.
  • “I appreciate our time together however I do not think I’m interested in going any further together. If something changes, I know how to reach you.”
  • “I will think about these items/matters and will let you know if I want to rebook.”

A more direct approach would be one of the following scripts:

  • “I want to end our work together because I have different goals/commitments/priorities right now.”
  • “I really appreciate the work we’ve done together. I realize that I need something different now, but I appreciate your willingness to help me.”
  • “I think I’ve made a lot of progress in our time together, and I feel that it’s time for me to move on.”
  • “A few weeks ago, I mentioned [insert concerns here]. I don’t see enough of a change for it to make sense that we continue our sessions.”

Navigating Mental Health Care Services

The many stages of therapy, from entry to disengagement, can feel very intimidating and sometimes even exhausting. Fortunately, there is support available to you to help you navigate entry into therapy and beyond. At Harrison Healthcare, our Mental Health Care Navigator (MHCN) is a specialized role and can help you move past any barriers that are keeping you from getting the therapy you need and deserve.

A MHCN can help you zone-in on your preferences, goals, options and use that information to personalize a solution that fits this stage of your life. They have relationships in the community to help match you to the right care provider sooner or connect you to the resource most suited to your needs. At Harrison, we help with the leg work and stay on top of your evolving needs so you feel supported and empowered along your health and wellness path.


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