Professional and Approachable
When looking for a therapist, it is crucial to find someone who is able to be approachable and professional at the same time. I have met doctors who were so detached and clinically cold, it was off putting and discouraging to talk to them at all. They scribbled notes, frowned the whole time, and some even jumped to conclusions and diagnoses. It is not bad to have a diagnosis (in fact, I strongly recommend asking for a diagnosis by the first two sessions).
Next, you need to make sure the therapist you are working with is supportive of your lifestyle. I have encountered homophobic and racist therapists, unfortunately. Therapists, for the most part, tend to be upfront about their approaches and techniques. While in the mental hospital, I was exposed to a heavy dose of Judeo-Christian influences in our group therapy sessions and 12 Step Program.
Gender and religion sometimes can help when it comes to therapy. Often, as an approach to trauma, doctors remind me of a bigger picture when it comes to my struggles, but, of course it depends on the patient–or as they refer to us: “clients.”
Let’s talk about pacing. Therapy is all about give and take. You don’t want to go to a therapist without a plan. It’s very helpful to write down things you want to tackle in the session. You can make a mental note of topics and incidents you’d like to discuss. Sometimes, topics come up organically, and it’s very advisable to go with the flow in these instances. But, for the most part, it is your session, so please do take it seriously and take control. Steer conversations to hit on your troubles. The key is to ask questions so that you are not doing all the talking. Ask about your diagnoses and tendencies. After a while, you and your therapist will find there are prominent topics that ebb and flow through your life. Sometimes, it is bad habits (like negative self talk, or all or nothing thinking, and so on). At other times, it is illness-related issues, such as: trauma, assault, abuse, drug abuse, self harm, etc.
Try to create continuity from session to session by asking for required reading, videos, or homework. These things should help apply coping techniques discussed in therapy. If your therapist is not giving you coping techniques, ask them to. Remember, this is your session. It is up to you to make the most out of it.
Now, go get theraped.