A familiar concept, “Fit” is NOT exclusive to therapy. It’s an important concept we experience through various areas in our lives including romantic relationships, friendships, job positions, house hunting, car buying and many other life interactions. Shopping around is often driven by a need to overlap our internal selves with the external world. Finding a match with our values, personal beliefs, and overarching vision of self is important. If you went to a realtor that didn’t believe people-who-look-like-you deserve to live in accessible, sustainable neighborhoods then there’s a chance your house hunting experience is sabotaged by negative projections and misguided information. Therefore, you may find yourself interviewing, testing, and exploring your options before you invest in a huge purchase.
I encourage you to do the same with your healthcare professional. This person is going to know you very deeply and you will feel inclined to trust them. Therefore, if you genuinely feel they have your best interest in mind then there’s potential for the right fit. There are several indicators that can be utilized to determine fit. It’s not just about how they look or your initial gut feeling. Sometimes we feel uncomfortable with something because we are doing it for the first time. If discomfort is your immediate response it isn’t always the most reliable indicator of fit. Discomfort comes with the territory of change. Here’s a handful of additional indicators to consider before you either take on or drop your wellness professional.
Other Indicators of Fit
- Budget & Availability
- Sense of Humor
- Therapist Participation
- Professional Values & Ethics
- Areas of Expertise
- Therapeutic Interventions & Training
- Culture & Language
- Religion or Spiritual Beliefs
Let’s breakdown the following three indicators
- Therapeutic Interventions
- Budget & Availability
- Culture & Language
You made a decision to see a professional about strong feelings you’re having about the last year of changes in your life and changes to come. The feelings you’re having may be a mystery still but you know that finding the right person will not only help you to verbalize your experience but will provide some relief from the discomfort. However, you look online and you notice tons of terms you don’t recognize or “therapy approaches” you’ve never heard of in your life. Here’s the fast and dirty breakdown of a few popular approaches used by modern trained wellness practitioners.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Imagine a triangle (pic)
It has three points. Yes?
CBT puts an emphasis on Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions. It suggests that these three points intersect and impact the other. For example, if someone tells themself “I’m not good enough. Why did they hire me? I’m going to mess up.” More than likely this individual’s thoughts will impact how they feel and potentially what they do. Oftentimes what I find is a person who has a negative, self-defeating-mantra then experiences heightened anxiety, worry, and in some cases sadness. The preoccupation with these negative thoughts and feelings sometimes translates into hiding behind their colleagues, not being a self-starter, and other behaviors that validate their inner dialogue.
Therefore, one approach to intercepting this harsh cycle is to disrupt the negative mantra, challenge it with something positive or a counter argument that utilizes more facts than emotions.
All of my clients have probably heard me say it at least once . . .
“Feelings aren’t facts!”
And then I quickly laugh a little and explain what I mean. It’s not meant to invalidate but instead it’s meant to disrupt the belief that you are what you feel and that’s it! Logical exploration and data have a place somewhere even for a more emotional person. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves what does the data say?
Well, in the case of the example above the company hired you after rigorous interviews. A hiring team or manager saw talent and fit, a review process occurred, and the company spent money to come to their decision. Chances are you did something really great in your interview, resume, and body of work that demonstrated your ability to do the job. Data has a place in your life especially when we need it to balance out our emotions
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Let’s carry the example from above to understand ACT. The foundation of ACT sits on the concept of psychological flexibility. Instead of changing the thought as examined with CBT, one would accept, be present, and defuse these cognitions. Instead of fighting with self, an individual would embrace the hurtful thoughts as where they are in the moment and explore their state of mind. Defusing the negative thoughts can occur by dismantling the function of the thought. Strategies are utilized to decrease the harmfulness and power of the thought. Ultimately, ACT would help you diminish the intensity of feeling one is not “good enough” for the job they were hired for by changing the function of the thoughts.
Dare I say it again?
“Feelings aren’t facts!”
Feelings hold great significance in our lives and are certainly necessary to live happily (feeling). At the same time, to achieve balance means we must acknowledge other players in the room in this case logical – data. External Link – ACT
This approach is a mindset that’s integrated into empirically based therapy interventions like the previously mentioned approaches (i.e. ACT and CBT). Practitioners typically attend training sessions and supervision to inform their psychological practice and support and the psychological needs of marginalized people. In this climate, it’s necessary to speak with someone who sees you as a whole and dynamic person. Not just your symptoms, your degree, or social status.
Budget & Availability
It’s important to select someone who you can continue to see for at least a year or 24-40 sessions. There’s a financial cost to seeking professional support and the last thing you want is financial stress interrupting your progress. If cost is a big factor for you, consider seeking low-cost or free services at community centers, universities (e.g. University of Miami affordable services for non-students), or ask if a clinician has openings for sliding scale services. In some cases, you’ll be offered an opportunity to work with a clinician in training. This means the clinician isn’t licensed but the great news is the clinician is supervised by an experienced-licensed clinician. Think of it like this – you get a two-for-one deal at a lower cost.
Additionally, it is not helpful to work with a therapist who does not have overlapping availability with your schedule. If you work 60 hours and only have weekend availability then your wellness professional would need to have weekend openings. It’s slightly more of logistical fit but important nonetheless to establishing a healthy, beneficial therapeutic relationship. Do not expect your clinician to bend their set schedule for you. Chances are they have other commitments and if you need a specific time each week then finding someone who can fit that need will offer longevity in the relationship.
Behind the degree and accolades, wellness professionals are living breathing, real-ass people with personality quirks of their own. Just as you, we develop a professional identity over years of training and experience. I’ve had some clients come to me and say they are looking for a therapist who talks and they want to be challenged. I love to hear when a person knows what they need from their support system. While I can’t speak for all therapists, I’d bet that practitioners generally appreciate hearing your needs and interests up front. We too are assessing for fit upfront. There’s no need to sell you on going with us when we know that fit is a primary indicator of success.
If you do not want to hear your wellness practitioners voice and would prefer to have a place to vent, talk, and self-process don’t hesitate to share that with them during your consultation call or at any point in the relationship. It doesn’t mean we will change our approach for you but we may tell you upfront we operate differently. We can always make a referral and end on a positive note.
I apologize if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed after this post. Finding a healthcare professional is not a “shot in the dark” type of effort. This is your life we are talking about, but giving up is not an option. There are plenty of options in the market and you are one email, one visit away from finding the person that will support your journey of self-discovery.
The resources offered below set out to destigmatize therapy in Black communities. Men, these resources are not only for women so jump on in and consider these resources for yourself as well. Also, if you have resources specifically for Black wellness communities please reach out via my contact form.
Black Therapist Rock
Therapy for Black Men
Therapy for Black Girls
Black Female Therapist