So you decided to seek the assistance of a mental health provider. With social stigmas and a misunderstanding about mental health, this is one of the most difficult decisions an individual can make. You should be proud of yourself!
Being a mental health professional of any sort is admirable and takes real guts. I find that anyone who chooses to pursue this career is nothing short of salt of the earth. However, you should be selective in your decision in order to find the mental health provider that you really gel with.
Here are seven traits to look for:
1. Displays Emotional Intelligence
“Emotional Intelligence” is the set of skills used to understand and manage emotions effectively. Possessing strong emotional intelligence will help a provider read concealed emotions that individuals who are just beginning to seek help from professionals may be apprehensive about sharing. The ability to interpret facial expressions and other body language will allow the provider to understand how the discussion is making the consumer feel.
2. Communicates Clearly
Symptoms of mental health disorders can make you feel isolated and vulnerable. A mental health professional should be able to explain to you, in simple but not condescending terms, what your body and mind are going through. They will express the medical diagnosis behind what you are experiencing and practice direct communication so that you remain informed and empowered.
The relationship between the provider and the consumer must find common ground in order to be effective. The vulnerability displayed by the consumer upon seeking care should be reciprocated by the provider. In order to accomplish this, the provider should, whenever appropriate, inject the discussion with relevant anecdotes from their own lives. This will better connect the provider and the consumer on a personal level.
While you want your counselor to be relatable and trustworthy, you also want to benefit from their professional knowledge. The therapy techniques from these professionals should not feel freestyle, but instead rooted in current evidence-based findings. After assessing a client’s situation, your provider should be able to feel confident in their selection of a treatment plan. Most providers posses a wide knowledge of different approaches to psychotherapy, and will ultimately adapt their approach depending on the consumer’s needs.
It is important to feel like the relationship between you and your provider is going to be a productive one. After a few introductory sessions, the provider should be able to tailor a plan with your best interests in mind.
From there, tangible goals should be set in place so your progress can be measured. This is important because when you feel as though you are faltering, your provider will be able to provide a measurable record of your success. A goal such as “to feel happy again” is should be broken down into concrete tasks. What exactly does this look like to you? Small, measurable steps are one of the secrets to progress.
It may be difficult to identify plausible goals if depression has really taken its toll, but an effective provider will be able assist with goal-making through questions and further discussion.
6. Feels like a partner
An appointment with a provider should not hold the same dread as an appointment with a primary-care physician or dentist. Instead, the appointment should be something to look forward to. Similar to building trust, you should be able to form a working relationship that feels like a partnership, otherwise known as a therapeutic alliance. Use your best judgment and remain intentional when searching for a provider in order to find someone you can establish a therapeutic alliance with easily.
7. Tailors treatment to you
Upon learning more about you, the provider should have a basic understanding of your cultural, social, and personal background. This knowledge will help them create a more personal treatment plan for you. According to Wake Forest University’s online counseling program, one of the best ways for a provider to connect with their client is ask them for clarification. Everyone has different definitions for success and happiness, so it is important that the provider knows your personal goals and definitions.
The process of finding the right provider may require patience, but it is important to remain candid about your needs and what you’re looking for in an appointment. Remember, mental health professionals are trained to listen and assist you in the most effective way possible.