Whether it’s a death, break-up, newly empty nest, illness, major move, traumatic event, or job loss, life is full of curve balls. When dealing with a new challenge, it may be a good time to consult with a holistic psychotherapist.
Finding what works for you
Choosing a holistic psychotherapist that fits your needs can be even more complicated than finding a traditional counselor—which, unto itself, can be a difficult task. Just like with finding a traditional counselor, you are not only interested in the therapist’s credentials, personality, and experience, but the chemistry between the two of you. However, with holistic psychotherapy, there are even more variables to consider.
Do you want someone who does bodywork, like massage, yoga, cranio-sacral adjustments, or the Alexander Technique? Does it matter if they have a thorough knowledge of nutrition, meditation, breathwork, homeopathy, and herbs? What about their proficiency in certain styles of counseling? Are you seeking someone with a cognitive-behavioral orientation? Do you want a more traditional analytic approach? Perhaps, you would like to work on your inner child?
While it can be daunting to wade through all the options in this ever-growing field, I believe we have an intuitive sense of what works for us, allowing us to know it when we see it. However, that doesn’t mean the professional chosen from a website or a recommendation will be best. The only way to really know is to meet them and trust your gut feeling.
Basic guidelines for choosing wisely
- This is a fairly new specialization, so practitioners run the gamut from former massage therapists who are certified coaches to psychotherapists with decades of experience. You will probably want someone who is licensed as a counselor or psychologist. That lets you know they have studied a variety of techniques even though it doesn’t guarantee a degree of proficiency.
- You may want someone whose background is like yours. If you are a former nun, you might like working with someone else who left their religious community, too.
- Find a compassionate soul. I can’t emphasize this enough. Most people have a hard time being compassionate with themselves. By having a therapist who shows you kindness you eventually learn to shower it on yourself.
- Ask a trusted friend if they know someone you might like and respect.
- Most important of all: find a holistic psychotherapist who has a nonpathologizing orientation. This is someone who will not see you and your issues as sick, but who will help you embrace yourself as you are.
- Feel free to ask any questions you deem important. These may include someone’s religious views, values, or anything else. Some people think it is preferable to have a therapist who doesn’t divulge any personal information. I completely disagree with this approach because it fosters separation between you and the therapist. This attitude also has a tendency to elevate the therapist rather than seeing them as another fallible human being. In addition, it may be easier for you to show your true self if your therapist models openness.
Remember: when you are stressed and raw with emotion, good judgment can fly out the window. You may accept poor behavior simply because you feel vulnerable or emotionally needy. Some deal breakers are obvious, like inappropriate touching, hostility, or a wellspring of negativity; others are more subtle. Again, if you don’t have a good feeling, just trust your gut and find someone else.
It is imperative to keep in mind your therapist works for you. You are paying him or her for a service. If you don’t feel comfortable, even if you can’t articulate the reason, don’t go back. The minimum requirement is feeling heard, respected, and supported. Good chemistry and an easy, comfortable rapport are also prerequisites for optimizing your therapy experience.
Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t want “shrinkage”—you want expansion. Whatever the modalities a therapist employs, look for someone who uses them to help you feel safe feeling all your feelings, accepting what you don’t like, and giving you tools to deal with what seems scary, overwhelming, or upsetting.
It is worth a little work to find a therapist who resonates with you, understands you, and shows compassion. Good luck!
© Copyright 2010 by By Nicole Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM, LMHC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.