You have just had it! You are tired of feeling stuck/frustrated/depleted, and you know that the time has come to seek outside, professional help. But you are in a quandary. You know that for therapy to be helpful, you need to be open and give the therapist a window into what is going on inside, because in order for someone to really help, he needs to understand you. He needs to see not only your gifts and strengths, but also your vulnerabilities and insecurities. This is tough, and frankly, it’s risky. The more open you are, the more you expose yourself to potential criticism and one-upmanship. Sure, he will encourage you to be open, and he will reassure you that you can trust him. But how can you be sure? Perhaps you have trusted in the past and been hurt as a result.
Here is my advice to you: Do not just trust. When you initially meet with a therapist, pay attention to your feelings as you sit with him. Does he feel like a judgmental, critical person? Does he seem like a person you might feel comfortable opening up to? If you do not feel comfortable with him, there are 2 possible reasons. Either he is not the right fit for you, or alternatively, the prospect of the inner work you are about to do feels so threatening and scary that you would feel uneasy with any therapist. One way of testing this out is by taking a small risk and mentioning this discomfort to him. See how he reacts. If you are comfortable with his reaction, then give it a few sessions to determine if he is the right fit for you. Trust your feelings.
If you do decide to give it a go with this therapist, then a helpful guiding principle in therapy is to take judicious risks. Expose yourself just slightly more than you are comfortable with and see how he reacts. Do you experience him as open and accepting or as judgmental and recriminatory? If you do experience negative feedback from him, bring it up with him. How does he react when you bring it up? In short, experiment. Take small to increasingly larger risks sharing yourself with him and see if he earns your trust.
It is important to understand that the feelings of uncertainty and fear that come up around exposing yourself are not some kind of “psychological resistance” that need to be circumvented. They are legitimate feelings that are in place in order to keep you feeling safe and respected. You deserve to be treated with compassion and respect. Allow the therapist to earn your trust instead of unnaturally and prematurely forcing yourself to trust him.
Trust should not require a leap of faith, just a small hop.
Raphael Schondorf M.Sc. is an individual and family therapist who maintains a private practice in Modiin Illit and Yerushalayim. He treats men, teens, children drawing upon a wide range of therapeutic modalities including, EMDR, IFS and ACT. He can be reached at 052-765-3978 or [email protected].