Whenever I have a potential client referral reach out, it’s important to me to screen them to ensure I am the right fit for the person. Sometimes I will ask questions, such as “What is bringing you to therapy?”, “What style of therapy are you hoping for?”, and “What are you hoping to work on?” These questions help me quickly see if I may or may not be a quality match for the client.
Why is this so important? There are so many different types and styles of therapy! Sometimes what a client is looking for is not a great match for my style. And that’s okay!
Today I’m going to talk about some of the personal styles of therapy that exist. My hope is that if you are searching, this will help you narrow down what exactly you are looking for. This will also help give you, the client, additional questions to ask when you are screening to decide if a therapist is a good fit for YOU.
Therapists Who Just Listen
There are just therapists who listen. Typically in these types of sessions, therapists will allow clients to completely lead and drive the topic the whole time. The therapist’s role is very limited and they are more in a quiet, supportive role.
This type of therapy can be helpful for those clients who are verbal processors. If you have a problem or a situation, it may be helpful to talk it out with this type of therapist. Typically, you will arrive at your own solution with very minimal assistance from the therapist. They may ask you what you need, how you feel, etc. But for the most part, their role is small. The downfalls of this type of therapy are that you don’t get a lot of feedback, and you often are not challenged by the therapist. You also have to know what it is you want to work on for each session. It’s easy with this type of therapy to feel a little stuck or stagnant after a while.
Therapists Who Offer Feedback
This type of session is more like a conversation. You may bring in the topic, situation, or problem, and the therapist has an active role in helping you work through it. The therapist will challenge any cognitive distortions (also known as stinking thinking), and help you see blind spots you may be missing. This type of therapy is still very driven by you, the client.
This type of therapy is probably the most common. There are still some downfalls to it. First of all, it’s still very much driven by the client. This is great, except sometimes as the client, you don’t always know all the things you want/need to work on. You may know something is off, but you may not be able to put words to it.
Second, while you do receive constructive feedback in this type of therapy, there is not a lot of structure to what you work on. For example, you may briefly cover the topic of codependency, but it may just be a conversation in the middle of a session, with very little direction of what to do about your codependent tendencies. In this type of therapy, it’s common to cover a lot of different topics but not necessarily dig really deep into them.
Therapists Who Educate
This type of therapy is a combination of all styles. While these therapists are still good listeners and provide feedback, they also teach you, the client, about yourself and others around you. So what does this look like in a session?
Imagine you are coming to a therapy session with an issue. Let’s say you are struggling with feeling like people often take advantage of you. You may feel like whenever you attempt to use your voice, others don’t listen. A therapist who educates would actively listen, and ask questions about how this makes you feel, what you want to change, and what you need. They would gather information about the situation.
Then, the therapist would educate you on what they are seeing. Using the above example, the therapist may take some time to talk to you about your lack of boundaries in your life. They may teach you about boundaries—what they are, why they are important, and how to set them. They may use previous examples of situations you’ve brought into session to show you that this is a pattern of behavior—and that you consistently struggle to set boundaries with others. The therapist may also dig into why this is.
Maybe you weren’t allowed to have boundaries growing up. Maybe no one in your family listened to you, and you don’t feel worthy of having your voice heard. You may have a lot of shame and don’t feel like you are good enough to be respected by others. A therapist who educates will dig into your childhood and the impact of your family of origin. They may give you a handout or worksheet in order to work on boundaries in between sessions. They will probably recommend a book or two to look into.
While there is no one-size-fits-all therapy, I think it’s important to discuss that there are personal styles when it comes to therapists. When you are searching for your own therapist, it’s important to know what you personally would benefit from. Are you someone who needs to process out loud, and need a therapist who just listens? Do you need a therapy process that’s more conversation-like and collaborative? Or do you need to know what you don’t know, and need a therapist who educates and teaches?
Whatever you need, make sure you are communicating to your potential therapist what type of style you would prefer to see if they are a good match. If you’re already in therapy, and you are not getting what you need from the sessions, it’s imperative that you communicate this to your therapist to see if this is something that can be altered in your sessions. Remember, not every therapist is the right fit for every person!
*Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Journey to Joy Counseling. Christy enjoys doing marriage/couples counseling, individual counseling, premarital counseling. She also provides family counseling, teen and adolescent counseling.
Journey to Joy Counseling serves the Indianapolis area, including Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.