Finding the Right Therapist: How Similarities Can Affect Growth
Recently, Vantage Point had a staff meeting where all of the therapists’ Meyers-Briggs personality types were anonymously written on the board and discussed among the group. Everyone at the meeting at first seemed puzzled and intrigued, but as the meeting went on, all of the therapists (including myself) began to make deductions about who we are as a practice and what kinds of clients frequently come to see us. From this, I gathered that many of my long-term clients, as diverse of a population as I have served in the past three years of doing counseling, tend to have the same personality traits—Introspective, warm, nurturing, thoughtful, and open.
This sparked an interest I had on the other side of the counselor’s chair—What kinds of counselors work for different clients? Obviously, counselors have to be warm and empathic, but there have been instances where certain clients do not mesh well with certain counselors. Each counselor-client relationship has a different kind of synergy in the counseling room, and there are many different components that make for a great therapeutic process. Below are four main factors that go into making a therapeutic relationship between a therapist and a client work:
- Personality Type: Typically, extraverted personalities gravitate toward other extraverted personalities. Just as introverted personalities, though more hidden than extraverts, gravitate toward introverted personalities. For example, extraverts have lower brain arousal and consistently search for higher stimulation in everyday life. If an extravert was seeing an introverted counselor and processed in session ways that they are seeking higher stimulation such as social events, an introvert would probably not be able to empathize as well as another extraverted therapist would.
- Age Range: In many general inquiries, I will get clients seeking a therapist close to their age. While I do have a wide and diverse range of clients, most of the potential clients who ask for me specifically tend to be in my same age range. This is perhaps because clients need an empathetic presence to validate their life stages (starting a career or a business, graduating from college, starting a family, etc.). In some instances, having a younger therapist is at an advantage. Statistics show that families who go to family therapy have better results when the therapist is younger because the children of the family feel more validated and less ganged up on in session.
- Therapeutic Approach: There is no one kind of therapeutic technique that works for every client. Each person walks into my office on the first visit with different experiences, different perspectives, and different realities. This is why that even though I have specific training on several main kinds of therapy, I allow my clients to tell me what they are comfortable with in the room. Some therapists have staunch views on what works for their clients, and other therapists have a more laidback, non-specific approach. I like to remain right in the middle of these two. No matter how much research there can be on one kind of therapeutic approach, there is always one client who will not be an ideal fit for it. With this understanding in mind, I maintain a firmly gentle approach, letting my clients do most of the work while still gently challenging them using various techniques I have learned.