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This Small Gesture Made Me Realize I’d Found a Good Therapist


Do you know how to decide you have found a good psychologist or therapist? I don’t know the exact blend either but sometimes, in my opinion, it will be a defining factor that just feels right.

When I first met my psychologist, I had an immediate shutdown response. She was everything I wasn’t, with a floral skirt, chunky jewelry, long untied hair and a very “grown up,” therapist vibe. I didn’t connect because I thought she would be too “fluffy” and not “get me,” and so I requested a male psychologist who would be more straightforward to talk to. My therapist wrote me a letter commending me for my honesty and said she would find somebody. When nobody was forthcoming, she asked me to have a second go at working with her. I’m very glad I did; my prejudgement proved to be more about my issues, not hers.

My psychologist is quite softly spoken with what I call “therapisty” body language — the clasped hands, open body posture, head tilt and eye contact. But she’s also got a potty mouth, a great sense of humor, calls you on your bull — sternly if need be — and an amazing assortment of shoes. She also lets me and the group I’m in express ourselves our way, so we are often in our socks, shoes kicked off, drawing out concepts using quotes, road signs, graphs and cartoons. We practice remembering our skills by playing catch with a juggling ball, we scribble out sections we hate or rewrite them, and we have a great selection of bubbles, pretty things to look at or hold, and a talking stick.

But this latest week cemented it for me. Sometimes, when I feel really bad, I need to sit on the floor. If I can feel the wall at my back and the floor under my legs and feet, I’m connected, tethered to the earth — not spiraling inside my own head. Last week, I had to sit on the floor for our whole one-to-one session… so, she sat on the floor too. She spent the entire session sat on the floor with me.

It was a small gesture, but she didn’t look down on me while I talked. She came down to where I was and didn’t try to make me move. She met me where I needed to be and was with me. That’s a good therapist.

Getty Images photo via Millann.