Cultivating Your Ideal Therapeutic Space

Have you ever heard of the concept of the “ideal client”? This is a phrase that therapists use to describe the clients with whom they are best suited to work with. However, I believe that in therapy this idea of best fit is not only malleable but also is a powerful tool it when flows in both directions.

When clients first arrive in my office (or over telehealth these days, hi pandemic) one of the first conversations we have is about expectations they have of me as well as who I consider my ideal client to be. This conversation serves as the foundation for our co-created therapeutic relationship. Therapy is an investment that you are putting time, money, and a lot of work into. Therefore, allowing yourself to ask for what you aren’t receiving (e.g., more direct feedback, more assignments outside of session, more warmth, more psychoeducation, or maybe a conversation to help explore what it is that’s missing because you feel that but aren’t sure what it is), what you would like to receive, or for what you do not want from your therapist is critical. If the therapeutic relationship is a good fit, your therapist will receive and incorporate your feedback ( and hopefully celebrate you voicing your needs!) and if not, the relationship may not be the best fit.

Now, if you’re thinking “cool but that sounds intimidating af,” I see you people pleaser in recovery. And I’ve got you covered.

Here are a few areas that I always encourage my clients to ask me about if they aren’t sure how to assess our best fit. This list usually sparks their own curiosities and we’re off running from there.

  • What are your beliefs about therapy? (aka, how does your therapist define therapy)
  • Have you been to therapy yourself? What did you work on? How does that impact your work with clients?
  • What do you expect of your clients/who is your ideal client?
  • How does your training impact your clinical work? What areas of growth do you see in your training/current work?
  • How do you navigate conflict with clients? Do you plan to check in with me to ensure that I am still satisfied with my treatment?
  • How do your political beliefs impact your clinical work? How do you advocate for marginalized communities in your own personal life?
  • How do you plan to grow your clinical knowledge this coming year? How do you anticipate that impacting our work together?
  • What do you do when you have a client who brings you an issue that you aren’t familiar with? What does your professional network look like?

In particular, I enjoy asking clients what they notice in my body language and facial expressions (and within themselves) as they’re asking these questions. Aka, do you see integrity, continuity, passion? Or do you notice discomfort and anxiety? And if so, what does that tell you about this person?

So there you have it. A few ideas to get you going when trying to find the right fit with a therapist. Just because the process can be intimidating and scary doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to advocate for yourself and have tools to empower your decision. Bonus points if you journal about your experience.

Take good care,