Your body is your most important teacher. Sometimes we struggle with knowing cognitively if our therapist is a good match so here’s a list of ways to check in with your body. This list is for clients who have been going to therapy for at least 2-3 sessions but there are ALWAYS grey areas. If you’re feeling some or all of these and have trauma, see if you can bring to mind a safe person and imagine how their presence feels in your body. Ideally, this person should bring a sense of openness, expansion (like you want to lean in), or groundedness. Consider using your awareness of your safe person as a way to compare to your therapist somatically.
Sometimes it can take a while to feel safe with a person. If you know this is you and you need time, keep that in mind here. But if you’ve been going to a few sessions and still feel this way, it might mean you aren’t a good match. Your body might be telling you something important. Somatic expressions of safety and comfort are just as, if not more, important as cognitive measures.
Here's a list of ways you can check in with your body when evaluating whether or not your therapist is a good fit for you:
1. You frequently feel like you dissociate or leave your body in sessions.
If you're giving your therapist feedback about this and it's still happening, you might want to pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. We escape our bodies when we don't feel safe. If we don't feel safety with someone while also sharing major parts of our lives, we could retraumatize ourselves.
2. You feel disconnected from your whole self for most or all of the session.
Similar to what was mentioned above. Give feedback to your therapist. It could be that you are picking up on something your therapist is projecting onto you or maybe an old defense or protective part of you is showing up. If you've tried working through this with your therapist to no avail, trust your gut. Therapy is most effective when we feel like we can be ourselves and not hide.
3. Your body feels pulled inward or constricted when you imagine your therapist in front of you.
Again, listen to your body. If your body is constricting most or all of your sessions together, it probably isn't a coincidence.
4. It takes several days after most or all sessions to get back to feeling grounded or whole.
It's normal to have a therapy "hangover" for about a day, sometimes two when we first start therapy or when we've had a big session. What's not normal is when we feel this way after all of our sessions or if the hangover lasts for multiple days, causing other parts of our life to become disrupted. It could be that your therapist needs to give you some time at the end of each session to ground before leaving. Bring this up at your next session but if things don't improve, you might want to search for someone who can move at a slower pace.
5. You don't feel a sense of relaxation, expansion or forward movement either in your sessions or afterwards.
Therapy is hard work but we do it because of the reward at the end. If you're not noticing any positive sensations in your body or never feel a sense of relaxation or expansion either in or after your sessions, pay attention and give feedback to your therapist. You should feel some sense of relief or expansion in your body when you're working with a therapist who is a good fit.
6. Imagining your therapist in front of you doesn't bring a sense of warmth or openness in your body.
This one is self-explanatory but goes without saying. If you try this out, notice what your body wants to do without judgment. Pay attention to the wisdom your body has to offer.