Understanding “Goodness of Fit” in the Therapeutic Relationship

By Catherine on August 29, 2022

There is substantial evidence within Common Factors Theory that supports the significance of the therapeutic relationship between client and therapist. This relationship acts as the foundation upon which trust is built, treatments and interventions are implemented, and goals are achieved. So, how does a client know when he or she has found a therapist who is a good fit so that a strong relationship can develop?

When initially choosing a therapist, clients most commonly rely on information gathered from referring professionals and online sources that outline the therapist’s educational background, work experience and theoretical orientation. This is a great start, but the evaluation phase does not have to stop there.

Many therapists offer potential clients a brief complimentary phone consultation to answer questions, but even more importantly, to simply have the chance to speak to one another. This is a great opportunity to assess for an initial comfort level and connection. If an appointment is scheduled, a client can continue to use the first session as a way to determine if goodness of fit exists, without feeling pressured to stay with that specific clinician. Below are questions that a client could ask himself or herself during the first session to determine compatibility:

  • Do I feel a sense of ease sitting in the room with this person?
  • Do I feel heard and validated?
  • Am I able to determine my own therapeutic goals?
  • Does this person seem qualified to help with my particular issue or concerns?
  • Is my gut feeling that this is a good fit?

At the end of the day, it’s a good for clients to remember that therapists are human beings first and professionals second. Because of this, therapists not only bring their expertise but also their world views into the therapy room, which inevitably influences the way in which they practice. Clients owe it to themselves to find a fellow human being with whom they can connect to help navigate the path toward therapeutic success and personal fulfillment.