Don't be afraid to shop around for a good match between you and your psychotherapist.
Some people think that going to a therapist is like going to a car mechanic. They expect the therapist to diagnose a specific problem and fix it just as the mechanic puts in new brake pads or readjusts the carburetor. These clients expect something to happen to them. That is not the case. Don’t expect your therapist to have all the answers. Therapists don’t come with crystal balls.
You have the answers. They are already within you. The psychotherapist helps you discover those answers as you examine your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. I think of therapy as education. In therapy you may learn new skills to help you communicate better, decrease difficulties in your life and increase benefits.
The majority of therapists spend most of the time talking with you as they aid you in understanding yourself,your relationships and your emotions. Some may ask you to examine your dreams. Cognitive therapists teach you how to pinpoint and change negative thoughts that are self-defeating. Transpersonal therapists usually have a spiritual approach. Energy psychotherapists may teach you acupressure or mindfulness methods to heal old wounds by changing the chemistry of your brain.
Don't be afraid to shop around for a good match between you and your therapist. No matter how well trained that person is, if you are not at ease with him or her or willing to talk about personal problems or feelings, you will be wasting your money. Trust your intuition.
When my daughter was a teenager I was a single parent in a quandary about how to deal with her behavior. I wasn't a therapist at that time, and our small family was in turmoil. I found a psychologist who was well known, highly credentialed, and very expensive. After two family counseling sessions with him I cringed at the thought of going back, but I told myself that he knew what he was doing since he was so well known. Fortunately, my daughter trusted her intuition and absolutely refused to go back under any circumstances. It turned out that none of us liked him or felt comfortable with him. We found someone else that we liked and trusted and got better results.
About a year later I bumped into an acquaintance I hadn't seen in a long time. She looked happy and excitedly reported that her wellbeing was due to working with a wonderful psychologist. He had helped her change her life. When I asked who it was, she gave me the name of the man my family had hated!
The lesson here is not that someone you don't like isn’t a good therapist, it's that someone you don’t feel comfortable with is not the right helper for you. If you have health insurance ask your insurance company for more than one referral just in case, so you can choose wisely.
When you have a friends or family members who rave about their therapist, take the recommendation seriously only if your friends or family have shown significant and visible changes in behavior and attitudes during their therapy.
Once doctors have finished their basic training they can continue with specialty trainings to become surgeons, obstetricians, cardiologists, and more. This is not the case with psychotherapists. Most Psychologists, Marriage and Family Therapists and Social Workers get basic training plus the equivalent of an internship before they take their license exam. Those who are interested in specializing in specific areas like addiction, bi-polar disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders etc. must get additional training on their own.
Connie had been seeing a friendly therapist twice a week for years. When a family emergency occurred she phoned and asked her therapist if she would give Connie some tools to handle the problem. Her therapist replied, "Why don't you come in and we can talk about it." Connie was desperate. She knew that talking was not going to give her the tools she needed.
Connie had heard about the classes I offer in which I teach powerful self-help modalities such as EFT and The Phoenix Effect Process so she contacted me and learned a number of specific ways to deal with her stress and anxiety with confidence. Afterward she began to wonder about all the time and money she had spent over the years with her therapist and whether she was experiencing any positive measurable result from those sessions.
When you meet with a new therapist, it is OK to ask direct questions about his background. Ask what qualifies him to be a specialist in the problem you want help with. When you go to a medical specialist you want to see a doctor who has seen hundreds of cases or be operated on by a surgeon who has done the procedure you are having hundreds of times. It is the same with mental health professionals.
Beware of a therapist who acts like a judgmental parent. My client Mary eloped with someone she had dated only twice, just before her thirty-fifth birthday. The marriage immediately fell apart. As Mary told me about this awful experience, she reported that when she was in her twenties and went for therapy following a romantic breakup, her psychiatrist said, "If you aren't married before you are 35 you never will be!" She took his word as the word of God and unconsciously jumped into the disastrous marriage before it was too late.
The most critical factor in having a successful therapy experience is the development of a positive, trusting and understanding relationship with your therapist that leads to noticeable results and changes in your behavior, your emotions and your life. Don't settle for less.
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