Here are 7 tips for finding a therapist that’s right for you. I’ve adapted it from Barry Duncan PhD, author of “What’s Right With You?” In this book he focuses on the fact that change is an inevitable part of existence and that you play the biggest role in making change happen.
You are the leading character in your life, as well as the editor and director of the action as it unfolds. It’s up to you to let your therapist know what your goals are and what you wish to change. Your therapist is your assistant, hired by you to help you get where you want to go.
Barry Duncan’s 7 tips for finding a therapist that’s right for you begins with a quote from Confucius, the famous Chinese philosopher. “The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this exit?”
1. If you don’t like your therapist, then find another one
Don’t be shy. You do need tips on how to find a therapist that’s right for you. No therapist can be all things to all people. Trust your gut. If you get a bad feeling or vibe from your therapist, don’t waste your time trying to figure it out. Just go see someone else. Just slip out the back Jack, make a new plan Stan, no need to be coy Roy, just get yourself free!
2. If you think that your therapist doesn’t like you
Or if you think your therapist doesn’t understand you or appreciate your point of view, then find another therapist. It’s essential that you believe that your therapist is on your side and that you don’t have to worry about their evaluation of you. If you’re worried about it, then this likely is not the therapist for you. Discuss this problem with your therapist and carefully attend to their reaction. If they don’t change, hit the road Jack! This is the first of three key elements of successful therapy, the working alliance – the relationship you have with your therapist. Problems with this relationship usually result in no change.
3. If you don’t agree with the goals of the therapist
If you think your therapist’s goals are not your goals, then find another therapist. If your therapist is telling you that you can’t get there from here, then you probably won’t. Stick to your guns about your goals. Your goals represent all your motivations and desires and will encourage you to work hard. Agreement on goals is the second aspect of a strong working alliance, so if your therapist doesn’t accept your preferred port of destination, abandon ship.
4. If you don’t agree with the opinions or suggestions of your therapist
If you’re asking for something and not getting it, and your feedback doesn’t alter their approach, then find another therapist. If you want to give the therapist’s approach a shot, then do it. But if you don’t, tell your therapist that you disagree with the approach and give them a chance to adjust to your feedback. But leave if they persist in an approach that doesn’t seem relevant or doesn’t fit for you. Agreement about the approach represents the third piece of the working alliance. Get off at the next stop before this train derails.
5. If you think your therapist sees your problem or situation as hopeless or unchangeable
If your therapist tells you your problem will require years to change, find another therapist. Nothing is permanent, especially problems. And besides who needs a pessimistic therapist? Hope is critical to the change process. Without it, this plane is going down; parachute out before it crashes.
6. If you don’t get something positive going within three to six sessions, talk to your therapist
If no progress persists after six sessions, then find another therapist. Change, if it’s going to happen, usually happens relatively quickly. This doesn’t mean that you will be “cured” of all difficulties in six sessions, it only means that you’ll begin to notice some inroad to your concerns, and you’ll know that you’re on the right track. Remember president George Washington. Ironically, George requested that blood letting be done on him a third time, even when it wasn’t working. Don’t make the same mistake when you have evidence (on the ORS feedback form that you fill in for the therapist) that you’re not making any progress. Just hop on the bus, Gus.
7. If the therapist (or your doctor) recommends psychiatric medication
If you haven’t asked for medication or have any doubt about taking it and they don’t address your doubts respectfully, then find another therapist (or doctor). If anyone tells you that you have a chemical imbalance, discuss what that really means. Chemical imbalance is a myth. A quote from the previous link: “Far from asserting a chemical imbalance theory of mental illness, academic psychiatry – for at least the past 30 years – has advocated a bio-psycho-social (BPS) model of mental illness, as originally proposed by Dr George Engel.”
If you believe that medication is the right choice for you, then do it. Please keep in mind, that just like blood letting in George Washington’s era, treatments today are just prevailing wisdoms of this day and time. They are driven by market pressures and economics. Drug companies spend far more money on advertising than on research and development, about $10,000 per physician per year.
It’s hard for any doctor to resist such a barrage of marketing – they just don’t have the time to research drug company claims about their products. Drugs are the prevailing wisdom of the day. If that fits for you, like it does for many, then go for it; if it doesn’t, please feel free to just say “no” to drugs. You don’t need to discuss much, just drop off keys Lee and get yourself free.
Finding a Therapist
“Experience is not what happens to a (wo)man. It is what a (wo)man does with what happens to her/him” – Aldous Huxley
If you decide to seek therapy, I want it to work for you. So I’m encouraging you to be an informed consumer, and perhaps a little skeptical of mental health services. Let me begin by saying that therapy works! In fact fifty years of research have unequivocally demonstrated that those in treatment are better off than 80 percent of the people in the no treatment comparison groups.
So seeking a therapist to assist you in your efforts can be exactly what you need to inspire the changes you wish to make. But a key factor is finding a therapist that is a good fit. Not all therapists are created equal nor are therapist’s approaches all a good enough match with your theory of change.
The best way to start
1. Call prospective therapists and interview them by phone. It doesn’t really matter what professional degree they hold (social worker, counsellor, psychologist, marital and family therapist) or whether they have a masters or a doctorate, unless of course you have a real preference or believe that such distinctions are important for you. It’s much more critical that you find a person you can work with – who’s a good fit for you.
2. Get the nuts and bolts questions regarding fees, insurance, and location out of the way first. Tell them that you’re interviewing prospective therapists and would like to schedule a ten minute free phone call with them. An unwillingness to give you ten minutes to ensure a good fit should be all the information you need to cross this one off your list.
3. Respect the therapist’s time and keep to the ten minutes. Ask the following questions, or any others you think are relevant to you:
- What’s your philosophy or orientation of therapy?
- How do you think change happens?
- What do you think of diagnoses?
- How important do you consider collaboration and client participation?
- How many sessions do you average per client?
- Do you keep outcome data? Tell me about it.
- (If they don’t monitor progress) Do you mind if I monitor my progress?
- How are you at taking feedback from clients about the direction of therapy?
4. Listen for answers that reflect faith in your resources, strengths, and capabilities as the cornerstone of any change. Listen also for an emphasis on having a good relationship and the importance of your participation.
5. Compare the answers with your own views of how change occurs. If the therapist identifies with a particular orientation, reflect about whether it fits your theory of change. If it’s different but you still think it has some merit, try it out.
Change mainly results from your input and participation
You are the star of the therapeutic drama. Research shows that:
1. Change depends on your resources and abilities. Effective therapy utilizes your strengths to create solution possibilities.
2. Change depends on your perceptions of the therapist and the relationship formed in therapy. Effective therapy is based on a strong working alliance – the relationship between you and the therapist.
3. Change depends on addressing what you want, fitting this to your views of change and inspiring the hope necessary for action. Effective therapy matches your theory of change.
Get in touch
If you’d like to experience whether my way of working may fit with you, please call (0421) 961 687 or contact me. You can book a Skype session with me if you cannot personally come to my practice location.
If you’re not ready to book an appointment, call me on (0421) 961 687 to book a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to discuss how I may be able to assist you.