Good therapy isn’t a “fixing” of the person. It is about thinking in new ways, learning to ask better questions of ourselves, and requiring better answers of ourselves. It is movement towards something better. Finding what we really need is important. Finding a good starting point can pave the way to new places. How do we go about all of this?
This makes me think about drug advertising. What? How is that relevant here? There are two countries in the world where pharmaceutical companies can plug their drugs: the US and New Zealand. In these two countries you can turn on the TV and be told that company X has a drug that will fix your anxiety, depression, obesity, and high blood pressure. And they make it sound so easy! Go talk to your doctor and tell them you want _____. The drug rep from company X may or may not have been successful in placing freebies of the drug in the office. It can be a crap shoot.
I get that pharmaceutical companies spend billions on drug development. I also know that some of this drug research is done for a population of very few who have rare orphan diseases and need something that will enable them to live better lives. I also know that this is one big reason companies negotiate with countries for some tax breaks. Drug trials take years! The cash spent behind the lines is large, and the unseen person power is layers deep.
I mention the above to say that psychotherapy referral sites “pitch” different methods of therapy to the consumer. The prospective client/patient might not know what tools the therapist might have that would be most useful in the situation. What you think you need and how you can get that need met becomes a real question.
A helpful way of beginning this process is to figure out the “what” you are trying to change or get deeper insight into. If you want to stop biting your nails, short-term, behavior-focused therapies would fit your needs well. If, on the other hand, you realize that the nail biting stems from deeper issues within yourself, you might want to explore insight therapy or a combination of both forms of therapy.
People get pitched to all the time. You hear something on a talk show, read a book that touts CBT or EMDR or process therapies, or a narrative model, and soon you’re swimming in the soup! Referral sites are great for sorting things out. READ the person’s profile!
I’ll now talk about how I work, and begin, with a new person.
When you call or mail a therapist, and you know they are accepting clients, please read what they have to say about their work. A therapist might set up boundaries around when they can or can’t take on certain types of clients or patients. My work is done on Zoom, and that means that for my clientele that I take precautions to keep those I work with safe. Respect a therapist’s boundaries.
To find a therapist who is a good fit, consider some of the following:
- If a therapist offers a free consultation, a no-charge first session or something like it, this is your chance to test the waters.
- Ask questions and see if it feels like the therapist is a person you could grow a relationship with.
- Is the therapist having you fill out forms before the first session? Are these forms having you consent to treatment before you’ve met the therapist?
- If you meet the therapist and decide to establish a working relationship, it would be normal to then consent to treatment that you have talked about. What most therapy consumers don’t understand is that until you’ve signed consent forms and have an agreement, you don’t have a therapist.
When you meet with your new prospective therapist, talk about their working style, ask questions, and let them ask you questions. This is important if you feel like the therapist is someone you will be working with long term.
In all therapy, there must be trust on both sides. For instance, the person getting the help needs to trust that the therapist will be open and honest and answer questions. On the therapist side, the therapist needs to have the insight to understand when answering a question might rob someone of valuable insight that would be better gained by asking the person to explore the possible questions for themself.
For example, if you were seeing me and had come to me because of three failed relationships, I might begin to form my own picture of why things went bust three times. If I gave you my answer, I could be off or spot on. In answering, I would rob you of searching deeper. My strategy would be to question with you. We might explore all types of options. In this situation you learn about yourself, you might learn something about me, and we both learn about each other. We dig down into the soup of why stuff is the way it is.
A reason I’d answer a question is that by doing so it would serve as a confirmation on work you’ve done. You’ve been in the soup; you’ve slurped, tasted, and gotten a sense for how things are.
When I walked into my first therapist office, there were no forms to be signed. What was said there stayed there. A therapist may or may not have kept notes, and a client/patient portal didn’t exist. The predominant treatment was psychodynamic and process oriented. Now there has been expansion!
What is the same? We have an understanding that talking, insight, doing, and discovering new pathways into ourselves can calm storms of the soul.