GOOD THERAPIST OR BAD THERAPIST? If you are going to take the plunge into therapy, you need to think about what makes a good therapist. This article is a beginning.
What makes a good, competent psychiatrist?
Based on my personal experiences as both a client and a therapist I would also suggest asking the following questions when interviewing a prospective therapist:
- What is your educational background including licensing?
- What is your theory of change?
- How long should we work together before I see some progress?
- How will we measure progress?
- Do you work with a team or consultant to over-seeing your work
Having a conversation about these things allows you to decide if there is what social workers call “a goodness of fit.” In other words is the person you are interviewing someone you feel will be helpful? It allows time to see if the person listens, has empathy, is open about his or her treatment techniques.
A number of studies going back to Jerome Frank’s Persuasion and Healing first published in the early sixties, shows that a goodness of fit is part of what leads to successful outcomes. The two relevant points to this conversation that Frank makes include believing the other person can help you, and sharing a theory of change that both agree upon. If you feel you need to discuss your childhood to unravel some of your behavior, you want a therapist who believes the same. If you feel hypnotism is a tool of the devil, and some do, you do not want to see someone who uses hypnotism or neuro-linguistic programming (NLP); if you have found meditation useful, you probably would benefit from working with a therapist who is also trained as a hypnotist; if believe in astrology, you want a therapist who minimally understands its meaning to you: if you are religious, you will probably want a therapist who is of the same religion.
Once you have found someone who you feel can help, the next step is to set up three appointments with the therapist of your choice. At the end of those three appointments you and the therapist should discuss if there is a goodness of fit. Here there is congratulations, you have found your therapist. If not, keep looking.
WARNING: The very Western Culture idea that parents are to blame for mental health problems may have you looking for sympathy and a way out of assuming responsiblity for your own behavior. The fact is even those who were severely abused need at some point to put aside blaming and step up to what they can do to live a better life. Therapy saves lives and makes life worth living, but only if the therapist is competent and the client willing to work on change.