The Challenge of Finding the Right Therapist
Finding the right therapist is difficult. In the last 12 years, I’ve been through half a dozen of them. I have no doubt that most of these therapists would blame me for these high turnover rates. They would say I have some sort of inability to communicate my needs or that I’m not ready to move forward.
I say that it’s simply really, really hard to find the correct fit and that the wrong fit can bring me frustration I don’t need. I would rather have no therapist than one who continually frustrates me.
A few weeks ago, I told a therapist I had gone to a handful of times that I did not want to continue seeing her. We’ll call her “Lynn.” Lynn was perfectly nice and was a good listener, but that was sort of the problem.
All she did was listen and say things like, “well, what did that feel like?” and “what would that look like to you?” Lynn was also one of those therapists who immediately wanted to delve into my family and my childhood. This approach was not at all what I was looking for. I wanted someone who would address my current situations and make suggestions.
I conferred with a good friend of mine who is a therapist and expressed my lack of connection with Lynn’s style. My friend was able to explain to me more about what it is I want and don’t want in a therapist. She explained that there are many different approaches a therapist can take. The one I did not like was psychodynamic. This is a Freudian approach that deals with inner conflict and the conscious vs. the unconscious. When Lynn spent sessions picking through my parents and childhood, she was trying to figure out how my past experiences affected my current choices and predicaments.
I’m not at all dismissing Lynn’s psychodynamic style. Nor am I denying that my past experiences influence my present. This is just not what I want right now. Through speaking with my therapist-friend, I was able to understand that I needed to avoid therapists firmly planted in a psychodynamic style.
After this revelation, I spent some time thinking about my past therapists. I pondered what worked and what didn’t and why I had spent a long time with one of them, but not the others. I realized that the therapist I spent a few years with, “Allen,” had frequently made suggestions and tried to guide me in certain directions. When I seemed stuck on an idea that was not working for me, he would forcefully challenge me on it. I liked Allen’s use of making suggestions and providing concrete guidance, but his confrontational style was sometimes overwhelming.
I went back to my therapist-friend with these thoughts. We talked about what had worked for me with Allen and what I was currently looking for in a therapist. My friend suggested I may be a good candidate for cognitive behavioral therapy. She thought it sounded like Allen had used elements of this style with me and it had worked well.
After looking further into cognitive behavioral therapy, I learned that it is a style that focuses more on the present. It is a goal-oriented approach and works with systems. This sounded a lot more like what I was looking for.
This gave me a new approach to looking for a therapist, but there were still so many to choose among that I felt a little lost. I found myself avoiding the search. It seemed like too much of an effort and I didn’t want to face the possibility of more sessions that may not work for me.
I got a kick in the butt on this from my therapist-friend. She knew someone through her work that she thought may be a good fit for me. But working with someone my friend knew brought up the possibility of a conflict of interest. She gave me her coworker’s name and told me to think about it.
When I looked up my therapist-friend’s coworker online to see what she was all about, I found her explanations appealing. However, after thinking more about the possible conflict of interest, I decided that I would prefer working with someone who was completely anonymous.
This reinvigorated my search. I found a therapist, “Eva,” who works with cognitive behavioral therapy and was within walking distance of my house. I decided to call her with some very specific questions.
I approached my initial call with Eva like an interview. Really, it was. I was interviewing Eva for the position of being my therapist. I wasn’t looking for a friend, I was hiring her to provide a service and do a job. I asked Eva all kinds of questions about her approach and her beliefs. I was also highly specific about what my current issues were and how I was looking for help with them.
Last night, I met with Eva for the first time. So far, so good. Eva was true to her word and gave me what I was looking for. She focused on the issue at hand and made suggestions. She helped me brainstorm new ideas. Eva did not once ask me about my childhood; she was helping me with today. I felt the meeting was successful and will be meeting with her again next week.
Here is hoping to a new, fruitful and therapeutic relationship with Eva. Finding the right therapist is difficult, but being able to express what I want and need from the relationship may prove invaluable.
Silver, T. (2012). The Challenge of Finding the Right Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 2, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/04/30/the-challenge-of-finding-the-right-therapist/