Finding the right therapist is right up there with finding the right spouse when it comes to securing happiness and serenity. And while friends and siblings can help you screen candidates for a permanent place at the Thanksgiving table, you’re left solo when recruiting a therapist.
Marriage and family therapist Ilyana Romanovsky offers four helpful questions to start with in her book, Choosing Therapy: A Guide to Getting What You Need. It may be helpful to keep these in mind when shopping for a therapist…
1. How do you stay current in the latest research?
Therapists are obligated to attend a number of workshops a year in order to keep their licenses current; however, they don’t have to stay up to date with the latest research. Romanovsky encourages clients to ask therapists whether they have attended recent conferences, conventions, consultation groups to ensure that they are familiar with the latest well-researched treatment methods. A therapist is limited by his current knowledge and skills when trying to meet a client’s need. More information, then, increases overall effectiveness.
2. Do you consult on cases with others and, if so, how regularly do you consult?
One of the reasons I feel confident that I am getting the best treatment for my bipolar disorder is that my psychiatrist regularly consults with a team of doctors from Johns Hopkins. If she’s unsure about what to do next with one of her patients, she has a set of heads ready to help her.
3. Do you receive personal psychotherapy services?
This question has to do with countertransference, which Romanovsky defines as “a therapist’s reaction, in which unresolved conflicts may be triggered based on the similarity of unconsciously involved material in the therapist’s own life.” Research suggests that if left unresolved, countertransference in treatment hinders the progress of psychotherapy. I was relieved when my therapist told me that her own therapy made a profound difference in her life. The fact that she endured an emotional drought of her own and emerged a stronger person inspired me and won my trust.
In wrestling with her own issues, she became a more empathetic guide to healing and recovery. “The journey that every mental health professional takes inward at examining his own thoughts is just as important as the ability to be a great therapist.”
4. How do you measure outcomes data and how will our work together be evaluated on a regular basis?
This is an especially important thing to consider when someone has a chronic illness, such as bipolar disorder, that has no neat beginning and end. It’s easy for a patient to lose faith in the process when she sees no tangible results of her treatment. “What am I getting for my money? Is it worth it? Could I spend the money on a massage and feel just as good, maybe better?” Those are all valid questions.
Romanovsky asserts that all therapists should collect outcomes data at the time of each session to monitor the progress a patient is making in therapy. Many outcomes data measurement tools are available today, and software programs make it easy to track psychometric measures.
Originally posted on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.