Interviewing and Selecting your Psychotherapist

Even in a first telephone contact you can get some important questions answered. Does the therapist have patients similar to how you describe yourself? Most important, do you feel a sense of comfort from and confidence in the person you are talking to? If not, call someone else. There is no point in seeing a therapist who leaves you cold. You must trust your own response to the therapist, hard as that may be. As therapy progresses, try to keep in mind what I’ve said about data and logic: You should be able to understand why the therapist believes what he does about you, even if it is at first hard to agree. [A note on how psychotherapy works

A word about "failed" therapy. Psychotherapy is a relationship and no relationship comes with a guarantee. But if you keep your eyes open -- we will discuss how to do that in subsequent sections -- there is no reason for failure to mean anything more than minimal lost time and money, if even that. This is not brain surgery where one wrong move and there goes all sensation on the left side of your body. If you meet with a therapist for a few sessions and it is not working, you will hopefully have learned something from the experience, if only more precisely what you want in a therapist. If you’ve stayed longer, and you have kept your eyes open, you should have learned something about yourself and even changed a bit.

Finally, it has always seemed curious to me that a patient would expect their therapist to have no problems of his own, that some people find it appalling and inappropriate that a therapist has had to struggle through his own craziness. Why wouldn’t you want such a therapist? Why would someone whose defenses have never failed them, who was able to stay blissfully unaware of any personal turmoil or confusion, be able to help you find your way out of the chaos? How could they help you navigate your own conflicting, confusing, intangible, and half-buried feelings when they have no personal experience with such things?

Isn’t it more likely that the better therapy will come from someone who has had to deal with his own troublesome unconscious? Think for a moment about learning a sport. The natural, who never had to work at it, may have no idea why your golf swing isn’t working. The born klutz, on the other hand, has had to build up his skills step by step, carefully identifying and unlearning his own bad habits. He’s the one I’d want diagnosing my swing. The only thing you don’t want is a therapist who is still acting out his problems, one whose feelings and behavior are out of control. We’ll discuss how to spot such a creature in subsequent sections.

What Should Happen in a Session

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