Friday, December 4, 2009

"Finding the Right Therapist"

At least once a month, I get e-mails from forlorn people who have read my book LONGING FOR DAD: FATHER LOSS AND ITS IMPACT. In one such letter, a woman told of her husband's ongoing battle with depression. After reading the book, she finally had an explanation for his debilitation depression. As I read another letter written by a man in Dubai who was pleading for help, tears rolled down my cheeks. Soon to be a father himself, he realized that he would not be up to the task unless he dealt with his father's abandonment of the family when he was 2 years old.

The e-mail I got today told of having just finished reading LONGING FOR DAD. He recognized the need to get help to heal his father loss, because of "its unexpected continuation into adulthood.... I have tried to get help with a couple of therapists, but they fall very short of actually understanding my issues and helping me to deal with them. How do I find someone to talk about these issues [with] that understands the issues you've discussed in your book?"

I have maintained for years that whom people choose as their therapist is second only in importance to whom they choose to marry. How does the average consumer of psychotherapy services know whom to choose as his/her therapist? This is a particularly important question when issues are old and cut deep such as father loss.

Here are my top 5 suggestions for helping you determine who is the best professional to see.

1) Don't be afraid to ask the prospective therapist if he/she has had personal experience with your issue. Of course, don't expect for him/her to go into chapter and verse. But knowing a subject from a textbook and knowing it personally are two totally different things.

2) Ask the prospective therapist his/her beliefs about the place for feelings in his/her therapeutic approach. If you need to heal trauma such as a father's death or abandonment, it is not possible to truly do that without experiencing your emotions about what happened. If the proepective therapist indicates a theory of therapy that doesn't allow for feelings, you are in the wrong place.

3) Ask yourself how it feels being in this person's presence. If his/her demeanor detached and intellectualizing, it's not a good sign. Did you feel like you clicked? What does your gut tell you? Then trust your intuition to tell you if you are in the right place or not.

4) How good a listener is the potential therapist? Is he/she attempting to really tune into what you are saying, or is he/she looking around, watching the clock, or otherwise preoccupied? One of the most therapeutic tools a therapist can possess is the ability to create a "holding environment." This is a safe place for the expression of strong emotions. And in order to accomplish this, you need to be able to feel like the potential therapist is with you and not elsewhere.

5) Don't worry about whether the professional has an M.D., a Ph.D., an LICSW, a marriage and family therapist, or a master's in counseling. The degree matters far less than the 4 elements I have listed above.

If you would like a free consultation on choosing the right therapist for your issue, especially if it's sensitive, I invite you to call my toll free number (888-546-1580)for a complimentary consultation.

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