Some people think that going to a therapist is like going to a car mechanic: they expect the therapist to diagnose a specific problem and fix it just as the mechanic puts in new brake pads or readjusts the carburetor. These clients expect something to happen to them. That is not the case. Don’t expect the other person to have all the answers. Therapists don’t come with crystal balls. You have the answers. They are already within you. The psychotherapist helps you discover those answers as you examine your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. I think of therapy as education. In therapy you may learn new skills to help you communicate better, decrease difficulties in your life and increase benefits.

Don't be afraid to shop around for a good match between you and your therapist. No matter how well trained the therapist is, if you are not at ease with her or willing to talk about personal problems or feelings, you will be wasting your money. Trust your intuition.

When my daughter was a teenager I was a single parent in a quandary about how to parent my children. I wasn’t a therapist at that time, and our small family was in turmoil. I found a psychologist who was well known and highly credentialed. After two sessions with him I cringed at the thought of going back, but I told myself that he knew what he was doing since he was so well known. Fortunately, my daughter trusted her intuition and absolutely refused to go back under any circumstances. It turned out that none of us liked him or felt comfortable with him. We found someone else that we liked and trusted and got better results.

About a year later I bumped into an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in a long time. She looked happy and excitedly reported that she had the most wonderful therapist. He had helped her change her life. When I asked who it was she gave me the name of the man my family had hated. The lesson here is not that someone you don’t like isn’t a good therapist, it’s that someone you don’t feel comfortable with is not the right person for you. Ask your insurance company for more than one referral just in case, so you can choose wisely.

If you have a friend or family member who raves about their therapist take the recommendation seriously only if your friends or family have shown significant and visible changes in behavior and attitudes during their therapy.

Once doctors have finished their basic training they can continue with specialty trainings to become surgeons, obstetricians, cardiologists, and more. This is not the case with psychotherapists. Most psychologists, marriage and family therapists and social workers get basic training plus the equivalent of an internship before they take their license exam. Those who are interested in specific areas like addiction, bi-polar disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders etc. must get additional training on their own.

It is OK to ask direct questions about your therapist’s background and ask what qualifies them to be a specialist in the problem you want to deal with. When you go to a medical specialist you want to see a doctor who has seen hundreds of cases or be operated on by a surgeon who has done hundreds of the procedure you are having. It is the same with mental health professionals

Beware of a therapist who acts like a judgmental parent. Mary eloped just before her thirty-fifth birthday with someone she had dated twice. The marriage immediately fell apart. As Mary told me about her problem she reported that when she was in her twenties and went for therapy following a romantic breakup her psychiatrist said, “If you aren’t married before you are 35 you never will be!” She took his word as the word of God and unconsciously jumped into a marriage before it was too late.

The most critical factor in successful therapy is the development of a positive, trusting and understanding relationship with the therapist. Don’t settle for less.

Author's Bio: 

Gloria Arenson, MS, MFT, D.CEP, specializes in using Energy Psychology techniques to treat stress, anxiety, panic, trauma, phobias, and compulsions. Her extensive knowledge of eating disorders and compulsive behaviors led her to write How To Stop Playing The Weighting Game, A Substance Called Food and Born To Spend. She is also co-author of Freedom At Your Fingertips. Her latest award-winning book is Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing.

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