Finding a Therapist Who’s a Good “Fit”

Thursday, March 29th, 2012, Written by Bucke

Perhaps one of the most important decisions that one can make when choosing a therapist, particularly an analytically oriented one, either for oneself or for one’s child, is whether or not that person is going to be a good “fit.”

Many therapists practice very “externally”, that is, they are going to support the defenses and habits that are in place.  The analytically oriented therapist in contrast, is going to try to get to the root of symptoms and replace them with actually healthy structures of personality.  This kind of work takes MUCH longer, is much more difficult and takes much more courage.  Not everyone is up to this challenge.

It has been my experience that analytic work does not only change the person engaged in it, but also can challenge the family of the person engaged in this work.  Oftentimes, the greatest resistance to the analysand changing is the individual’s family!  All too often, this comes in the form of devaluing or diminishing the work of the therapist or the person in therapy.  These comments, such as “You’re not all that bad.”  or “You don’t need therapy that often, do you?” although meant well, can be enormously damaging to the person in treatment.

Indeed, ironically, because the family undermines the work that means so much to person in treatment, the family can often find themselves distancing themselves from the person in therapy, not understanding why the work of therapy is ending up with their loved one more distant from them than ever.  Although this sounds obvious, very intelligent people can fall into this trap.  So here’s a few pointers for those of you who are contemplating treatment or are in analysis:

1.  Make sure the therapist can understand your family’s values.  This means that the therapist should be able to understand the family’s stated religious values and also the sub textual values:  those of socioeconomic class and expectations that come from such realities.

2.  Check out the therapist’s background:  Talk to people who have been through his/her process.  If the process sounds like something that you and your family can withstand, go for it.

3.  If the therapist’s process requires more trust than the family can muster; or the family must micromanage, find a therapist who is willing to do case-management.  If the treatment goals are being dictated by the family, then the therapist must be willing to trust this or have the courage to challenge the family when it’s needed.

4.  If the family is unsure about the treatment, get a second opinion.  Present both the identified patient and the process to another clinician and if everyone decides it’s time for a switch, then make it.  It might be time anyway.

5.  If, however, an attachment is important, then one might want to let the treatment process be.  Like surgery, it’s best not to have to move the patient midway through.

Like any process of human growth, like the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola for example, if they involve real change and growth, they will involve change and challenge for everyone involved.  It’s not child’s play and it’s best to have a clinician who has a few years of experience under his/her belt.  In this way, those gray hairs might be well earned and might be a sign of wisdom.  And at the end of the day, is not wisdom what we are all seeking?

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