The Therapist — How to Choose The One for You

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

How much does the patient need to know about a therapist in order to hire him or her?

I frequently address this question in many different forms. (Since we will be using myself as an example in this blog, we will defer to the masculine pronoun when referring to ‘therapist’.)

This can be a tricky subject, as initiating a relationship with a therapist or analyst is not like buying a toaster.  If you don’t like the toaster or if it doesn’t work, you can simply return it, get your money back and buy one more to your liking. Very little time and energy is wasted. However, finding the right person to accompany you in the vulnerable process of transformation—which therapy can be, is not as simple.

It can take years before one discovers they do not genuinely share a “meeting of minds” with their analyst. This is largely due to false paradigms and metaphors that people use to pick one’s therapist.

Oftentimes people make the mistake of thinking they need to know everything about their therapist. In extreme instances, people become a form of the “birthers,” convinced they need to learn every detail of their therapist’s personal lives before they could trust him to themselves or their children. Now of course, it’s a good idea to get a general background check (visit sex offender registry website here). But otherwise, personal lives are called that for a reason. Everyone should be allowed to have marriages, children, partners, etc, and even have these not go so well, as this is part of the journey we call life. To not allow a therapist this room to live, might give some insight as to why you or your loved one might be struggling. Sometimes we struggle just to have room to struggle.

Equally misleading can be colleagues inclined to provide all “the dirt” on the therapist you are interested in hiring. In some cases, making sure the therapeutic alliance is a “good fit” in the “guise of professionalism” can be disingenuous. If the fit isn’t right, that will naturally come to the fore soon enough. In the Jewish tradition, there is the danger of the ‘loshon hora’— or the ‘evil tongue.’ The old fashioned word is ‘gossip.’ It’s generally a good idea to be cautious of colleagues whom relay distasteful views with no real merit. Inevitably, one has to wonder what is their true motive for this behavior?

Not that we’ve discussed what not to do when seeking a therapist… what should one do before choosing a professional that is a good match? 

To start, visit the state website that registers licenses to (1) verify if their license is current and (2) no disciplinary action has been taken against them.

Secondly, go the clinician’s website to see what the therapist communicates about himself and his philosophy of practice. If you agree with his ideologies, then that is a fairly good sign.

Thirdly, ask former and current patients, as well as parents of patients what their experience has been. Keep in mind each person has their own set of expectations of therapy and analysis going into the experience. For example, if a parent expects analysis to change their philosophical child into the quarterback of the football team, and are disappointed when this does not happen, then perhaps this says more about the parent than the clinician.

What is the best way to get an accurate impression of the therapist/analyst? Book a session to interview him! Meet him in person. Get a feel for his office. The way his office is decorated (or not) will say a lot. Ask him about all things relevant: his training, his past experience with this kind of patient and symptom picture, his history in the industry community. Get a sense of how he listens. Does he seem empathic? Does he seem distracted, disinterested? Does he seem to care? Does he seem warm? Do you get a sense that you or your child might want to see this person for a second session?  Especially for teenagers, is he able to effectively engage a conversation? (A therapy dog is always a positive thing! But, then I’m biased about therapy dogs (See

At the end of the day, it’s always better to form your own opinion before trusting rumor or word of mouth. I bet most big decisions made in your life were not made based entirely on logic, but by following your gut or your intuition. We were all born with an emotional compass that points us in the right direction. I would think that ability would serve you well in choosing a therapist that serves you best.



Service Available: Ensemble Therapist

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

It has been my good fortune to work with no small number of actors and directors from the Chicagoland area theater community.  They come into analytic treatment for pretty much the same reasons that everyone else does, really.  But one thing that does stand out is that frequently, either a director or an actor will come into the treatment room, script in hand, complaining, “I don’t get this!  What does the author really mean?”  Or more often, “My director tells me I’m blocked, but I don’t see how.”

To my great surprise and delight, I have found that psychoanalysis lends itself perfectly to the process of artists trying to dig into themselves, find out what is there, both good and bad, and mine deeper into what they find there for their craft.

One time I was engaged with such an actor, and this person’s off hand remark at first didn’t mean that much, “Wouldn’t it be great for you to be available to the whole theater company for when we get stuck like this.”  At first, I thought that this person was simply saying a kind remark out of generosity.  But then it hit me:  What if an analytically trained person was available to an acting company while they are finding their way to a script’s meaning?  This is not to say that the analyst would or could ever take the place of the director…God forbid!  But even if the analyst was there part of the time, available on call, available for actors and company members to explore themselves and their work, the actual product that the company produces might improve just a little, might improve immeasurably.  Either way, might it be worth a try?

So as a first go around, Spark of Creation Therapy is willing to accept the challenge to be the “ensemble therapist” as an “in kind” donation to whatever theater company might think it might be a good idea.  (Given logistics, travel times, and all the other real life issues that occur.)  But it might be fun.  Most importantly, could it be possible that it could help create even better theater than the high level of theater that people in Chicagoland are somewhat spoiled with?  There’s no way to know but to try.  So be in touch actors all around.  SPARK thinks more highly of you than Max Bialystock.

New Spark Space

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

As most Spark patients have learned, our offices have moved from 214 to LL 12.  This move was prompted by the desire to expand the space so that it could afford our patients a greater array of services. Also, our landlord, John Consalvi has been a SAINT, ever attempting to keep up with Spark’s goal of perfection.  He is a good patient guy and everyone should give him a round of applause!

1.  We now have a permanent waiting room which will never be used for treatment. It is decorated with great pieces of sub-Saharan African fine art.  It also sports a “window” which allows patients to look upon restful nature scenes while they are waiting for their therapists.  (Some people show up an hour early just to relax in the calm waiting room environment.

2.  The offices now exactly that:  plural. We have two new offices to accommodate the two new clinicians that have been brought onto the team.  Both Neil and David are fine therapists and bring different gifts to the practice.  We welcome them both.

3.  Spark now has a group room which will allow Spark clinicians to run both educational and therapeutic groups. These will start in the fall.  Look to the blog for more news about these opportunities.

4.  Being on the Lower Level allows everyone to feel safe and secure in our little nook that has been created just for us. In this way, from beginning to end, therapy at Spark should be an experience that advances everyone’s efforts toward healing and optimal living.

These changes would not have been possible without a team of people that have been more than patient and hardworking:  Brian McGee, Chief Technological Officer of Spark, Mike Johnson, mechanical engineer and contractor, Franz–the go to guy on all repairs.  These are just a few.  I look forward to working in the new space.  For those of you that have seen the space, feel free to give us comments and feedback.  We are always open to suggestions that would enhance our space!

In the virtual world, Keith Glantz will be making updates to our website.  We are very excited about making the blogs interactive.  This will roll out later this month.  So although it might sound like a lot of change, we look forward to serving everyone who is part of Spark of Creation Therapy.  Hopefully, we will serve everyone in this space with Heaven’s blessing for many years.  (I signed a lease for four years…so we’re there for years to come!)