Overall, most Americans consider psychotherapy beneficial. In a Consumer Report where seven thousand individuals were asked about their personal therapeutic pursuits, more than half responded favorably to the therapeutic process. Even with that favorable response, how do we know what constitutes “good” therapy? Some research has indicated that the client has felt great benefits from therapy, but continues to struggle with chronic symptoms like depression and anxiety.
The essence of psychotherapy is the pursuit of treatment for mental health issues with the help of a trained professional. Most important is the relationship with an unbiased party to gain insight into unhealthy patterns of behavior. There are many times throughout life when the benefits of a safe relationship can help one sort out those troubling patterns. The difficulty for the consumer seeking these services is in knowing what to look for when seeking a “good fit” with a therapist. The following are a few guidelines to help assist in finding that good fit.
First, do not be afraid to ask for a phone interview. Therapists that are open to scrutiny are willing to answer any questions you may have even before the first appointment is made. Once the first session is scheduled, have a little knowledge in hand about what may be the problem. Several reputable websites offer information regarding psychiatric disorders and recommended treatment modalities. Here is an opportunity to show the potential therapist that you are psychologically savvy and come with some understanding of what may be ailing you. Most importantly, do not be afraid to provide feedback to the therapist. A good therapist will not only welcome input into your perception of the progress but will ask for it. Often, this will occur in the first session where the therapist may make a suggestion of a course of treatment with a specific “checking in” point during the process. Do not be afraid of rejecting the therapist, this is an opportunity to potentially strengthen the relationship between therapist and client. If there are overall concerns of the treatment effectiveness, ask for a consultation with another therapist. Once again, a good therapist will welcome this and hopefully suggest a few referral sources to get a second opinion.
Psychotherapy is not like finding a surgeon to complete heart surgery; this is an intimate and professional relationship between two people where the client will possibly reveal very personal details of their life. The client should feel like the therapist can clearly explain the nature of the issue, feel understood as an individual and feel that their therapist is both compassionate and nonjudgmental. May this information help you in finding your “good fit” when psychotherapy is needed.
Article by Dr. Richard A. Friedman, professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, Science Page of the New York Times, Nov. 2007.