Read this article. To Reap Psychotherapy’s Benefits, Get a Good Fit
It has good advice for those in therapy or thinking of engaging a therapist. When people call me to set up an initial session I recommend that they interview me as well. In other words, they are encouraged to ask me questions in the service of helping them determine of I am a “good fit” for them. It’s one of the things I do to help develop what psychotherapists call a “working alliance,” essentially team building.
If we’re not a good fit one or the other of us knows pretty quickly, sometimes even in that first call. And it could be for all kinds of reasons; I may not have the expertise they are looking for, my office location or schedule may be prohibitive, they’d rather see a male therapist… What’s more difficult to identify is when the lack of fit has more to do with that “je ne sais quoi” of personality or approach or style.
A good therapist is one who makes every effort to hone many skills since not any one is going to fit every person who comes to you for help. We carry many tools in our tool kit. A professor in graduate school said, “If you only have a hammer all you see is nails.” Even if we only treated one person, as that person progressed through therapy their needs will change and so must the therapist’s interventions.
So what happens when I don’t have the tool for what my patient needs? Often I go to a colleague for peer supervision. Sometimes I will read on the subject or go to a continuing education workshop. Once in a while the best answer is to suggest a consultation with another professional.
What complicates this decision for the therapist is the concept of counter-transference. We need to be good and sure that we aren’t pushing our patient away simply because we are frustrated, something about them irritates us and that something has more to do with who we are rather than the problem the client brings to us.
This is probably more information than you ever wanted so I’ll stop now. Let me just say that being a good therapist requires quite a bit of juggling, balancing and constant assessment, not only of the patient but of ourselves. To achieve that, our education and training never stops. That’s what makes us professionals.