1098106984_d250a227fb When
people call me to set up an initial appointment I recommend that they
interview me as much as I assess them. There is no charge for our first meeting because I know:

  • The decision try therapy is hard.
  • Looking for a therapist is hard.
  • Investing in therapy is hard.

That's why I try to ease the stress as much as I can and invite questions to help determine if we are a "good fit". Developing what psychotherapists call a "working alliance" is essentially
team building.
If we're not a good fit, one or the other of us will know
pretty quickly, sometimes even in that first phone call.

We may not 'fit' for
all kinds of reasons.
It's no one's fault. I may not have the expertise you're looking
for, my office location or schedule may be prohibitive, you'd rather
see a male therapist.
What's more difficult to identify is when the
lack of fit has more to do with that hard to identify quality of personality
or approach or style.

A good
therapist is one who works hard to hone a range of knowledge and skills since not
any one is going to fit every person who comes to you for help. A good therapist
carries many tools in her tool kit.
A professor in graduate school said,
"If you only have a hammer all you see is nails." Some therapists only know how to treat depression so, guess what? Everyone who comes to see them is depressed. Even if I only
treated one person, as that person progressed through therapy their
needs will change and so must my interventions.

So what
happens when I don't have the tool for what my patient needs?
A good therapist can put their ego aside for the sake of their patient. If I'm stuck I'll
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.
Us therapists need to be good and sure we aren't pushing
our patient away simply because we are frustrated, or something about the patient
irritates us or that that 'something' has more to do with who we are rather
than the problem our patient brings to us.

Being a
good therapist requires quite a bit of insight into strengths and blind spots, a lot of patience, compassion and constant
assessment, not only of our patient but of ourselves as well.
To achieve that, a good therapist's education and training never stops.
That's what makes us
professionals.
And that's a good thing.

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Photo Courtesy of saibotregeel via Flickr