For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about money, and how it relates to my profession. Today, I’d like to tell you about several things you can do to get the most bang for your therapeutic buck. I suspect this topic may become more than one entry, so bear with me. If you’re considering therapy, especially, these are things that will be worth keeping in mind.
First, let’s talk about choosing a therapist.
Here’s the deal: this is an important decision, one of the most important you will ever make. Every study I’ve read points conclusively to the client-therapist relationship as the most predictable factor in a successful therapy. If you and the shrink don’t click, that is likely to prolong and complicate the therapeutic process, whether you’re aware of it or not. (Of course, this gives you a splendid opportunity for personal growth, in itself, but you’re going to get those anyway. Let’s not make it harder than it needs to be.)
What I want to emphasize is, you have the right (and, I would argue, the obligation) to shop around until you find the therapist that’s right for you. Check out several people- at least. Ask questions, hard questions about their training and experience. Pay attention to how you feel about them. Do you feel relaxed, as you talk? Do you feel listened to and seen? How’s their eye contact and attention? Is this a person you feel you can trust? Do you feel the therapist is trying to sell you on themselves (or their particular therapeutic modality), rather than simply making themselves available to you? As best you can, pay attention to your total response to the experience of your initial session. If you need to go away and think about it, do that. The therapist should encourage you to do so. Trust yourself. There’s a wise part of you that knows how to make good decisions. Get quiet, listen to that part and go with it. Remember, after a few sessions, if it’s not feeling right, it’s okay to change your mind and go back to the search, but that costs money and time. May as well make the best choice you can, first time around.
If you are working with an insurance company or some other agency, you may simply be assigned a therapist. You may even be told that you have no choice in the matter: this is your therapist, period. Okay, give it a try; you might get lucky, but if it doesn’t feel right to you, tell the agency that you want to talk with someone else. If they say that’s not the way they do business, take your business someplace else. Far better you find a relatively inexpensive intern (and, there are some excellent, experienced interns available in teaching programs) or a peer counselor with whom you click, than work with a therapist to whom you feel forcibly yoked. Of course, miracles happen. The therapist might turn out to be exactly what you need, but that mostly happens in buddy road movies. This is your life; don’t share the driving without some thought.
So, great care and consideration in your initial choice of therapist is my first suggestion. I have a couple more, and I’ll get into them in my next posting. Please, feel free to write with comments, suggestions, experiences and news that I’ve been chosen to receive six million dollars from a Nigerian bank account. Makes my life more interesting, and I like that.