Choosing the best therapist for you can be difficult. This is the person you hope to share your deepest darkest secrets with!!! You might ask, “How can I know if I will be able to trust him or her!” “How do I know if this person is right for me?” “How can I know they can help me?” or “Can they really understand what I am going through?”
It’s important to ask yourself these questions and find someone that you feel understands your needs and that you can trust to help you. Many people seeking help can go through several therapists until they find the one they are comfortable with. A good therapist understands this and will respect your choice to find safety. As a practicing therapist, I have functioned in both the capacity of someone’s first therapist as well as someone’s last.
Research has shown that the best outcomes in therapy come from two very general dynamics (Cooper & Lesser, 2011, p.33; (Teyber & McClure, 2011):
- The client’s comfort and connection with the therapist and
- The therapists sense of hope in the client’s progress.
In practical terms, this means to attend one or two initial sessions and trust your instincts on whether there is a good connection. You may need to explore different therapists – but it is worth it.
Here are some other thoughts to consider:
- We Don’t Sell!
- Be aware that a good therapist will be inviting, but will not try to sell you on their treatment….you may feel motivated to continue with a therapist after the first session(s), but you won’t feel pressure.
- We are All Unique!
- Every therapist has a different personality and a different style of practice. For example some may be skilled at listening and letting you come up with solutions, some are more directive. Choose the person that you feel will suit your needs and personality. Ask your therapist what his/her process of change looks like in dealing with your issues. Understand your treatment plan.
- We Don’t Give You Fish….We Teach You to Fish!
- Both the therapist and the client need to be working together towards the issues that the client feel are important towards him and her. A therapist doesn’t force the client to change or make a habit of telling the client a specific course of action to resolve a dilemma. They should however, help you develop skills and perspectives that allow you to own and solve your own issues effectively. In this way you continue to grow long after therapy is over. Assignments and opening your heart and mind to new perspectives are important in this regard, not necessarily advice giving. Over time, you will learn to both trust yourself and work with others in getting answers.
- There is No “Right” Way!
- There are many different theories of practice out there (e.g. cognitive-behavioral therapy, emotional focused therapy, etc.) and many different types of therapists (LMFT, LCSW, CMHC or LPC, Psychologists, Psychiatrists). Ask your therapist what theories they practice and how they view change and progress with individuals and families. Ask them to give you a basic outline of these theories.
- Be Committed to the Process!
- Most therapists will do a 15-30 minute consultation for free to find out all of these questions and get to know them more; here at Connections, we offer a 30 minute consultation. Don’t be afraid to shop around. But when you do choose a therapist, spend more than a few sessions with them. Therapy can take time. If you find yourself not progressing or feeling uneasy in your session, or if you are concerned with how your therapist is handling certain issues, talk to them about it! A good therapist will be open and helpful with this information. They will be respectful of your issues and seek to come to an understanding of your needs if you feel they don’t already.
- We Don’t Need our Ego Brushed. Be Honest with Your Feelings!
- There have been many times clients have been concerned with how I say something or do a certain therapeutic process, but will be afraid to speak up. If I don’t catch it right away, the client will not receive the amazing benefits that come from working through relationship concerns with someone skilled in this process. When a client opens up about some of his/her concerns, these can be some of the most uplifting, growth inducing processes in a session. It is necessary to have a safe and open dialogue with your therapist. If you feel that you can’t, you need to be direct and honest with them.
- If you feel that you aren’t understood or heard when this happens, be honest and seek to find a therapist you feel that you can be honest with and that you feel will validate your concerns. Often times this isn’t about the therapist or you as the client nearly as much as it is about the therapeutic style, personality compatibility, and your current motivations for change and growth. Don’t be afraid to be honest with your feelings towards your therapist. A good therapist will be able to emotionally handle any feedback they are given. You are paying them to help you. They understand this. Don’t waste your money on unsaid and unspoken language.
- Not all Therapists Are Trained the Same!
- There are different types of therapists that are best suited for specific issues. Ask your counselor what they are trained in. Therapists have been trained on most client issues but their training and approach is particularly suited to some issues more than others. Ask your therapist about their experience in the areas that are of interest to you. As an MFT (marriage and family therapist), people will often assume that I only specialize in family and couple counseling but not individual counseling. This is a mistaken assumption. Most MFTs work mostly with individuals with a variety of issues. They are just trained to view many problems in the context of the relationship and family system. Psychiatrists and psychologists are often misunderstood as well. Psychiatrists attend medical school and most of their work consist of diagnosing and prescribing medication. Psychologists don’t prescribe medication but can diagnose and test. Most therapists have the training to diagnose, but might send you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for further testing or medication.
A Few Final Points…
Recognize your expectations with the therapy process and open up to your therapist about them. Clients will often expect their therapists to lead the counseling sessions. Meier and Davis discuss a few important factors to consider when starting counseling:
- The pain can get worse before it gets better, so consider with your therapist if the pain you are experiencing in therapy is legitimate pain of growth, or if it is making things worse.
- Therapists take confidentiality very seriously but you should talk to your counselor about the exceptions to confidentiality.
- People who go to counseling are those with the courage and capacity to seek and consider input in helping them function more happily and effectively in their every day lives. Getting help is not a weakness….
Kyle is a Marriage and Family
Therapist, specializing in individual,
relationship, and family work.
By Kyle M. Reid, LMFT
Sexual infidelity in a relationship causes significant distress to the partner that falls victim to it. Sexual infidelity can encompass a variety of behaviors. These behaviors include, but are not limited to, sexually acting out, having an emotional affair with another person outside of the relationship, or viewing pornographic images.
Regardless of the type of infidelity, all may have equally damaging effects on the partner who is victimized.
If the partners want to make things work, seeking counseling is important for the couple and often the family. Much of the therapy experience, at the beginning, is dedicated to exploring the emotional betrayal and trauma of the injured partner. The ability to express and work through this pain with his or her partner present can be invaluable to the healing process.
However, this can often be a difficult thing to do if the offending partner or the offender is seeking to move on from the infidelity. He or she might not wish to revisit all the hurt and pain that had been caused by the infidelity. They might worry that their partner will not be able to move past it, or that talking about it makes it worse.
When this happens, couples often get stuck in the cycle of the offended partner becoming an anxious and fearful detective – always assessing what their partner is doing and where they are going, and the offender feeling controlled and frustrated with their partner for not being able to move on and trusting them again.
In actuality, as the offended partner works through the emotional trauma associated with the infidelity and is able to feel validated and understood by their partner, he or she is able to move on in the relationship much more quickly and come to a place of forgiveness.
However, getting to forgiveness is difficult if the offender continues to commit infidelity in the relationship due to sexual or pornography compulsions. When this happens, much of the work is centered on helping the offended partner establish appropriate boundaries as well as reaching out and leaning on others for support and strength. At the same time, the offender must stay in recovery in order to leave their addiction or compulsion behind and begin to understand the needs that he or she is trying to meet in the process of acting out.
Building a string, loving and healthy attachment bond between the two partners and obtaining long term sobriety from the partner with the addiction or compulsion – is the ultimate goal in this process. Marriages can become much stronger as result of this tragedy when proper work is done in understanding and healing issues that led the couple came to where they are. (Examining the relationship prior to the infidelity can also be crucial due to the fact the infidelity often occurs after the relationship starts to get disconnected).
Help through therapy can be an important step in this process. Many couples in our clinic have discovered a stronger relationship as result of working through the pain and finding individual and couple healing from the infidelity. While some couples have decided to part as result of the infidelity, others have sought to make things work; all can find healing and forgiveness from the pain and betrayal of infidelity.
Here is a blog I wrote that helps partners of sex addicts understand and see some of the signs addicts portray when they are looking at porn.