Bipolar 2 From Inside and Out

Posts tagged ‘finding a therapist’

Hired Help

Remember when you go to a therapist, you hire him or her. She/he works for you. And if it doesn’t work out you can fire your therapist.

I hate breaking in a new therapist. I hate having to do the little tap dance that is the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of my screwed-up life. But if I have to find a new therapist, I’ll keep reciting it until I find the right one.

Of course your choices may be limited by location, finances, or other factors (EAPs, for instance). You may not have that wide a range to choose from. But the better the “fit” between you and your therapist, the more likely you’ll make some progress.

When I need a new therapist (when mine has moved away, for instance) I go through a process.

Step One: I identify my current needs. Do I need counseling for grief? Mood disorders? Anxiety?

Step Two: I do research. Most therapists have websites and most of them list what they specialize in. Start making a list of those whose practices meet my needs.

Step 3: I make a list of my preferences. For me, this is easy. By now I know I need a therapist who is not Freudian or cognitive behavioralist or comes from any particular religious approach, but does deal with women’s issues and has a sense of humor.

Step 4: I make some calls. Is the therapist taking new patients? Is there a waiting list? Does he/she take my insurance? If not, is there a sliding fee scale based on need? Is long-term therapy possible, or is it 30 days max?

Step 5: I set up an “interview” appointment. I do the even-more-condensed version of my screwed-up life, ask a few questions and, if everything “feels” pretty good, make a follow-up appointment.

I know, that’s a lot of work. But in the long run, you can save yourself a lot of grief.

I’ve been to a couples counselor who absolutely shredded me, latching on to my husband’s difficulties with me and running with them. I felt she didn’t hear anything I said, or if she did, discounted it. I felt ganged up on. It was not pleasant. More important, it was not helpful.

(I’m not saying that she should have ignored my husband’s issues, which were important and valid. But I really needed to be navigating on a two-way street.)

Another therapist I went to decided that my problems stemmed from being an innocent led astray by an older man (ten years older) who got me into practices that went against my upbringing. Which is not the way it was at all. (It was the 70s. Some experimentation with sex and drugs for a woman in her 20s was not considered total depravity then.)

She also diagnosed me with PTSD because I said I had flashbacks and dreams about the bad parts.

In both of those cases, I got the hell out.

And that’s my point. I had a choice and I exercised it. I went looking for someone else who could help me with my problems. And I found a psychotherapist who could and has, plus a psychiatrist for my meds.

I’m not saying you should ditch your therapist when the process hits uncomfortable or even painful patches. It’s pretty much got to if it’s going to help.

But you made the choice of hiring this person. You also have the choice – and the right– to leave and go looking for someone else.


(Disclaimer again: I am not a medical or psychiatric professional and my comments are based on my own experience. YMMV.)

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