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What Expectations Should You Have For Your Therapist?

Therapists are often the brunt of jokes. In the link posted above, an unsympathetic counselor (Bob Newhart) charges his client a fee for the simplistic advice, “Stop it.” Even when the client explains in detail her struggle with a difficult phobia and seems truly perplexed, Newhart repeats the same frustrating

advice: “Stop it.”Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 12.57.02 PM

 The Change Process

If you find yourself feeling overly sad, anxious, or unmotivated, you may wonder if a therapist could truly help you. Perhaps you have been subjected to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or maybe you feel stuck in the destructive cycle of addiction and you need some recovery tools. If you can’t “stop it” on your own, you might think about getting professional help. As you contemplate this step, it is common to be concerned about the process of finding a good therapist.

Gold Standard For Therapists

Different therapists use a variety of methods, but research repeatedly shows that the quality of the relationship between the therapist and the client is the best predictor of change regardless of the method used. Carl Rogers felt the primary requirements of a good counselor were unconditional positive regard towards the client, genuineness or authenticity in the interactions, and empathic understanding. Rogers believed this type of interaction created the ideal condition for client change.

Personal Connection To Therapist

How do you determine whether your therapist meets the Carl Rogers standard? Try using your “gut” sense as a quality barometer. You are the authority on your life. You can trust your instincts to know if a therapist is right for you and if your therapy is generally headed in the right direction. No one is perfect, including therapists. Keep in mind that if your therapy feels difficult and frustrating, it may be normal and a sign that you are changing. The change process is not easy.

Below is a list of the question I encourage my clients to ask regarding their therapist. If you are currently in therapy and have concerns after reading these questions, talk to your therapist before making a change. If you are looking for a therapist, ask yourself these questions before beginning therapy or at times along the way when you feel stuck.

Questions to assist your evaluation of your therapist

  • Do I feel like my therapist is authentic, genuine, and sincere?
  • Is the therapist competent? Does the therapist’s work suggest that he or she is keeping current with mental health research and best practices approaches? Does the therapist subscribe to any journals in his or her field of work?
  • Can the therapist engage me? Does the therapist interact with me in a way that keeps me engaged in the session?
  • Does the therapist give me helpful feedback in a gentle manner?
  • Can the therapist move me out of my comfort zone and stretch me to grow in areas previously uncomfortable to me? Does the therapist encourage me to take some risks?
  • Is the therapist empathic? Can the therapist validate my fears and concerns?
  • Does the therapist move beyond surface issues and understand the core dynamics of my problem?
  • Is the therapist willing to express how he or she experiences me in our interactions?
  • Can the therapist take feedback and listen to how I experience him or her in our interactions?
  • Does the therapist use objective measures and monitor outcomes in sessions?
  • Have we collaborated on goals and benchmark objectives?
  • With the exceptions of the limitations to confidentiality and legal duties to report, is the therapist completely committed to keeping the content and details of our sessions private? Good luck on your search—you can make changes and increase you self esteem and ability to enjoy life.

Camille Curtis Foster, MSW, LCSW

Contact Me: / 801.472.7134 /              


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