Tanya Mangwani, Integrative psychotherapist at Seraniti.com, discusses important aspects to consider while choosing a therapist.
Making an informed decision while choosing a therapist
As there are no strict laws surrounding mental health care in India, it is up to you, as a client, to make sure you are getting the best treatment possible. Even if a therapist is excellent at his/her work, he/she may not be the best fit for you. Most people have to try a few therapists before they find one that’s a good fit for them. So don’t get discouraged! The right therapist for you is out there.
Educational Qualification – Most therapists have a Masters degree in Counselling or Clinical Psychology or Social Work. Some might have an M.Phil or PhD in Psychology or an MD in psychiatry. Even though most masters degrees are broad and cover a wide range of populations, some therapists have specialized experience in working with a particular population. Don’t hesitate to ask your therapist about their educational background and work history. As a client, you have a right to know.
Ask about their theoretical orientation – Read up on the different theoretical orientations. There is no ‘best’ theoretical orientation even though research has shown that specific theoretical orientations work well with certain problems (for example, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Borderline Personality Disorder). You might be inclined towards a specific orientation based on your personality and what you’re looking for. For example, if you want in depth work that explores your childhood, you might favor psychoanalysis or psychodynamic therapy. If you’re looking for a more structured and directive approach, you might prefer Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
Trust your instinct – The strongest indicator of successful therapeutic outcome is a good client-therapist relationship. Do you trust your therapist? Is he/she non-judgmental and accepting? You should feel comfortable enough to open up to your therapist and share your innermost thoughts and emotions. If you do not agree with something your therapist said or did, have an open discussion with them. Feedback will help strengthen the relationship and let the therapist know what is working for you and what is not.
Be patient – Therapy is not magic and you’re not likely to be “cured” after one session. It takes at least a few sessions to build a strong rapport with your therapist and see positive changes in your life. In order to get the most out of therapy, the client has to play an active role in the therapeutic process.
Does age make a difference? A common misconception is that older therapists are more competent since they have greater life experience. This is not always true. Even though your therapist might not have experienced the same difficulties as you, they are still trained to help you cope with your problems. Sometimes, it is easier to be understood by someone close to your own age group. On the other hand, many people find it valuable to work with a therapist from a different age group as it gives them fresh perspective.