When choosing a psychotherapist the quality of the relationship you may have with that professional is more critical than in all other aspects of your health care and well being.
No doubt you have noticed changes in health care in particular that the relationship with your physician is nothing like long ago or the portrayals in media of the family doc - knowledgeable about your history and ready to help no matter what is going on. Today we are just as likely to go to an urgent care facility and meet with the next doctor in line to treat us. And even with our family physician there are layers of support personnel that greet us first; and then the doctor is faced with a time constraint for seeing us. I noticed recently that my doctor, a very good one who does listen carefully to me, is forced to face a computer screen during a portion of the time we meet.
Psychotherapy is different. Despite health care changes the nature of the relationship in psychotherapy cannot be made more cost effective. It cannot be done by proxy, shared with another psychotherapist or fit into a shorter time frame. Psychotherapy requires a face-to-face contact and time to build a level of trust together. Unlike many other doctors your relationship with your psychotherapist will continue regularly for a time and you need to feel comfortable with that person and confident in the therapist’s skills.
When you seek a psychotherapist many factors are of concern. Certainly the cost and the convenience of the therapist’s office are factors. If you are going to meet weekly you need to be able to get to the office and get there on time. And you need to be able to pay for your therapy. But, these matters should be secondary to just who that therapist is and how the relationship you build with the therapist is going to feel to you over time. This is a serious investment in your life and the quality of your future, so consider carefully whom you are going to see.
The relationship with the therapist is a unique one. It is not a friendship, though it might be friendly. You will want to consider not just whether the therapist can make you feel comfortable but how does the therapist listen, does she understand what you are saying, does he seem to get the seriousness of your concerns, is she focused on you and not on matters of her own concern. Many of these decisions will be made intuitively, but as you consider selecting a therapist you might keep the importance of the relationship high on your list of criteria.
Peter has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and maintains a private practice in psychotherapy since licensure in California in 1984. Currently he lives and practices in Portland Oregon.
He completed additional training as a Psychoanalyst in 1996 and treats individuals in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. Peter also supervises and consults to practicing psychotherapists.
You can contact Peter here to discuss your needs and questions about a consultation.
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