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Experience is NOT the Best Teacher when it comes to Providing Good Therapy posted Nov 11, 2017


If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say “How are you going to help me with my children and you don’t have any;” or “I’m sorry, I can’t see a therapist who has never been married.” Friends, good therapy is not about the therapist’s life experience. If that were the case, she would have to have been married, divorced, rape, addicted, abandoned, depressed, and a whole host of other unforeseeable human problems. Therapy is about the CLIENT'S experience. SO, STOP THIS!

It might be good logic when taking advice from your friends, maybe, but not for a trained relationship practitioner.

So when you shop for a therapist this is what you look for:

1)    Licensed—at least they have the basic training.

2)    Listener—pay attention you can tell when someone is listening.

a.    Note: If the therapist talks a lot then be concerned if she/he is listening well.

b. If your therapist seems to be anticipating your comments then most likely their next comment is not going to be about what you just said but about some pre-supposition, which is not really about you. This is why I'm saying--therapy is not about the therapist, it's about you.

3)    Thoughtful Offering—not telling you what to do but asking you powerful questions to help you decide what is best for you to do—this empowers you. Unless you want to spend your life with someone else (meaning the therapist) always in your business--telling you what they think is best for you.

4)    Respectful—Non-judgmental, allowing you to say whatever you want to say without censoring or correcting. The therapeutic relationship should feel safe, sort of like being in your mother’s or father's arms.

There are lots of other person-centered characteristics that good therapists exhibit. The ones I'm suggesting are very basic behaviors. The key, in any case, is that you feel comfortable and safe and you feel that the time you spend in therapy is about you and your concerns.

One last thing, when you see a therapist ask him/her about their personal philosophy. Ask how they are going to help you change your situation. And, then, you listen to see if you can understand the explanation; and if you think he or she is a good fit for you then relax, be honest, and allow change to happen.

So, you see good therapy is not about what your therapist has personally experienced, it has to do with how she/he uses professional training to engage you in thoughtful, meaning, useful talk that will lead to change in your experiences.

28850 PointsGold

Dr. Debra LMFT (MT2416)

/ The Relationship Expert / LMFT