Choosing a therapist
I was recently asked to help a close friend find a therapist and the process got me thinking. Those of us in this trade know (or like to think we know) what makes a good therapist. There are certain non-negotiables in my opinion; rigorous training, a long personal therapy and a good supervisor. When I gave this list to my friend I was met with a blank stare.
"I can see the point of training and supervision, but therapy? Why would I want a therapist who needed therapy them self?" he queried.
I tried to explain that the majority of training courses make it a requirement that trainees undergo their own personal therapy. "Ah, so they get rid of their own baggage?" he pondered. I wasn't to sure how to respond to this question. I mulled it over for a while and realised my therapy had given me an insight into what it's like to be a client; the vulnerability experienced when disclosing your secrets.
It has also given me, in the form of my superb therapist, a role model for good practice. Had it helped me overcome my own 'baggage' as my friend so poetically put it?! I think the answer here is no, but at least I now know which bags are mine!
A slightly different metaphor that I use with clients is that therapy helps turn crap into compost. The stuff that I had carried about for years was gradually transformed into material I could use creatively, both in my personal and professional life.
"Material you can use creatively??" sneered my friend, " You've gone all 'therapy speak' on me. What does that mean in the real world? " It means the therapist is aware of their own issues, and has worked through them to the point where they become useful the client. For example, I had a very tricky relationship with my father. Having looked at that extensively in therapy, I can now use that experience to empathise with clients who have similar issues.
A good therapist isn't just a well trained therapist. You can know the techniques and apply them, but that's mistaking the map for the territory. A good therapist uses his or her life experience alongside the technical training.
"Still sounds a bit 'therapy speak' to me" he replied - he was proving to be a tough crowd, "but I suppose I can see what you're getting at. At least they know who they are. And that they are not perfect either."
So despite my tendency to veer into 'therapy speak', my friend was ready to start looking for a therapist, armed with knowledge on what he should be looking for. Good luck to those of you searching on Counselling Directory for the right therapist. Remember to take your time, and ask as many questions as you need to!