It might not be the men who need to change. It might be the therapists.
So, you’ve realized going to therapy might be a good idea. Or, you’re partner thinks it’s a good idea, and you’re playing along. You sit down in front of your computer, Google your location plus the word therapist and encounter a wide array of therapy pages covered in lotus flowers, doves, and waterfalls. You click around the sites and see these therapists can help you on your journey to self-discovery and awareness. That might not be what you had in mind.
I can relate. The first time I realized I needed therapy, I was newly single and my anger was out of control. One afternoon, a chirping smoke-detector and lack of nine-volt batteries sent me over the edge. My memory of the episode is fuzzy, but I do know that it involved a headache and some thrown property. I didn’t want my children to ever see me like that, so I decided to try therapy.
It was harder than I anticipated to find someone to help me manage my rage. Therapy centers with names like Wellspring of Fountain Healing with Tears and Connection appealed to me as much as the human interest story about a football player’s three-legged, cone-of-shame-wearing rescue dog before the Super Bowl. I wanted to quell my anger, not venture down the windy path of emotional discovery and self-reflective insight. I thought a scene from a horror movie would have been a more relatable image than flowers, cairns, and peaceful women looking zenned-out.
I finally found someone who was pragmatic, down-to-earth, and helpful. I went to therapy angry and tense, and left able to control my anger and enjoy life.
Deciding to pursue therapy is a hard decision, and it shouldn’t be harder trying to find a therapist. Most therapists—intentionally or unintentionally—market to women. If therapy ends up being a poor fit, oftentimes it is less about what is wrong with you, and more about what is wrong with how the therapist is marketing his or her services.
It is possible to find an effective therapist and get a lot out of the therapeutic experience. Here are some things to keep in mind as you begin your search:
How does the therapist see his or her role?
By definition, counseling is a professional relationship that empowers individuals to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals. The key here is “empower.” Therapists are not there to rescue you, coddle you, or save you from yourself. They are there to empower you.
Does the therapist set goals before you even set foot in the office?
Some therapists go a little overboard in the description of what they do. On one site I encountered recently, the therapist said she was there to help clients find their “authentic spiritual selves.” Well, what if you simply want to feel better and function more effectively? Find someone who isn’t setting your goals for you before you even make contact.
Are you comfortable with the therapist?
Therapy can be very uncomfortable, but that does not mean you should feel uncomfortable with your therapist. When I was looking for a therapist to address my PTSD, I could not at all relate to images of calm water and cairns on the websites. Pictures from a horror film would have resonated more with me. I wanted a therapist I could trust to face my horrific reality with me and not flinch.
From the way the therapist presents himself or herself, do you feel you are on the same wavelength? When you meet your therapist in person, do you feel like you can be yourself? If you end up censoring yourself, explaining yourself, or just feeling awkward, chances are it is a poor fit.
What is the therapist’s theoretical orientation?
In other words, how does your therapist see change and what approach does the therapist use in empowering you to meet your goals? Most therapists are eclectic. In other words, they incorporate bits and pieces from various modalities in helping their clients reach their goals. If you are concrete, chances are a Jungian therapist who does dream interpretation might not be the best fit for you.
Where is the therapist’s office? What is the fee structure?
Do you want someone who bills insurance? Are you comfortable with third parties having information about your mental health? Can you afford to pay out of pocket? Is the office convenient enough for you to visit weekly or bi-monthly? The perfect therapist isn’t perfect if his or her office is an hour from your home and the fee is out of your budget.
Once you decided your goals would be met more effectively with the support of a professional, the next step is to finding a therapist who is a good fit. Investing time in finding the right therapist will help you get more out of therapy. If you aren’t comfortable seeking therapy, chances are this reflects less on you and more on the way the therapists you’ve encountered have presented or delivered their services.