Monday, July 6, 2015
You will find all sorts of blogs and checklists out there of what to look for in a therapist. These can be incredibly helpful. However, the DO NOTs of therapy deserve some attention, too.
There are many obvious things a therapist shouldn’t do (see: psych central blog).
Here are some less obvious problems that should raise a red flag.
They fail to seek your informed consent.
Any therapist you see will have you sign a consent form at the beginning of your relationship. This is good, ethical practice. However, they should continually seek your consent as you move forward. Before any exercise, whether it be written, verbal, art or something else, they should check in with you to ensure you’re comfortable with what they are asking. You are always allowed to say no.
They do not ask for feedback from you (or can’t accept it).
Your therapist will be asking about how you are doing and what your experience is with various interventions and conversations. This is good. If they’re not asking, tell them. If they don’t listen, get a new therapist.
Manipulate you into remaining as a client.
Assuming you are attending therapy voluntarily and are not a danger to yourself or others, you have a right to decide who you see for therapy and how long you see them. (Patients in hospitals and in involuntary treatment have rights, too, but that’s a different conversation.) Signing a consent form is not a contract for length of services. You are free to leave whenever you want. If a therapist does not feel like a good fit for you, you can decide to see someone else.
Talk to other people about you.
Your therapist should never talk about your case with anyone. Exceptions do exist to this rule including: you give written permission, the therapist receives a court order, you are suicidal/homicidal or discuss child/elder abuse. This also applies to your written therapy record. If these boundaries are crossed, it is inappropriate and grounds for you to file a complaint against the therapist with their licensing board.
Try to be your friend, business partner or lover.
This is a big no-no. Your therapist is expected to follow the ethics of their profession regarding personal relationships with clients. These rules go something like this: No personal relationship with a current client is ever appropriate. Some professions allow for relationships if your therapy ended 2 years ago. Many professionals err on the side of keeping that boundary in place permanently. If your therapist is making sexual advances, suggesting you grab a drink or asks to borrow money from you, stop seeing them immediately and call the licensing board in your state. This is completely unacceptable behavior.
There are countless wonderful, ethical therapists but there are also a few bad apples. Keep an eye out for these red flags to protect yourself when you see a therapist.
Bethany Raab is a licensed clinical social worker in Denver, Colorado. She owns a private therapy practice where she works with teens, families and young adults.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
There has been a lot of buzz with the play-offs lately. One has to live under a rock to avoid being affected by it in one form or another.
Not being a sports fan I decided to take a walk on the wild side by accepting an invitation to dinner at a local bar where the final game would be played on every screen in the place.
My immersion experience began with the driver of the shuttle who took us to the bar. He recounted the story of the previous evening’s game, sharing with emotion how he had been close to tears when it looked like his beloved team may lose. His voice, hoarse from all the screaming, now had a lilt in it as he spoke of the team’s dramatic win. They had managed to turn things around and to listen to him; it had been close to a spiritual experience.
In the restaurant people were already seated in the front row. Dressed in their Heat attire, they were screaming and throwing their hands up to clap for a play which brought the team a little closer to winning.
I began thinking of the role these sportsmen played for people, young and old from all walks of life and I found myself wondering : “Who do we make our heroes and why? “
When I think of my heroes, the people that come to mind are rarely those with celebrity. Oh, I admit, Oprah holds a special place for me as I’m sure she does for many, but I think instead, of Sister Mendonca my fifth grade teacher who had the kindest, most loving heart. She made some difficult times a bit easier to bear and I have never forgotten her for it.
Now in middle age, I think of my father as another hero. This surprises me at first, but it is a good choice nonetheless. He was a tough, scary man, but he modeled some of the most important principles in life for which I am very grateful. The best parts of me are all as a result of having him as my father.
I sometimes sit across from my clients and wonder, am I a hero for them? If so, I hope I can be like my heroes, who in very humble and unassuming ways gave me so much.
Take the time to seek out your heroes. They often go unnoticed, flying under the radar with little or no awareness of their own magnificence, but they are heroes nonetheless.
Let them know how they have impacted you. Then, think about how you can be a hero for someone else and do it. You may just change a life in unexpected ways. Unleash the hero within you. I promise you it’s there …ready and waiting to get into the heat of the game.
Rosemary De Faria, LCSW has a psycho-spiritual psychotherapy practice in Miami, Florida. With over 20 years experience she uses both traditional and alternative therapies in working with her clients. To read more about Rosemary or to read more of her articles, please visit www.distincttherapy.com. Mention this blog article for a complementary phone consultation: 954-966-3446.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Couples counseling requires a balancing act in order to work well. If one person feels slighted or picked upon, the overall work is compromised. You don’t want to feel that the person who is supposed to be helping you is siding with your partner.
Typically, the subject that your partner and you disagree on feels crucial. Both people are bringing strong emotions to the discussion. For example, if you’re arguing about the frequency of sexual intimacy, one partner may feel very strongly that sex isn’t important enough to the other partner. This partner may feel rejected and undesirable as a result. The partner who looks like he/she is avoiding sex might be experiencing increased stress in daily life and may feel overwhelmed generally. The emotions this partner holds on a day-to-day basis can be debilitating. Is one person “right” and the other person “wrong”? No.
Both people are affected negatively by this disconnect in the relationship. The counselor might want them to talk to each other in the counseling session about their feelings on the topic, to explore the significance of sex, perhaps to even try some problem-solving around this subject. The counselor might help the couple build upon their knowledge of each other and their friendship. The relationship may exhibit other issues that could lead the counselor to work with the couple in building specific skills to improve the relationship. Additionally, do other factors exist that affect the sexual aspect of their relationship—medical problems, substance abuse, depression? These factors would need to be addressed as well.
In most cases, there is no “right” or “wrong” person. Counselors can look at the process of how the couple relates. Counselors can help couples focus on resolvable issues, rather than perpetual issues. Counselors can help couples learn new skills and improve upon existing skills.
Counselors that help couples transform how they relate to each other, stand a great chance of helping couples gain the knowledge to improve their relationship and love fully.
Anita M. O’Donnell, M.Ed., LPCMH, NCC provides individual and couples counseling in Wilmington, Delaware through her company SuccessWorks Unlimited, Inc. She also offers telephonic and face-to-face coaching. Ms. O’Donnell earned her M.Ed. from Temple University in Philadelphia in 1991. You can follow her at www.facebook.com/YourBestLifeToday and through her website www.successworksunltd.com.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
When someone says, “She (or he) is just a friend,” this generally means the relationship is not romantic, not sexual and not too intimate. It is also understood to mean, “You need not take this too seriously.”
On the other hand we sometimes hear someone say in a reverent way about a spouse, or a partner, “He (or she) is my best friend.” This is saying, “Yes, lots of people are married, lots of people have sex and live together, but what we share is a special trust, support and a rich love.”
What does it take to have this rich enviable friendship? For a start it takes risking being open about one’s feelings, being gently honest about what one thinks and does, being able to deal with disagreements in a relatively calm manner and being able to negotiate differences.
Unfortunately these skills are rarely taught in childhood. Instead many of us learned not to trust because we found caregivers not safe, not trustworthy and it was not smart to trust. Suspicion and fear are often survival skills in childhood but as an adult they can impede love. To learn how to be a true friend and how to choose someone trustworthy may take relearning in a safe environment.
In effective relationship therapy you may learn techniques, like how to let another person know that you heard what they said by repeating what you think you heard back to them and checking to see if you are correct. You may learn certain "no-no's" like telling someone they "should" do or be a different way. That is a sure way to create distance in a relationship very quickly, almost as fast as by telling someone they are stupid. These things certainly do not gain intimacy.
But most effective may be observing the therapist's style and emotional tone. Or you may notice that the therapist may see things very differently from the way you have seen them and wonder what he sees that you don't. You may explore why your partner's comments are so upsetting to you. What does it remind you of in your history? It can be very helpful to have a wise and experienced guide to do this and feel safe.
Gil Shepard is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Walnut Creek, California
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Most professionals in the helping profession chose their job purposefully. We enjoy helping, listening, and problem solving. I found an online quiz that supposedly determines if one would make a good therapist. It asked questions about one’s understanding, ability to help others control emotions, make decisions, give feedback and read social cues. These are definitely telling questions, but is there more to it? Do therapists ever think of their clients as more than a job? Do clients feel that they are genuinely liked? I’ve written previously about the chemistry one must have with their therapist. That chemistry can go both ways.
Are there clients I particularly enjoy seeing? Yes. Is it because they are nice? Sure, they are nice. But it is more their motivation to work during our sessions. As a therapist, I am easy to please: Show up for our scheduled appointments, call if you can’t or are running late, and then use your time well. However, that doesn’t mean I “like” you any less if you don’t do these things. I care about my clients. I like them too. Some I can say I really like, especially after having known them for many years. But let’s be honest. It is a one-sided relationship. They may leave a session feeling better than ever, and I am fulfilled knowing together we worked hard, but while they may ponder our work well after the session is over, I am completely focused on my next client.
Many clients come into our session with a list of topics they want to discuss and work on. But what is he or she feeling when they leave? Some of my clients probably feel that I am proud of them based on our talk and the progress they have made, and that feeling may transfer to feeling like they pleased me and that they did well. They leave with a smiling “thank you so much” and will sometimes tell me they repeated some of our conversation with their loved ones. Feeling liked is part of that along with feeling accepted and cared for. I have never been asked the question during therapy “do you like me”, but I confidently believe my clients would all say that I genuinely do.
Sometimes a client’s issue might be insecurities and that will transfer over to our relationship as well. A client may leave wondering if he or she pleased me and answered “correctly” instead of processing situations through their own glasses (as opposed to mine). Once confidence is built, it is my hope that their habit of changing behaviors to please me will become pleasing to themselves.
Some therapists say it is too draining to think about work when not working. I can’t help but brainstorm and process throughout my days. Is it draining? Possibly. But again, doing a good job is fulfilling. I think 100% of my clients would tell you that not only do I like them, but that I like them best. And for that 45-50 minute session, I do.
Lynn R. Zakeri is a licensed Clinical Social Worker with a private practice in Northfield and Skolie, Illinois. For more information view Lynn's website at www.lynnzakeri.com.