Footnotes From The Front Porch

Below is an amazing tool for anyone looking to partner with a therapist.  Thanks to my good friend and fellow traveling partner for your willingness to equip and encourage others to seek wise counsel. 

How To Pick A Good Therapist
1.  Have a consultation so that you can see if you feel comfortable and safe- this can be in person (preferably) or over the phone.  Does the counselor seem like they are with you, listening and understanding or do they seem like a "know it all" and/or not emotionally connected?  A consumer has a choice.  Even though it is anxiety-producing going to a therapist the first time, it is important to tease out your own stuff from the counselors. 

2.  What's the general philosophy of the therapist and approach to helping?  Are people sick and need to be labeled with a disorder or are humans lovable and loving and  adapt the best they can to what happens to them or what issues they face?

3.  How is this therapist going to help me reach my goals?  First look at your goals?  Do you need someone to just listen to you and vent?  Do you want homework in between session so that you can practice what you learn?  Are you willing to do the work...noticing, journaling, exercises, trying new ways out, etc. telling the truth, coming even when it's hard?  Is the therapist willing to let you know a path or plan that will get you to feeling better or resolving the issue that brought you in?

4.  Does the therapist equip you with the skills to become better self soothers/regulators?  Does he or she help you become independent over time or do they encourage a dependence on the therapist.  Of course, there will be a dependence in the beginning because a safe attachment needs to be built so that trust and connection develop, but with the goal that there will be an end.

5.  Has the therapist done their own therapy?  If so, how long?

6.  It's OK to ask questions like, are you married?  are you a parent?  what clients have you helped? 

7.  It also needs to be OK, or the therapist can invite the client to say, "I'm not ready for that"  " I don't like to journal"  and be a co creator of their therapy.

8.  Can your therapist handle big emotions?  Is it safe for you to cry, get angry, etc?

9.  Does your counselor have a master's degree?  Anyone can call themselves a counselor or coach. Only someone schooled with a Master's Degree either licensed or on their way to licensed can call themselves a psychotherapist, Marriage Family Therapist.

Proverbs 12:15 Seek Wise Counsel....

Nancy Ryan, M.A.
Marriage Family Therapist Intern
Supervised by Phil Stahr, MFC

Footnotes From The Front Porch

Why See A Counselor?

I have noticed that when I share my journey with others about counseling, there is a typical response and it goes like this.  “That is good for you but not for me.”

I have also noticed that there is this false belief that people of faith should be able to resolve their issues on their own, “just me and God.”  There are also those who believe that talking with a counselor is as good as talking with a friend.

This is not necessarily true. It is time for us as a society to come to grips with the fact that our mental health is as important as our physical health.  A counselor can be a valuable resource when you are trying to make sense of mental, emotional or relational difficulties.

Mental health is integral to physical health: it is impossible to separate our physical selves from our mental and emotional selves. The healthier you are mentally and emotionally, the more likely you are to recover from or cope with physical problems.

A counselor is less biased than your friends and family members.  The problems with seeking advice from friends and family members is that they are often personally invested at some level in your behavior and the decisions you make. They may suggest you make choices that make them more comfortable, regardless of whether those are the best choices for you.

Once you enter into therapy, a positive, trusting therapeutic relationship with the counselor must be developed in order for the process to help you. But the counselor has a responsibility to prevent his/her own interests from interfering with yours.

Here is the good news.  Counseling does not last forever. Typically a client meets with the therapist once a week for a little less than an hour, although any mutually agreed-upon schedule is possible. Once your therapist has talked with you enough to gather a relatively complete personal history and has determined with you the goals for your therapy, he or she should be able to give you a sense of whether you can expect the process to take weeks, months, or in some cases, years. But the counselor has some therapeutic tools or strategies that can help you achieve positive results in less time than you might expect.

Any good counselor will always be aiming at maintaining or increasing your level of autonomy (your ability to make your own decisions and take responsibility for your own actions). It would be unethical for any counselor to try to manipulate or control you. You set your own goals (in consultation with the therapist), you have the right to refuse any particular strategy or activity that the counselor might propose, to seek a second opinion at any time, and to end counseling whenever you please. However, it is advisable to talk to the counselor about any of these decisions before making them.

A counselor can help you find the resources you need to resolve your problems. A counselor is aware of community resources that may help you reach your goals. He/she may also be able to help you become more aware of and more able to effectively use your own internal and external strengths and resources. These may include, among other things, your own personality traits, skills, spirituality and values as well as supportive friends, family members and groups you belong to. 

Most importantly, licensed and/or Certified Counselors are well trained. Check the credentials of your prospective counselor. 

Proverbs 12:15 Seek Wise Counsel....