Bad Therapy is Worse than No Therapy

People often ask me how they can find an effective therapist in their area. Of course this gives me a great opportunity to promote my book, “Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference).” Short of ending this week’s column right here and sending you to to buy the book, I’ve put together a 10-point “Cliff’s Notes” version that might tempt you to part with $19.95.

First and foremost, you should research the hiring of a potential therapist as thoroughly as you would the purchase of a new car or a home. It’s a big investment – on many levels.

1. Find a therapist who converses with you and answers your questions – not someone who merely listens and mutters, “How does that make you feel?”

2. Find a therapist who is willing to shine the light of reason, facts and logic on your emotions. After all, in many cases it’s your emotions you’re trying to change.

3. Find a therapist who doesn’t try to tell you what to do. He or she must be clearly interested in helping you find intelligent answers and solutions. Beware of agendas!

4. Find a therapist who does not immediately resort to medication.

5. Find a therapist who speaks in plain English, not in overly technical terms he or she is unwilling to explain. Beware of psychobabble clichés! Remember that those who understand what they’re talking about don’t need buzzwords; they only need concepts grounded in facts. Those who understand what they’re talking about are always willing to explain.

6. Find someone who’s a good listener and who’s patient. Constant interruptions and steering the conversation one way or another is one sign of an agenda on the therapist’s part.

7. Be willing to put time into your search. Check online to find a therapist who has a website with published articles and/or books. In this day and age, that shouldn’t be unusual or difficult. You want to know something about how the therapist thinks. If you hire somebody who has ideas for helping you that make no sense, it’s not going to work and your money and time will be wasted.

8. Don’t emphasize labels. A cognitive-behavioral therapist is usually the best kind, but not all who label themselves that way truly know what they’re doing. A cognitive-behavioral therapist is a start, but not enough. “Couples therapist,” “anger management therapist” and all the other official-sounding labels don’t mean anything. There’s no “Anger Management” or “Couples Therapy” university.

9. You’ll probably need one or a few sessions with a therapist before you can know for sure. If you think the therapist meets all your criteria, it will still take a few sessions for you to establish if this is someone with whom you can speak openly and comfortably.

10. Look for someone who wants to understand your strengths, and who wants you to know your strong points and potential. I heard recently about a therapist who made the client feel she was on the witness stand, being interrogated to find out what was wrong with her. No thought or comment made by the patient was trusted. Behind the therapist’s every word there lurked some deep, dark mystery that hinted at life in turmoil and depravity around every corner.

Ridiculous! Such an experience says more about the therapist than anything else, i.e., the therapist needs to veil his or her ignorance in intimidation and mystery. It’s just plain creepy.

As my book demonstrates, bad therapy is worse than no therapy at all. As with all relationships in life, you need to surround yourself with non-toxic, positive, realistic and uplifting people. After all, isn’t happiness and peace of mind the goal of pretty much any therapeutic relationship? If this makes sense, there’s even more good information in my book. You can read the first few pages at Don’t bother with Amazon. The book’s available exclusively at my website.


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