How to Talk to Your Therapist

Salon Topic Given at Belizean Grove Fall Conference

September 27, 2014, San Francisco, CA

With increasing need for patient advocacy, we understand the importance of being smart consumers and doing our part in the management of our health. We are coached to bring up things to our doctors, to take notes, and to be organized in our visits. Is this true also for therapy? I was delighted to offer a few thoughts on how to talk to your therapist to get the most out of your treatment.16874366_s

  • “Fit” is arguably the most important thing to consider when choosing a therapist. Trust your gut and choose someone with whom you feel comfortable. Don’t be afraid to meet with several people before you make a decision.
  • Feel free to ask questions in your search for a therapist. Common questions tend to be about therapeutic style, therapist experience, average length of treatment, fees for services, insurance participation, and scheduling details. Many therapists have websites that address many common questions, but make sure to ask any outstanding questions if you are unclear.
  • Look to feel respected and understood, but also challenged to stretch towards the goals you set for your work together.  Goal setting is an important part of the treatment process. Make sure you both agree on what you are working towards.
  • Keeping goals in mind, look to be as open as possible to the process. The more you trust the process, the more efficient it will be.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and speak up about the process. This is good practice for other aspects of your life too. Remember, the most productive therapeutic relationships are collaborative.
  • Your therapist will likely follow your lead in treatment. We can only hear and take in what we are ready for. A good therapist understands and respects your resistances, while nudging you towards your edges of growth.
  • As well as therapy usually goes, there will be times when your therapist goofs, or simply doesn’t get it. When this happens or you have specific concerns about therapy or its process, bring them up as soon as possible so that you can discuss them and work them through. Chances are good that dynamics will emerge in therapy much like they do in other parts of your life. Having similar issues play out with your therapist allows you to work through these issues and thus learn to do so more effectively in other areas of your life.

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD