Where Do I Start? Looking for the right therapist can be challenging.
You and your partner decide you need counseling. Maybe you’re bickering more or maybe you just haven’t made time for the two of you in months and can’t seem to get back on track. You’ve never been in counseling before and don’t have any idea where to start.
Where Do We Begin???
1. Ask around. It’s not always easy admitting that you and your partner are in need of some help. You may feel vulnerable asking someone you know but trust me, most people have either been in counseling or have close friends and family who have been. The best referral is from someone who has seen a therapist. While every therapist is different and the relationship with that provider unique to the individual, it’s a great place to start your search for a therapist.
2. Utilize Psychology Today and Good Therapy. Depending on where you live, most therapists register a profile with these listings. It’s a great way to narrow your search for a therapist. Both have filters you can set so if you know you want a male therapist in a particular zip code, you can set the parameters to search that way.
3. Check association pages. You’ve always seen the funny letters behind therapist’s names, right? LCSW, LPC, LMFT, etc, etc. Well, each of those acronyms represents a slightly different field of study. The associations for each discipline have websites that offer a great deal of information about each discipline and some provide a list of verified providers.
· LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists are governed by AAMFT. The Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
· LPC: Licensed Professional Counselors are governed by ACA, American Counseling Association.
· LCSW: Licensed Clinical Social Workers are governed by NASW, The National Association of Social Workers.
· PhD: Doctoral level Psychologists are governed by APA, American Psychological Association
4. Google. Yes, I said it. Use Google. There’s good news and bad news about using a search engine. The good news is that it tends to be very inclusive. You’ll get LOTS of results. The bad news is that you’ll get LOTS of results. While it can be a great way to start searching, the sheer volume of therapists can be overwhelming. Try narrowing down with filters by searching for specifics such as “Marriage Therapist in Nashville” or “Christian Counselor near Hendersonville”.
5. Websites. With each of these options, definitely start your search for a therapist by reading about the therapist. Goodness of fit between therapist and client is paramount and a good website will provide you with information you need about how the therapist practices, what they charge, where they are, etc. Most therapists will give some indication about who they are. Trust your gut. Call a few and see how the communication feels.
IMAGO?? What does this even mean??
Understanding the different modalities of counseling can be tricky. Do you want a Rogerian or Adlerian therapist? Do you need a provider that specializes in Emotionally Focused Therapy or Imago? There are so many different theoretical approaches, I’d literally be writing a text book to go through each and every one. For the sake of this article, I’m going to speak briefly on some of the more common approaches for marriage counseling.
But Adina, does it even matter?
Studies have shown (like this or this) that the relationship, or therapeutic alliance, between the therapist and client is the most important factor in perceived wellness by the patient. So while therapeutic approach CAN be important, it isn’t the only factor to consider. That being said, knowledge is power and I want you to feel empowered and ready to jump into the healing process. These are some of the common modalities in marriage/couples counseling today.
· Developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt in the late 1980’s.
· Examines the connection between the frustrations experienced in adult relationships and early childhood experiences
· Imago focuses on making the unconscious aspects of the relationship conscious. This relationship consciousness is the goal of therapy.
· We became wounded during the early nurturing and socializing stages of development by our primary caretakers (usually inadvertently).
· We have a composite image of all the positive and negative traits of our primary care takers deep in our unconscious mind. This is called the IMAGO. It is like a blue print of the one we need to be our partner in a committed intimate relationship.
· We look for someone who is an IMAGO Match, that is, someone who matches up with the composite image of our primary caretakers. This is important because we marry or commit for the purpose of healing and finishing the unfinished business of childhood. Our parents are the ones who wounded us and it is they who could help us heal. A primary love partner who matches their traits is their stand-in.
· Resource to learn more:
o Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix, PhD
Source: The Imago Match, A Quarterly Newsletter, published by Francine Beauvoir, Ph. D. and Bruce Crapuchettes, Ph. D; Pasadena Institute for Relationships; Altadena, CA.
· Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) was formulated in the 1980’s by Dr. Sue Johnson.
· EFT is a short-term form of therapy that focuses on adult relationships and attachment/bonding. The therapist and clients look at patterns in the relationship and take steps to create a more secure bond and develop more trust to move the relationship in a healthier, more positive direction.
· Based on attachment theory.
· An EFT therapist observes the dynamics between clients in the therapy setting, ties this behavior to the dynamics in their home lives, and helps direct new conversations and interactions based on more honest feelings.
· EFT focuses on the present time to makes changes in the here and now. There are three steps of EFT. The first is to de-escalate the couple’s or family member’s negative cycle of interactions, and help them see and understand what is happening in their relationship. The next stage is to restructure interactions, wherein the therapist helps clients discuss their fears in the relationship, using language that doesn’t push the other away. Consolidation is the third stage of EFT, wherein the therapist helps clients see how they got into negative patterns and points out how they were able to change those patterns and can continue these types of conversations in the future.
· EFT is collaborative and respectful of clients combining experiential Rogerian techniques with structural systemic interventions.
· Change strategies and interventions are specified.
o Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson
· Drs. John and Julie Gottman constructed the Gottman Method of treatment based on over 40 years of scientific research.
· Interventions are designed to help couples strengthen their relationships in three primary areas: friendship, conflict management, and creation of shared meaning.
· The goals of Gottman Method Couples Therapy are to disarm conflicting verbal communication, increase intimacy, respect, and affection, remove barriers that create a feeling of stagnancy in conflicting situations, and create a heightened sense of empathy and understanding within the context of the relationship.
· Focuses on nine components of the Sound Relationship House model.
o Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, PhD
· Developed by Dr. Stan Tatkin based in research in neuroscience, attachment theory and the biology of the moment-to-moment ability to manage our energy and readiness to engage.
· Therapist focuses on small shifts in your face, voice and body language to assess how you are feeling and ask you to do the same as a couple.
· Like EFT, based on attachment theory.
· Focuses on the way the body and mind respond to and manage moods and emotions.
· Understanding human need for connection can help couples form secure attachments.
· Based on a set of principles including creating a “couple bubble”, couples becoming experts on each other’s worlds; learning to fight well; managing “thirds”, or outside entities, and learning to minimize each other’s stress to optimize each other’s health.
· For use with couples only.
o Your Brain on Love by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, LMFT
Bottom line? Do your research and find a therapist who speaks your language and gets your world. Ask for referrals from people you know and don’t be shy in asking for a phone consultation. You may do all this and still feel like it’s not the right fit for you. Don’t worry! Your therapist wants it to be a good fit, too! As for modality, keep in mind that many therapists use an eclectic mix of approaches and theories and don't align with just one model. There's overlap and similarities in all and finding something that works for your specific needs is the main objective.