- Autumn Quiles, LCSW
Therapists are not a one-size-fits-all deal. We come in different flavors, so to speak. Some of us are easy; some of us are hard. Some of us are quiet; some of us are loud. Some of us are patient; some of us are demanding. Like all human beings, we come in different flavors. Like ice cream.
Everyone has their favorite flavor of ice cream. Anything less than our favorite is... just meh. There can be no satisfaction in a jalepeno goat cheese ice cream cone, if you are a vanilla purist.
Everyone has their favorite flavor therapist. Anything less than our favorite is... just meh. There can be no satisfaction in an uppity, conservative, know-it-all therapist, if you love all things humble, liberal and crunchy granola.
The therapist will do her best work and your child will achieve his greatest successes if you have chosen your favorite flavor of therapist. If you have not chosen your favorite, you are setting yourself up for dissatisfaction and mediocrity. Don't waste your money or time on mediocrity.
Things you can do to find your flavor therapist:
Be super clear about what you need and want. Do you want a BFF for your kid- someone to just hang out and listen to their endless stories? Do you want a therapist who will gently explore your kid's recent traumatic experience? Do you want a therapist who will call your kid to task and boot-camp them out of their funk? Do you want someone who can just sort out all of this crap and make sense of what is normal and what is not normal? The more clear that you are about what you need, the easier it is to narrow down which one of us is most likely to meet that need.
Scope the therapist out. Is she qualified or does she have a mail order "certification" in coaching? What is her belief system? Is she a hard-core NRA supporter and you're a member of Moms Demand Action? Are you a super vocal atheist and she's a five-day-a-week southern Baptist? Is she super old? Super young? Is she fat and your family are fitness junkies? Have your friends heard of her (and are your friends a good judge of character?)? I believe a good therapist is transparent.
Call her. Chat. Are you into being respectful and giving space, while she's loosey goosey with her opinions and hugs? Does she think about your problems the same way that you think about your problems? Is she pushy or waaaay toooo mellow? Is she a "wait-and-see" kinda person and you're a "let's jump in blind" kinda person? If you end the conversation feeling worried or sad, you need to dial another number. If you end the conversation feeling hopeful, you're on the right track.
Meet her. See if the "chemistry" is there. Does her face match her words? Does she "get" your kid's rhythm? Does she "get" your rhythm? Does she stare at you like a stalker or constantly pick her nose? Does her "energy" compliment the "energy" of your family? If you end your time together feeling concerned or misunderstood, you need to go your own way. If you end your time together feeling inspired and encouraged, you may have found your therapist.
The search for your flavor therapist should be the hardest part of the getting-better process. It surely is the most time-consuming and the most frustrating. But, once you find the therapist that fits your child and family well, you've taken the most difficult step toward finding joy again.