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I began consulting psychotherapists and counselors in my late twenties when I was beset with depression. I’ve always found therapy helpful in a crisis-by-crisis context, that is to say that I don’t just go once a week for years on end no matter what is going on in my life, like Woody Allen or this pampered rich lady I know who actually just needs more attention for her trivial soap-opera-of-a-life than the public is willing to give her. I go when I’m having trouble with something specific like a breakup, a job change, etc., and continue until I’ve got a grip on it. That’s how it works best for me.
My first therapist, the one treating me for depression all those years ago, taught me to monitor my feelings more closely, discern why I react a certain way to certain stimulus, and be more assertive in getting my own needs met. Then she died of cancer. I immediately sought the help of another therapist in dealing with my abandonment issues.
The most important thing about the process is to pick a therapist who is right for you. For those of you considering therapy for the first time, here are some tips about choosing one:
1. Once your therapist begins helping you help yourself, it is quite common to have very strong feelings for them. Some patients even believe they are in love. This is called “transference.” For this reason, pick a therapist that you could not possibly imagine having sex with, no matter how drunk you were. If you’re straight, pick someone of the same sex, if you’re gay, choose someone of the opposite sex. If you’ve got “daddy issues,” choose someone younger than you, etc. My current therapist is an avid fan of reality game shows, smells like damp Fritos, and dresses like a clown.
2.Therapy styles vary widely. Some offer advice and feedback, others sit silently for months and force you to do all the work, claiming the only way one can truly learn is to discover the answers for oneself. Choose the style that is right for you. If you are actually interested in solving your problems and moving on, someone who offers feedback might be best. If, on the other hand, you just want someone to listen to you whine, your friends and family have cut you off, and money is no object, the quiet kind may be just what the doctor ordered. My own opinion is that the quiet kind is little more than a very expensive bartender who serves no alcohol.
3. Run a background check on your therapist. If he or she has a record of extracting personal information from vulnerable people then posting it on a web site with hidden-camera videos of them using their tiny office bathroom, shy away. The legal case can drag on for years.
4. When speaking of your spouse, refrain from expressions like, “I want to kill her.” They are required to report this to the authorities.
I hope you have found this list to be informative and that it helps you find help. If you’re anything like me, you really need it.