Finding a Therapist

Patients seeking help in the matter of lovelessness and love sickness often need a therapist, and I am asked at times how to find one.  It is not as straightforward as finding a surgeon.  If you need an operation, you look for a doctor who has done the operation many times and has a reputation and works in a quality hospital.  His personality is relatively unimportant.  But a therapist’s personality is crucial.  You may not need to like your surgeon, but you need to find your therapist is a comforting human being.  He or she needs to have wisdom, show respect, and be relatively satisfied with life.  How does one judge these parameters?

At the first meeting, you and the therapist will be anxious.  I am anxious each time I meet a new patient because I worry about being judged myself and whether the patient’s condition is something I can understand and treat. I also worry whether the patient will come back and see me again and stick with me in treatment.  The therapist should acknowledge your anxiety.  And you should not expect a therapist to immediately have all the answers to your case.  In fact, he or she should be humble and not know right away what is going on within you.  Smooth talking clinicians who know all the answers right away are suspect.  The clinician should ask open ended questions about your joys and sorrows, the high and low points of your life, and your hopes for the future. You should emerge from the first or second session with the feeling that the clinician is modest, smart, and interested in helping you.

Never pick a therapist who answers the phone during the session.  You should be the only interest in the room.

There are no psychological tests that are relevant to the matter of lovelessness.

The seating arrangement in the room is important.  I dislike anyone who sits behind a desk; if a desk is in the room, the therapist should side at the side of it near the patient.  If he or she starts typing into a computer, it is a bad sign.  The evaluating clinician may pause now and then to take handwritten notes but reasonably uninterrupted face-to-face contact is imperative.  I never engage in e-mail correspondence with patients.  There is too much ambiguity here and face-to-face discussion should be the rule.  Occasionally, a phone conversation may be needed and this is acceptable because uncertainties can be more fully explored. But e-mail has no tonal qualities and it is impossible to ascertain subtle moods and feelings, despite the existence of emojis.

The therapist’s attire is important.  I wear a tie and jacket, but physicians these days are more casually dressed.  As a simple matter of respect, the clinician should wear a crisp and conservative attire befitting the seriousness of his or her specialty. I call patients by their last and degreed name, such as Dr. Jones or Professor Smith.  Many patients object to this, but it helps me maintain a professional boundary and stance.

The therapist’s office reflects the man or woman’s human interests.  I have seen many barren offices, as if the clinician sees his work as a barren undertaking like the examining room of a clinic.  Plants, pictures, art objects, and signs of life are valuable indicators of engagement with life.  That said, personal photos probably have no place in the consulting room.  When I think of therapists I have respected, they have inviting offices with good, comfortable furniture.

Finally, there is the matter of money and credentials.  In older times, the physician-psychiatrist was the person who performed therapy.  Regrettably, psychiatrists nowadays dispense medication and the therapist is typically a non-M.D. such as a social worker or psychologist.  It is difficult to ascertain the training and credentials of therapists but a patient should make some attempt to find out the nature and level of his or her training.  I feel that many social workers or master’s level or Ph.D. psychologists can do a fine job of helping a patient who is lovesick or experiences lovelessness, provided that he or she understands and enjoys working with relationship matters and can delve into your past so you come to understand how your lovelessness developed in the first place.  Not all therapists take this route.  Some employ a cognitive behavior therapy which tends to focus more on the present.  I think comprehending the past is crucial for the repair of lovesickness.  I will talk more about this, and discuss the matter of fees.

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