Some of us can get by with reading self-help books and having smart friends to talk to, but some of us are more like the me kind of us, who also need a professional from time to time.
How can you be sure that your professional is good for you? This is a terrible bind for the mad mommy. In our madness, we may not be able to assess who is truly helpful and who is steering us into a cult.
Cults ask for money, but so do most therapists. It’s important to know the difference.
Money is always a part of any difficult puzzle, but it’s not your main concern here. You are worth the cost of the help you need. You are. No, you really are. Don’t let the money stop you. You can work it out. A good therapist will help you figure it out.
Unfortunately, a bad therapist will help you figure out the money too. So how are you going to determine if the person you are working with is good for you?
They should provide a clear plan. Some people get involved in years and years of therapy without a goal. Feeling better is a goal, but what exactly does that mean to you? Better isn’t a goal, but more of a journey. Your goal should be something like reaching a decision about marrying that clown, finding a job that doesn’t make you cry yourself to sleep every night, making two new friends this month, or getting through a shopping trip without a panic attack.
People do all those things routinely, so why can’t you? You can, but maybe you’re stuck in a mental corner that seems like there is no way out. The proper professional can explain what’s involved in turning you around and will have an estimate of how many sessions are needed before you begin to tiptoe out of the corner. If they have never helped anyone with your problem before, find someone else.
I have experienced everything from months of pointless complaining to nothing more than a prescription and a wave. Neither of these is the proper professional way. You’re probably not a pro, so how will you know if you have a good fit, really?
In addition to having a plan, which you are included in, you should feel that you are loved by this person. It can be tough love, but you’re smart, you know when you are loved. If they don’t seem to be listening, they may not even notice when you say goodbye. It doesn’t matter if he is your pastor and your dad’s buddy, if you feel blamed, shamed or bullied, find someone else.
On top of providing an actual treatment plan and proceeding in a truly loving manner, they should give you homework and check it when you return. Homework? What are you twelve? Yes, just accept that in this problem you are twelve and you want to make thirteen, so do your homework. It’s for you.
You can still get something out of mediocre therapy. Some of the best help I had was not great. The act of deciding to focus on the solutions and really thinking hard about where you are and where you’re headed is important on its own. You can count on yourself and if you can’t, get busy on fixing that first.
My favorite approach, to get a little technical, is CBT. That’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, not the oil you keep hearing about. CBT aims to help you understand how your own thoughts are setting you up for the behaviors you don’t want. You can be your own best advocate once you understand how your thoughts are gumming up your activities.
I have had excellent luck in finding the right people using the listings at Psychology Today’s “find a therapist.” There was the one therapist who stood me up because she forgot she had a new patient and then wanted me to make her feel better about standing me up, so it’s not 100% perfect. The list is full of humans, so expecting perfection is, if you’ll allow the term, crazy.
If you have met with a professional therapy person and would like my unprofessional opinion of them, by all means comment (or email) with your feelings and your quandary, and I’ll weigh in.
You will feel better, even if you have to feel worse first. You can do it. We love you.