Some of us know that moment. The moment you and your partner get in some knock-down, drag-out fight, and finally the words are uttered, “I think we need couples counseling.” One of you spearheads the efforts, researching on yelp, google, or maybe talking to a trusted friend. But when it comes down to it…how do you decide who will help repair your relationship? And to add (and assume), help you with your most important relationship?
The Relationship Institute of San Francisco receives calls from all sorts of potential clients. We find that many are in a rush to get into counseling. Questions such as, “Can you take us today?” Their earnestness is usually due to a major relationship rupture. A fight that went terribly array, or an event that feels too overwhelming to handle, even for just one more day. Our clients typically want counseling, and they want it now.
However, what often gets missed by our clients in their eagerness to begin, is choosing the right therapist. And most importantly, choosing a right therapist that fits them. As we counsel our potential clients into choosing the right therapist, we say the following things.
Choose a Specialist.
Whether it is with TRISF or another provider, choose a specialist. To give an example, if you had a heart condition, would you go see a foot doctor? No, you would go to a cardiologist. The same goes for therapy. Choose a therapist that specializes in couples therapy.
There are many therapists that see many types of clients – adolescents, children, adults and couples. You want a therapist that has a specializes specifically in couples counseling or relationship counseling. Why? It is a very targeted skill set. Couples and relationship therapists have extensive training in garnering tools, resources, and know how to navigate the complexities of couples and relationship counseling.
Call a few therapists. Don’t book with the first one because their schedule fits yours, or they called you back first. Have your partner speak to the therapist. Ask a few friends if they have referrals. What did they find important when they were in counseling? Do some internet research. Read your (potential) therapist’s blog or website. These are all ways for you to make a more informed decision.
Do you like the way your therapist sounds?
When speaking to your potential therapist, are they informative? Do you like the way they explain things? Do you feel like they are knowledgeable?
Do you agree with their approach?
Have your therapist speak to you about their approach. How do they help couples change? What models to they use? What masters do they follow and why? Do you agree with it?
Be flexible with your schedule.
When reviewing your schedule, be as flexible as you can. Many clients have demanding jobs, financial obligations or work commitments. However, remember, you won’t be in therapy forever.
Many therapists don’t work evenings, or weekends, as it is difficult on their families or other obligations. Prior to reviewing you schedule, you may want to speak with your work about missing an hour to an hour and a half per week. This can free up your schedule quite a bit.
Therapy is no doubt expensive. Many of our clients are misinformed about therapy fees and surprised by the cost. Therapy, just like any other profession (law, accounting, personal training, etc) is costly. However, there are clinics that offer reduced fees if you can’t afford your clinicians rate. We support you making a prudent decision regarding your personal financial situation.
While there is no silver bullet to choosing the right therapist, we do hope that your journey into therapy is met with your expectations. It is a complicated process, and a lot can be at stake. However, remember that you hold the keys. You can always start, stop, or change therapists whenever you want. If your therapist is experienced, they will support you and help you make the right decision for you and your relationship.
-- Erika Boissiere, MFT is a the founder of TRISF, and a relationship and individual therapist in San Francisco, CA.