Finding the Right Therapist

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In the journey to become a therapist it is a well-known phenomenon that a family member will inevitably say, “You could start with us!” The good-natured joke gets a laugh (the first 50 times), but at some point we have the obligation to clarify the ethical mandate: No treating friends and family. To be more specific, therapists should not see clients with whom they have a dual relationship. For example: Met in a daily yoga class, share friends or relatives, live next door to one another. The lines can get a little blurry, and in some instances dual relationships are unavoidable, but for the most part we all do our best to avoid circumstances that could lead to bias.

Over the years I have had friends and family approach me about how to find a therapist, and what they should look for. While the end decision is ultimately up to them, there are some options that can simplify the process when searching.

  1. Insurance or Cash?

Deciding this right off the bat will save you a lot of phone calls. If you are set in going through your insurance, you will want to only look at providers who are “in-network.” Your insurance company provides this list, and you can use that to narrow down. If your plan is a PPO, or you have great coverage, you can also look at providers who bill “out of network.” As a provider who does not contract with insurance companies (for reasons I can include in my next post), I always give the option of a “superbill” for PPO clients. This allows the client to receive some reimbursement directly from their insurance company. If you decide to forego using insurance, disregard the above jargon, and move to number 2.

  1. Start with a search engine

PsychologyToday.com is a great resource for narrowing down providers by region, specialty, and theoretical orientation. GoodTherapy.org is similar. There are several others, and one option is to google: Therapist finder. These sites have profiles of their therapists where you can get a feel for their personality and treatment style.

  1. What is your main reason for seeking therapy?

What are you experiencing that led you to this point? Search for someone whose specialty or area of interest is aligned with your specific need. Don’t seek out someone who works with complex trauma if you are dealing with career stress. If you are having marital distress, look for someone who specializes in couple’s therapy or relationships. All MFTs are trained in working with depression and anxiety, so if that is your area of need, you can look for someone whose message sounds welcoming to you.

  1. Choose a few

Make a list of 3-5 therapists who you think you would feel comfortable with, and start calling. Expect that most will return calls within 24 hours Monday-Friday. While most of us make it a practice to always return calls, there are some who won’t call back if they aren’t accepting new clients.

  1. Feel free to schedule with more than one therapist, and test the waters

 Studies have shown that more than anything, the most crucial aspect of therapy is the relationship. Therapists know this, and we want you to find the right fit. It is not uncommon to have a session or two to feel out the process, before committing. You will be invested in the process emotionally and financially, and you want to feel like you can share with this person. Don’t be afraid to be clear about what you want, or to ask questions. We want you to get the most out of this process.

If you are starting the searching process now, good luck! If you have follow-up questions or would like more details on anything I wrote, feel free to comment.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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LIES

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There is a common misconception that therapists are lie detectors. Even in grad school, many of us feared not being able to tell when a client is lying, and not knowing how to handle it when they did. We learned a saying: If they bring the lie, you work the lie. Meaning: If the lie is how you want to spend your time, I will follow you down that rabbit hole. It is your time being wasted if that’s what you choose to bring.

Therapists are not specifically trained to distinguish when an eye twitch means lying and when it is allergies, but one thing that we are good at is remembering what you tell us. You get an hour of undivided attention, and it is in my best interest to remember what you tell me so that I can utilize all pertinent information. That means that there are times when stories don’t add up, and my red flag censor is alerted. Depending on what point we are at in therapy, I may ignore it, or I might express my confusion. I’m human too, and I want to be sure that I am remembering correctly, and not making assumptions.

To be fair, overt lies in therapy are rare. None of my clients are forced to see me, and due to the fact that they come of their own volition, I make the assumption that there would be no benefit to them lying to me. It is more likely that I encounter the lie by omission. These make sense to me. I am not in the business of forcing people to do anything, and I believe when people choose not to be truthful with me, it is because they are not ready to be truthful with themselves. When this is the case, I rely on time to do the work for me. Lies become exhausting, and truth will always find its way.

Photo from A Thought and a Half Blog

Jealousy

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As I think I’ve mentioned before, I love working with couples. I love the dynamics in loving relationships, and being a part of the healing that can take place in thoughtful communication. Most of my posts have a component of relationship dynamics in them, and I could probably write endlessly on the different dysfunctions I see.

Today I’m focused on jealousy in relationships. I find jealousy so polarizing because there are those who equate acts of jealousy with acts of love and those who abhor any hint of overprotective ways. I did a quick google search on the difference between jealousy and envy, and the consensus is that jealousy comes from a fear of being replaced or losing what you have (in this case your monogamous relationship).  I often find that within couples, the dynamics of jealousy are unbalanced. One person is always fighting the green eyed monster more than the other.

I have put feelings of jealousy into 2 categories:

  1. Internal Jealousy: This is the one that comes from the place deep inside you that does not feel good enough or deserving of the relationship you have. If you are resonating with this, think about what it is about you that feels unlovable. Do you feel unattractive? Mean? Unavailable? The upside of internal jealousy is you have control and the ability to work through these issues without allowing them to tear your relationship apart. Give yourself he gift of feeling good enough, and let go of the worry that someone else can replace you.
  1. External Jealousy: This one is a bit tougher. External jealousy comes from a partner who puts you in the situation of feeling jealous. Maybe she spends a lot of time outside of work texting a certain coworker and making sure you know about it. Maybe he talks constantly about the women at the gym who hit on him. If you have a partner who is doing this to you the first step is to stop taking the bait. I’m guessing it leads to a lot of fighting, and why? If your partner is dropping these hints, there is likely a reason. Maybe they are feeling ignored, and maybe they are looking for a way out of the relationship. Find a constructive way to explore why this continues to come up, and find a way to end the jealous cycle.

In either case, jealousy is the weed growing from an ugly root. Don’t let it be what fills your space!

“Conscious Uncoupling”

If you spend any amount of time online, you may be aware that there is a new trend in divorce called “conscious uncoupling.” Gwyneth Paltrow coined the term when she announced her split from her husband of ten years, Chris Martin. Her message stank of superiority. She concocted an image to appear as if this decision came after long discussions over eco-friendly glasses of red wine. Forget the passé divorces with hostility and hurt feelings, this is just a mutual decision to no longer exclusively be with one another. Just this morning, Jewel echoed this sentiment with the, “tender undoing,” of her own marriage. I take great offense to this new wave of happy dissolutions, and I am worried that there are not more people outraged by this. My problem is not that I don’t believe that they are telling the truth either–it’s that I believe they are.

What does it mean if we can now leave a marriage, not when we have hit rock bottom, but when we are bored? Both of these highlighted instances shine a light on an epidemic in our culture that we no longer believe anything worth having is worth fighting for. We now have admiration for couples who say, “It wasn’t that bad, we are still good friends and will continue to be in each others’ lives. We are simply choosing not to protect the one thing we took vows to protect.” Poof, it’s over. And what message does that send to their children? It says to me and most likely others who hear it that there is nothing sacred about marriage anymore. It says that when things are hard, don’t do them. What was once entered into after consideration, is now the reverse. We have unconscious coupling because there is no consequence to the exit. I am not anti-divorce, but I am anti-not trying. I often tell the couples I work with that my bias is for the marriage. I have yet to see a problem insurmountable, as long as each individual is willing to take responsibility for his or her own role in the problems. If you are still civil enough to “remain best friends,” (a quote from Hilary Duff’s press release regarding her divorce), why can you not be civil enough to look inward and find a way to consciously stay together for better or for worse?

Calling Advice Seekers!

As you may have read in the about me section of this blog, one of my goals is to offer advice in a “Dear Jacqueline,” format. If you’ve had any questions that you didn’t want to ask friends and family about, or weren’t satisfied with the feedback you got, feel free to send it to me!

All submissions remain anonymous, and you get to do a good deed by helping me fulfill a life dream. 

Email questions to: jacquelineplante.mft@gmail.com

 

 

Parenting

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I’ve come across several articles recently on the topic of parenting. This morning my cousin posted a link to this one on Huffington Post, in which the author discusses the idea of making long-term parenting decisions versus short-term. She writes, “What makes my children happy at age 10 or 15 is somewhat different from what will make them happy at age 25, 30, 40 and beyond.’ She is absolutely right. I can vividly remember times where I thought my parents were being so unfair. Right before high school, they decided to pull me from public school, and place me in an all-girls Catholic school, where I knew no one. I truly believed this was child abuse. I was 14 years old. At 26, my outlook has changed significantly. I cherish, not only the quality education I received, but the psychosocial growth that occurred in having to step outside of my comfort zone and create new relationships in a new environment. This skill serves me well on an almost daily basis–therapists meet new people often, and have to create relationships very quickly. I had to build that muscle, and it was very uncomfortable in the beginning.

I imagine that was not easy for my parents. The whines of a 14 year old girl can be bone chilling, and they had to put up with a lot of complaining. They did not back down. They knew that at 14 I was not capable of making long-term life decisions, and they did it for me. They were parents who parented. Nowadays it is not uncommon to hear a parent give in to a child’s demands. Parents emit fear in front of their children, and worry constantly about their child’s present level of happiness. I can tell you that there were several months where I was unhappy. Nothing about starting over is easy, but I got over it. The short-term unhappiness was far outweighed by the long-term benefit of the choice they made to hold firm. I learned disappointment and fear, but I also learned that I can start fresh, I can make new friends, and that no matter how hard it seems in the moment, things always get better. I don’t know that I would be the same person without having gone through that journey.

It seems that the fear based parenting takes place today because the parent-child relationship is primary. Parents put the wants and needs of their children so high that they forget about their own needs and the needs of their partners (if they are lucky enough to have a partner in parenting). Any threat to the parent-child relationship is a breakdown of the primary relationship, and that can be frightening. Who will mom turn to if she has not continued to cultivate the relationship with dad? She needs the child’s happiness as validation, which is an unhealthy place to parent from. I can speak from experience in saying that a child’s happiness is not a reflection of good or bad parenting. The overindulgence that leads to daily “happiness” is what also leads to lack of coping skills in the real world. If we want to have trust in the future generations, we need to know that they can handle a multitude of emotions without having a breakdown, or without having to turn to medication. Strong parenting, and life experience will facilitate that.

 

If you are having trouble with parenting, feel free to reach out: www.jacquelineplantetherapy.com 

Photo by Mindaugas Danys via Flickr

Moving On vs. Giving Up

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Option 1:

  • Suck it up
  • Deal with it
  • Just get through it
  • Wait it out
  • Give it time

Option 2:

  • Move on
  • Put it to rest
  • Let it go
  • Give up

 

            Take a moment to consider the options. Which one is more appealing? Which one sounds better? Which one would you be more likely to advise to friends or family? Does one option have a better connotation than the other?           

            Part of the human experience is encountering negativity, be it in a job, a relationship, an interaction. We are given the opportunity to choose, as some eloquently label: flight or flight. Some moments are not choice, they are instinctual; but what happens when the timeline is extended, and the situation is not life or death? It is slow agony or the idea of defeat. Which is better?

            I couldn’t give a blanket answer because is varies by situation. I have given input on friends’ relationships, and in some instances I see reason to work at it and get through the hard times (fight) and in others I would say run (run far, take your things, don’t ever go back). But too often I see people whose ideology is one or the other. They will fight in every given situation, or they will flee from any hardship.

            Neither extreme is acceptable, and it often carries a large amount of judgment. Often the judgment is a projection of that person’s own unhappiness. Her own inability to leave a bad marriage or his own lack of accountability.

            Sometimes this plays out in couples with a lingering fight. One or both partners refuse to come to a compromise on an issue, or rather issues continue to be swept under the rug, but never resolved.

            There is a large distinction between moving on, and giving up, and there are times that moving on is the right answer. It is not giving up if you have given your all, and the limit we each have within us is allowed to vary. There is also a distinction between sticking it out and being stubborn. There is a case for buckling down, but after hitting your head against the wall for so long you have to know when the time is up. All things have a season after all. Not everyone has an easy time recognizing these distinctions, but finding a way to differentiate and allow for discussion of both sides is healthy and shouldn’t invoke feelings of failure or negativity. Consider what your past looks like, and whether these extremes have worked, and if they haven’t, make a commitment to work on change. 

Photo Credit: John Shedrick via Flickr