It's been 21 years.
Just 21 years since I sat on the proverbial couch and engaged in the disentangledment that is therapy.
It shouldn't be a difficult task to find a therapist. I send out referrals at least a couple times a week when someone isn't a good fit, so why the hell was it difficult when the client is me?
The answer is, of course, because its me.
Therapists have it all backwards, when they send a client out they ask themselves these 3 questions.
1.Who do I know likes working with this niche/age group/issue?
The reason that question sucks is that if we know them, they are currently in a relationship with us, which means a dual relationship if we want to work with them on a personal level. This isn't simply tongue in cheek taboo, this is a license violating offense. There is nothing good about that. So when we look for a therapist for ourselves, we have to work with someone that we DON'T know. That's the first rule of order, or at the very least someone that hasn't crossed our paths in a number of years?
How many? The answer depends on who you ask. Some agencies and clinicians say 2 years, some 7, some indefinitely(or forever.) The point is that there is nothing sexy about losing your license, or even having to explain to the regulatory board why you accepted someone you knowingly worked with 7 summers ago. Its just not worth it. So as therapists and counselors, going with "what you know" simply is not acceptable.
2. As clinicians, we like to have a rhyme or reason to whom we select, and if were clueless, we might go with a psychology today profile that hits home on "the issue" or "niche"(IE the specific problem that the clinician solves matches your problem). The other problem is that anyone who also shares this niche you have to consider heavily whether you want to be "colleagues" or "patients". Many of us want to work with or be friends with the best clinicians, or we already know the best clinicians in our area. So finding someone is sacrificing a "work friend". We have to weigh that heavily with solving our problem.
3. Finally, clinician's might as another clinician who they recommend. The issue here lies in that if you have a personal relationship with THIS clinician, said clinician might come up again. You may have to double check any social time spent with your referring friend, as they may invite you both well meaningly to a party, which the working clinician in that social group will need to "check out" to avoid and adhere to the above requirements of avoiding a dual relationship. It's tough to find a therapist as a therapist, but that doesn't mean that its impossible or can't be done. In my state, Kansas, there are over 13,000 people licensed at my level, and at least 3 licensure types that provide psychotherapy. Surely you don't know them all.
So how would you find a therapist?
First step would be following the steps above, just eliminating those that fall into "I network/share referrals/have a relationship with."
Secondly you can phone in a colleague that you would like to work with, even though they have a relationship with you, and ask them who you would refer to that "is like you." Many of us adhere to a clinician or two that has the same energy level or modality treatment types in their pocket. You can still choose your therapist when you're a therapist.
Finally, decide in advance whether you are going to disclose you are a therapist at the first session. Some therapists prefer to work with us! Some do not. There are advantages to working with someone who "knows this stuff." They may connections and insight easier, and we "have the same language." Depending on whether you are searching for a tune up or have a lot of deep work to dig into, you knowing and finding a therapist for yourself will create a stronger clinician. You will learn how another therapist "works" and likely develop some new tools along the way. There is a reason that therapists need therapists! You can't spend all day sorting through tough life decisions and not process your own. It is a more authentic relationship, and eye opening perspective when you are asked yourself questions you wouldn't tell anyone else.
Thanks for reading! For those interested, I will post more on my first session next week. Until then, I give you a preview of the "7 Questions" therapists need to ask while searching for their own therapists!