Ask Dr. V: Training Your Therapist

Venus Nicolino, Ph.D. of clinical psychology answers your questions in this section. This week: training your therapist
Dear Dr. V,

I started therapy a few weeks ago and I am having difficulty with the patient / doctor relationship. For example, there are things he does that just make me so mad and I don’t know how to tell him! I feel like I need therapy for the therapy I’m currently in. I know there are probably other issues at play. Meaning, maybe I’m projecting on to him how I feel about my father and other men in my life? Aside from this, without getting a therapy and deep on me, can you give me some tools as to how I can have a more communicative relationship with my own therapist!
Dear Krista,

Without getting all “therapy” and “deep” on you, below are some tips on how to get your needs met by your therapist. Oh, and by the way, even though I have tailored them to fit you and your therapist, you can apply the general concepts to the men in your life.
Tell Your Therapist What Works and Has Worked for You

Each person is unique. You can help yourself and your therapist by teaching him the style and questions he uses that work best for you as an individual. This does not mean you run the therapy. The therapist does have some expertise and good reasons for doing what he is doing, but a good therapist also has some room for flexibility. If you have been in counseling before and found some aspect or method particularly helpful, let your therapist know about this.
Let Your Therapist Know When He Does Something Right

Therapy can be a difficult and challenging field of work. Your therapist sees people when
they are at their most stressed and sometimes most impatient. Sometimes the therapist doesn’t know whether he has been helpful. So, most therapists appreciate hearing they have done something helpful for you. This can also make your therapy experience more productive, since your therapist will have your feedback to guide him in his future attempts to help you.
Tell Your Therapist Your Expectations

If you attend therapy expecting to go back to your childhood to find the routes of the problem and your therapist focuses on the present, someone is bound to be frustrated if the expectation is not brought up and discussed before you proceed. Also, you might indicate how long you anticipate attending therapy, and how often, making sure you and the therapist are on the same track.
Tell Your Therapist What Doesn’t Work

Like telling your therapist your expectations and letting them know what has worked or is helping, letting him know when something isn’t helping is also important. This includes what is happening at home as well as during your therapy sessions. This gives the opportunity for mid-course corrections in the therapy process.
Tell Your Therapist Your Objections

Some people think they shouldn’t speak up about their worries or objections to their therapist’s suggestions, but if a free and frank discussion about any misgivings helps your therapist deal with your concerns and make any adjustment to insure a higher likelihood of success.
Note: All information in the Ask Dr. V column is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, please feel free to call or email Dr. V, or consult your doctor.
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