The patient-therapist relationship becomes a crucible of wellness for many reasons, but the most important may be because it is a kind of living laboratory of all relationships. In addition, the exchange of support acts as a catalyst, hastening recovery and fostering hope. How do you mobilize this most important resource for recovery?
- Recognize that over and above the content of therapy, the client-therapist relationship is itself a therapeutic agent. When you feel like you are drowning in the sea of blues and someone is about to throw you a life preserver, you must be able to trust that they'll be smart and strong enough to pull you out of danger. That requires that you choose a therapist with great care. Some questions to consider in selecting a therapist:
- Does he or she know what drowning in the blues is like?
- Do they even have life preservers (tools for depression reduction) in the office? Or are their techniques irrelevant to depression treatment?
- Do they know how to resuscitate you when you're pulled to shore and feel you can barely breathe from fear or pain?
- Does the therapist aim to teach you to swim on your own?
- A sense of rightness of patient-therapist fit comes from observations you make on a variety of dimensions you may not even be aware are entering your judgment. You cannot afford, however, to leave these to chance. Conduct your own Relationship Inventory of a prospective healer. Consider the following questions:
- Do the interventions offered target the problems you are struggling with? What do you judge the quality to be? How would you assess the cost/benefit ratio?
- Does the therapist treat you with respect? How developed does his or her own mental health seem? How free of depression?
- Does this person have wisdom? The professional discipline your therapists hails from matters far less than how much he or she has learned the lessons of depression in his or her own life.
- How much do you genuinely like him or her? How together does this person appear in his or her own professional setting?
- Give yourself time for the project, time to identify problems, to identify patterns of reaction that are nonproductive, to learn and establish new patterns.
- You may need to try several therapists to get the right match. Of course, if you keep switching without getting a good fit, then you may be using the search process as a technique to avoid facing your problems.
- You should expect observable change in 12 to 14 weeks. If in that time you do not experience a significant reduction in depression symptoms, then talk to your therapist to find out why. You may need medication, or a new technique, or a second opinion from another therapist to find out why you're stuck.
Little change may be the sign of a bad match. However, bear in mind that staying put and resolving conflicts instead of moving on is often the most valuable therapeutic work you can do.