Enough is enough!
You live in a drama directed by your narcissistic mother. You need to escape from a kingdom to which you do not belong. Therapy came to mind, but how do you find the right therapist?
“I have been in therapy for years, and I’m still angry and miserable."
“I’ve been in and out of therapy since I was a teenager. My last therapist wouldn’t accept that my mother abused me when I was a child. She pushed me to maintain a relationship with her, so I fell apart all over again.”
Have you had a similar experience with a therapist, or are you looking for one?
I know, finding a therapist can be a challenge but don't write off therapy yet.
Let me explain.
What Talking to a Sales Assistant has to Do with Therapy?
As you may already know, trauma from a relationship can be best healed in a relationship. Therefore, therapy may be the right choice for you, but here comes the thrill – how do you find the right therapist?
A torch on your smartphone won't help, but a smart sales assistant might.
Imagine you need an evening gown. You have an idea of colours and style, so you go looking. In the store, you choose a dress and hit for a dressing room. You put it on and look in the mirror—do you look slim or puffy? Is the fabric prickly or soft to the skin? And what about the colour - does it make your face shine or pale?
You softly swing your hips turning around, when you hear a voice: "Do you need my help?"—and you let the assistant inside.
"You have beautiful curves, and this dress looks amazing on you!" She chirps with a duty smile plastered to her face.
"But what about the armpits? Do you see these folds around? And it feels a tight, too."
"They're barely visible. Try this shawl over your shoulders – see? Very nice, indeed."
You would probably tell the assistant that you need to think and leave this store for good.
Now, you're in a different store. A woman looks at you and asks interestedly: "Tell me what you think?"
"Hm, something isn't quite right. I just can't tell what it is." You look puzzled at your reflection in the mirror.
"Look, it fits beautifully around the waist." She outlines the silhouette of your dress with her hands, following it from the waist to the hem.
And you suddenly get it:
"It makes my lower body too big compare to the upper part!"
"Yes, I see what you mean. Shall we try another dress?"
You got an idea. Now, let's go back to fishing the right therapist out of a pond of choices.
Step by step.
A Blueprint for Choosing a Therapist
Growing up with a narcissistic mother has affected you in many ways. As an adult, you struggle with anger, shame, low or fluctuating self-esteem and health issues. You worry too much, feel anxious and insecure, obsessed with the past and unable of letting go.
You’re tired and overwhelmed and decided to seek help.
Let’s find you a therapist.
Don’t take the first therapist you stumble upon in your local telephone book (do they even still exist?) or someone with the shortest waiting list. Ask your doctor, friends or any other person you trust about her/his experience. Who would they recommend? Make a list.
Now it’s time for the detective job. Read anything you find online about each therapist on your list. Look for her education and speciality (I’ll use “her” to simplify the writing). Find patient’s reviews (satisfaction and possible problems). How many years of experience she has. Write a note against each name on your list.
Before you start making calls, consider the following:
- Start with psychologists, whose area of expertise corresponds with your issues. Psychologist is a protected title, and they have an extensive, specific education. Many belong to a group of colleagues, so they can share their expertise and experiences with others and get advice. No such luck? Check licensed clinical social workers or nurses, then. They usually have good training and experience, too. No one in your area? Then look for counsellors, but keep in mind that this title isn’t protected. They may have less clinical training and supervision than the previous two groups.
- Choosing between two specialists, weight experience more than a degree. According to the research, being in a field longer than a decade secures a better quality of outcome for a client.
- Make sure you can afford her fees – you probably don’t want to solve one problem by creating another. Make sure that paying her fees won’t be a huge burden.
- Check out her posts and comments on a website and on her social media. What is she posting (hopefully, not only her selfies)? Does she reply to the comments or has extreme political views? Add your impression on the list.
At this point, you have two-three names left on your list—it's time to make a call. Be sure to prepare your questions. During a call, pay attention to details like the tone of the therapist's voice. Does she sound interested and compassionate or tired and cold? Is there any subtle pressure to make an appointment right away? Do you feel tense or at ease? If you're unsure, take time to reflect: "Thank you for your time. I'll be back as soon as I'm ready." Her response may give you another clue, so keep your senses open. Repeat with each therapist from your list writing short notes.
After each call, take time to reflect and listen to your gut feeling. Then make your decision and book a session.
You’re in therapy now—congratulations! And here's something for you to remember: the quality of your connection with the therpaist is an alpha and omega of a sussessful therapy. You should feel comfortable and safe; heard and understood.
The first impression is important, but sometimes it doesn't hold.
"A few sessions went well until I mentioned sexual issues. She looked uncomfortable and changed the subject. I felt frustrated and not validated anymore. What do I do?"
"When I talked about my anxiety and depression, she was supportive and kind. But when I suggested that the cause of my pain could be my mother's behaviour, she gave me a lecture on ungrateful children who break their mother's hearts. I felt like a horrible, ungrateful person my mother used to call me, all over again."
Don't run away. Not yet, anyway. Remember that your therapist is a human being, too, with feelings and problems of her own. She may struggle with financial or family issues, become ill and make a mistake.
Whatever reason for the rapture in your connection may be, the first thing to do is to tell your therapist how you feel. Remember, she is not your friend Nadya who got cranky when you told her not to call you in the middle of the night about her new boyfriend. Therapists are trained to handle confrontations in a healthy way. Together, you can work through the issue and find a solution.
But if it doesn't help, it's time to call another therapist from your list.
Therapy is vital for treating trauma, and the quality of your connection with the therapist is key to success.
It may not come naturally to you, but putting yourself first is precisely what you should do. Therapy is about you—your needs, feelings, thoughts and beliefs. Never doubt that.
Or metaphorically speaking, choose a lady from the second store. She doesn't tell you what to choose but helps your to see for yourself and find the right answers. And if you question the product, she doesn’t take it personally.
If for some reason you decide not to hire a therapist at the moment, remember this:
""When therapists treat patients, they follow the prescriptions of their theoretical orientation. But the amazing thing is that when therapists treat themselves, they become very pragmatic." In other words, when battling their own problems, therapists dispense with the psychobabble and fall back on every day, common sense techniques—chats with friends, meditation, hot baths, and so on.”
—Robert Epstein Ph.D., Tim Bower, Psychology Today
You can follow their lead. 😉
Best of luck!
And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate writing me an email or to leave a comment below.