I’m not supposed to offer a free consultation
As with any profession, the business of therapy is dominated by loud voices — “experts” who are more than happy to tell new professionals what to do and how. One oft-repeated piece of conventional wisdom for therapists is this: don’t give therapy away for free.
I guess I can understand why this so-called rule developed. Therapists tend to be do-gooders who could be easily taken advantage of. The majority of us want you to feel better. We want your lives to improve, and we want to minimize your discomfort. Perhaps this also makes us gullible, self-sacrificing, and bad at sending boundaries. And so, at the end of the day, experts discourage therapists from giving away their time for free.
But, other professionals do it
What’s especially interesting is that all kinds of other professionals routinely offer free initial consultations. Lawyers, accountants, and chiropractors are known for them. Heck, even plumbers will come and assess a problem, give you their opinion, and ballpark the “treatment” course — all for free.
This makes sense to me. Even in this era of Yelp, Amazon.com, and never-ending online reviews, there are certain goods and services that ought to be tried out for yourself before committing. Most of us would insist on meeting and interviewing applicants before hiring them. So, the idea of blindly choosing someone with whom you will feel comfortable discussing sensitive thoughts and feelings is particularly perplexing.
Every therapist is different
If what you know of therapy comes from movies or television, you might envision all therapists as inept, sleepy lumps in flowing skirts or tweed jackets. Maybe you believe that we all follow the same generic scripts: “How does that make you feel?” and “Tell me about your mother.” After all, every licensed therapist went to therapy school. Certainly, we each tumble out of the graduation ceremony as a perfect cookie cutter version of every other therapist ever created.
But, the reality is, although we learn the same theory and technique, pass the same exams and receive expert mentoring, each therapist of course has his or her own personality. We have quirks and foibles. We come with our own senses of humor, irritating tics, and individual fashion sense. We also each have our own strengths and unique approaches.
What the research says
Now, we have long known that one of the best predictors of good therapy outcome is what we call having a “good fit” with your chosen therapist. A “good fit” is exactly what it sounds like: you click. You get along. It feels like you speak the same language. You feel comfortable, accepted, welcome, and understood.
In fact, some research suggests that if you aren’t beginning to feel better within the first 6 sessions, you never will. That’s not to say that all of your issues will find resolution within 6 sessions, but you should at least feel positively about the process and connected with your therapist.
So, if this emphasis on “fit” is so important, and there is no guarantee that the first name you choose from your insurance roster will work, what is a client-to-be to do? How can you find a good fit without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars in shopping around?
Therapy is a consumer good
Yes, I said shopping around.
I know we’re taught that it’s poor manners to treat therapy like a product. We’re taught to simply find someone from our insurance list or the therapist who looks the most like you. Maybe you’re referred to someone who attends your same church or has the same ethnic background, without regard to how comfortable it feels to be sitting across from her. The therapist who worked wonders for your neighbor may be totally wrong for your personality, but even therapists constantly encourage clients to simply trust them. Why?
Would you buy a car without test-driving it? A dress without trying it on? A watermelon without thumping it? Would you marry someone without dating and a reasonable period of engagement? Against all conventional wisdom, I strongly encourage you to treat finding a therapist like comparison shopping. We are all unique, and so are you. It is imperative that you feel that click.
And, let’s be honest. Therapy is not cheap. Please, please don’t waste your money.
I am willing to take the risk
My theory is that most therapists won’t offer a free consultation because they’re afraid of people not feeling the click. Many therapists comfortably nestle into their insurance referrals and make a living working with people who feel they have no other choice — who believe they are locked into that short provider list because they don’t understand any other criteria.
But, I am not afraid of meeting with clients who might not feel the “click.” I love to meet people and hear about their lives; that’s why I became a therapist! Spending a free 30 minutes helping you make this big decision isn’t much of a risk for me at all. I’d rather have you try it and choose to move on before wasting even one therapy hour, let along 6 or 7. I want you to find relief, even if it’s not with me.
Come and meet me
To that end, I spend a lot of time on this website introducing myself to you. I share my opinions and interests, photographs, background and experience. One of these days, I hope to include videos, interviews, and even more avenues for you to make this choice. I want you to feel like you know me and can feel comfortable with me (or to happily click away and find someone better).