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Finding Someone to Help You Help Yourself

Michal Eisikowitz

Therapy can be a life-altering journey. But you need to find the right therapist to help guide you along the path.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

After years of profound physical and verbal abuse, Tamara was determined to move forward. “I’d been carrying a ton of baggage since childhood, and I wanted to throw it overboard,” she says. “I was willing to take a beating and do the hard work.”

A social worker friend recommended a therapist, and Tamara dove in. Several sessions later, she was frustrated — and out a considerable sum of money.

“It was a total flop,” Tamara sums up wearily. “The therapist was too focused on my feelings — she kept repeating and summarizing my words. I’m very self-aware. I’m in touch with my emotions and didn’t want to get mired in the past. My goal was to acquire tools for more positive daily interactions.”

After several sessions, Tamara tactfully expressed her dissatisfaction, requesting a more results-oriented approach. When no changes were forthcoming, she gave up.

“I’m burned out,” Tamara says. “I so badly wanted this therapy to work. I was willing to give it my all. But now I’m drained — and I don’t have the money or energy to try again.”


The Therapeutic Shidduch

Sadly, Tamara’s story is typical. For numerous therapy-seekers, the search for an effective professional proves to be a harrowing journey rife with wrong turns, acute disappointment — and in the worst cases, permanent damage.

“Finding a good therapist is like finding a shidduch,” says Dr. Yisrael Levitz, director of the Family Institute of Neve Yerushalayim, a post-graduate training center and clinic offering a broad range of mental health services toJerusalem’s religious community. “Say ‘I will!’ after minimal checking, and you’re bound for trouble.”

But before considering the qualities to look for in a competent mental health professional, consumers must understand what psychotherapy is — and isn’t.

“Psychotherapy is not advice-giving,” Dr. Levitz clarifies. “It’s more a process by which individuals learn to better understand their thoughts and emotions and become freer to cope more rationally with the painful issues in their lives. Good psychotherapy should help an individual regain the bechirah that’s been lost due to overwhelming emotional pain.”

Untrained therapists often ply clients with intuitive advice. It may or may not be wise counsel, Dr. Levitz says, but it’s not therapy.


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