Choosing a psychotherapist and type of psychotherapy is an important decision. I’d like to say that it is easy, and any licensed, or friendly and competent appearing professional should be able to provide the help that you need. However, like any significant relationship, finding the right psychotherapist for you and your unique problem is not always so easy. Yet it can be an extremely important choice correlated with effective mental health care.
In addition, finding the right fit in the type of psychotherapy that you are seeking is also of vital importance. Especially in this day and age with managed care and efforts on providing the quickest and least expensive treatment for individuals suffering from psychological problems. Also is the fact that in many of today’s health care settings throughout North America, it is assumed that all licensed providers of mental health care are equally effective.
There is a new standard of practice called evidence-based care. It is assumed that as long as practitioners are using this type of care, it doesn’t matter who provides it, as long as they are providing the “so called” evidence-based treatment. The model argues that this type of care comes from research that dictates what works best. In theory, it makes good sense. In the actual day-to-day practice of mental health care, it does not.
Evidence-based practice and treatment is what I would want if I needed a kidney transplant. When it comes to this type of medicine, most of us want the best and most cutting-edge procedures performed on us—the procedures and treatment that are backed by the tightest research and which the evidence demonstrates, produces the best outcomes.
When it comes to mental health care, it is not so clear-cut. We enter into a whole new domain of what works, and what doesn’t. Since no two people or personalities are alike, it is impossible to come up with one “evidence-based approach” that works for all with the same DSM-based diagnosis. A type of psychotherapy that works for one may be very different from what might work for another. There is no right “formula” for psychotherapy; even for psychotherapy for similar diagnoses.
This is one very important reason that makes choosing a psychotherapist and type of psychotherapy so very essential. Jungian psychology and psychotherapy in particular values the unique inner world of each individual that comes for therapy. In a way, the client’s unique, innate imagery guides the psychotherapy. It does not matter the type of psychotherapy as much as it does the psychotherapist’s ability to assist the therapy process with the help of the client’s unconscious material presented through dreams, day-time fantasies, circumstances, and other significant life events and relationships.
This article is not meant to be an all inclusive discussion of what makes Jungian psychology different from other schools or types of psychotherapy. I have titled this article Why Jungian Psychology…, and I plan to write more on this topic later. In fact, I plan to have a series of articles about this topic. The point of the series is to differentiate some of the ways that make the practice of Jungian psychology stand out.
For instance, let’s look at Jung’s notion of development throughout the lifespan, which he termed “individuation.” Jungian analyst Edward Edinger (Elder & Cordic, 2009) said about Jung and Jung’s approach to psychotherapy, “Jung’s primary commitment was always to the maximum development of the individual personality.”
Individuation is a process where people become who they are meant to be. This idea may not sound entirely novel. But what makes it unique when contained within a Jungian psychotherapeutic process, is that no matter the age, pain and suffering, or life event that a person is experiencing (or has experienced) there is a potentiality within the experience that contains the seeds for growth, healing, and meaning-making. The emphasis within the Jungian model therefore, is not on pathologizing.
One of the prominent roles of the Jungian psychotherapist is to assist clients with the help of the unconscious and through dreams, in finding meaning and direction from within, no matter the client’s age, experience, or pain and suffering.
When choosing a psychotherapist, it is important that you trust your intuition perhaps above all else. Pay attention to some of the small details in the space that you meet your psychotherapist. Do you notice anything in the space that you are drawn to? Or is there something from the initial session that sticks out and that you may reflect upon afterwards? How do you feel after the meeting?
Pay attention to your dreams between the time that you booked your appointment, and following the first meeting. Your dreams may “speak” about the psychotherapy and/or psychotherapist.
Proper credentials and advanced degrees should help to develop a clinician’s knowledge base about psychology, the psyche, and mental health problems in general, but they do not necessarily ensure a good psychotherapist. When you meet with your psychotherapist for the first time (or few times) you want to feel heard. In addition, you want to feel cared for and not like a number. You want to feel safe. These are the foundational building blocks to proceed from. They must be present for any psychotherapy to work.
Sure impeccable credentials can mean something, but they are no guarantee for caring, effective psychotherapy. Choosing a psychotherapist and type of psychotherapy is an important decision because the professional client/psychotherapist relationship does have the potential to be a significant relationship in your life dependent upon what is presented.
If you are looking for a psychotherapist, proof of someone providing “evidence-based” practice is not something to pay much attention to. You should, however, pay attention to whatever it might be about the psychotherapist or psychotherapy that may speak to your own soul. This is the best starting point for any deep and healing psychotherapy and client/psychotherapist fit.
Elder, G. R. & Cordic, D.D. (Eds.). (2009). An American Jungian: In Honor of Edward F. Edinger. Toronto: Inner City Books.
© 2012, Dr. Jeff Howlin. All rights reserved.