Tanya Ruckstuhl Valenti, LICSW

Finding a Therapist Who Won't Make You Crazy(er)

By Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW

As a therapist in private practice I hear lots of inspiring as well as cringe-inspiring stories from clients about previous therapy experiences. Finding a good therapist is like finding a good pair of jeans: it’s a matter of fit, but if the material is bad, the result is bad. From the revolting psychiatrist who sexually abused a teenage girl in his care, to the couple’s therapist who yelled at the man during session,


“Your wife is fine and this is all your fault,” to a woman who was told by her therapist.


“You don’t need therapy, you’re fine” when she was clearly depressed.

There are plenty of examples of people struggling and trying to get help being made even more anxious and unhealthy by the very people who are supposed to be helping them.


I once heard a theory about professional competence that has always stuck with me. It’s the theory of thirds, and it goes like this: in any given profession, one third of the practitioners are technicians: well trained and decent at what they do, one third are magicians: beyond the basics, they offer creativity and insight that is unique to how their minds work, and one third are the toilets: they stink. This division is obviously over simplified but useful nonetheless.


The problem is trying to assess the ability of a professional who has a knowledge base different from your own. For instance I barely check the oil dipstick in my car, so until I found an auto mechanic who was skillful as well as honest, I was at the mercy of unscrupulous mechanics whose work I had no way of checking. cont'd


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