September 24, 2012

How do you know what therapy method is best? Here’s some help

By Harris B. Stratyner, Ph.D.

Does the question of what method of therapy will work best for you keep you awake at night? The answer is quite simple. look for a therapist that is qualified, with a great knowledge base – he or she needs to know the research in their area of practice. For example, if they are a cognitive therapist, they need to understand all aspects of cognitive therapy, from the many schools of cognitive therapy to the many tools of cognitive therapy.

Make sure the individual is in good standing in terms of their license. Always work with licensed professionals who have training in the specialty you need help with whether it’s addiction, trauma, mood disorders, etc. This can be accomplished by going online to your state's licensing verification system (most states have them), and looking up whether the individual is in “good standing.” You can also always Google search them on your own, or if they are on your insurance plan, check with the company.

Back to choosing the right method of therapy: You must do your homework. But, before you take a course to choose a therapist, here’s an important fact: The type of therapy is much less important than what we refer to as “therapeutic alliance.”

Therapeutic alliance deals with a rather basic notion — the relationship factor.

In 1979, the late Edward S. Bordin — prominent counseling psychologist — wrote a great article (“The generalizability of the psychoanalytic concept of the working alliance”) in which he discusses three aspects or the working or therapeutic alliance: formulation of the goals set forth in treatment, which are established by the counselor and patient together; what will be needed – the tools to accomplish the goals; and the trusting relationship or “therapeutic bond” that develops between the therapist and the patient so that the goals can be accomplished.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of therapeutic alliance and these three components.

We have become a nation focused on evidenced-based practice – so we should be— and the vast majority of outcome data always comes down to therapeutic alliance. (This is a very big area in psychology research).

So, whether you explore your past, focus on the here and now, work strictly on changing a particular behavior or way of thinking, relax, get started and most of all, just make sure you pick a licensed professional in good standing that you relate to.

And remember, relationship over method is what counts.

Dr. Harris Stratyner, Ph.D., vice president of Caron Treatment Center and clinical director of the New York region, is internationally known for developing and implementing the groundbreaking clinical model of “Carefrontation,” a treatment approach that doesn't shame or blame the patient. It recognizes addiction as a disease and stresses each individual's responsibility to work with healthcare providers to reach the goal of complete abstinence. 

Image courtesy of Ambro/

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