My husband could tell you how much I love to argue.
Arguing isn’t really the right word, as it has such a negative connotation. I like to bicker, debate, dissect, and discuss. I like to hear what the other person has to say and toss it around in my head until I see something else, or collaborate on a new idea. I enjoy the “what ifs” and the “what elses” and the “maybes.” Disagreeing to me means that our discussion is interesting and dynamic, and that you’ll think of things that I didn’t. And I like having to prove my point, if it’s needed, because it means I really need to know what I’m talking about. Needless to say, I thrive on these mental challenges, and it is a huge part of the reason why I love my work.
Plain and simple: I think that two heads (yours and mine) really are better than one.
That’s just part of my particular style that I bring into the office. If you’re in therapy or looking to start, it’s important to know your style and that of the person you’re choosing. Here are some good questions to mull over and potentially ask a new provider, especially if you also enjoy a good problem-solving debate.
1. In general, how much feedback do you offer during sessions? If I have a question or decision to make, how do you see your role in that process?
Asking this question may elicit information that you find useful. Some people look for a lot of feedback and others don’t- so knowing what level of participation to expect can be very helpful for a new person. The style of feedback may vary, as some therapists are more directive than others, but it may help to find out how much discussion you can expect during an appointment.
2. How do you feel if I (as the patient) don’t try the things you suggest?
Here’s the thing: you’re seeking therapy because you want to change or want help with something, and so hearing new ideas are part of the deal. It will be uncomfortable at times, but change does not occur without discomfort. However, if you’re feeling that the therapist is not understanding why you’re not trying things, it can signal that you’re either working with the wrong person, or you’re not prepared to make that change in that way. Either way, it’s useful information. If you feel the provider becomes defensive, irritated, or you are not feeling heard, it’s time to move on. Otherwise, vocalize to the therapist that you didn’t try X intervention because Y happened, and come up with alternatives. The process of solving a problem includes trying multiple options to determine the best course, and some trial and error is to be expected.
3. Be open with your side of the story, and feel free to debate if needed.
You and your therapist are partners, and you certainly don’t want to be antagonistic. However, voicing a different opinion or experience, or telling the therapist, “no, that’s not it” is WELCOMED. Simply stated, we need to know if we’re off the mark, or you have another point of view. Believe it or not, voicing these differences actually goes a long way in helping me get to know you and understand your personality, which will then assist me in choosing future interventions. Certain methods are not as likely to work with certain tendencies, and if I know this, we can save a lot of time. Being as open as possible helps you not only solve your immediate issue, but helps us work best together as time goes on.
YOUR sessions are YOUR time to work on the goals that YOU outline. It’s not about the therapist, although I can hear the collective shudder of professionals everywhere as I write that. Argue, advocate, bicker, try things or don’t try things if you like. But it’s all up to you, and a good therapist will meet you where you are-even if we debate you along the way.
Take gentle care, and take on your mental health.