Finding a therapist is easier when you know what works best for you

One person's ideal talk therapist may not be the best choice for others

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by Carlos Briceño |

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Talk therapy is great, but finding someone who understands you and meets your needs is the key to its success.

When my wife, Jill, was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease (HD) in 2018, the doctor recommended that she see a therapist. While Jill had nothing against seeing someone for talk therapy, she didn’t feel like she needed it at the time.

She had a well-thought-out argument: She said her medications were helping with her depression and anxiety. Jill explained that trying to find someone she trusted and respected would be difficult.

I supported her and understood her reasoning. If having to find the right therapist worsened her anxiety and depression, I agreed that she should wait. I offered to help search for therapists, but she wasn’t ready.

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The biggest issue Jill has with talk therapists is that she believes she knows what they should say and how they should say it. She knows this because she witnessed good advice from her parents, who set high standards.

Jill’s parents were social workers who knew the right thing to say at the right time. Not only was their advice sound, but if followed, it would make someone feel better or solve whatever issue they were facing.

Her parents passed along that kind of pragmatic thinking to Jill, who always impresses me with her thoughtfulness when giving advice. As her husband, I know I am biased, but over the years, I have seen countless people seek her out for help. Although they don’t always follow her advice, they all agree that it is sound.

Another problem she’s had with mental health professionals is that they failed to impress her quickly enough or they misunderstood what she was saying. Once that happened, she would pick apart what they said. So instead of working out her problems, she focused on what they were doing wrong.

A dinner table discussion

Our daughter, Alexus, and her husband, René, were visiting the week Jill decided she was ready to find a therapist. Alexus had invited several college friends to our house for dinner, so Jill’s revelation about seeking mental healthcare prompted a great conversation.

I had never thought about everyone’s need for someone who talks to them in the way that best serves them.

Jill started the conversation by explaining her thought process regarding finding someone she “fit with.” At that point, everyone else shared their thoughts on past and current therapists.

The first person to speak shared that she had met with a few therapists before she found the perfect one for her. She added that the first few were “kind of mean,” and she needed a person who gave advice gently. Her needs are met when she feels like a session gives her the feeling of receiving a big hug.

The second shared that he needed to find someone who was a little “pushy.” He tended not to listen unless that person provides clear advice with urgency. “I guess I kind of like the mean ones,” he quipped.

Alexus shared about how she talked to someone who understands that HD isn’t what defines her and isn’t something she will talk about often.

Jill said she was unsure if she wanted to find an expert in HD because sometimes she feels like HD is her life.

As we went around the table, each person shared their journey to find a therapist who best serves them, as well as the epic failures along the way.

It was great to participate in such an open conversation about mental health. Sometimes knowing that you are not alone in these struggles of everyday life is important.

Each of us left the table that night understanding that finding a therapist you can trust and who serves your needs is the ideal situation. Luckily for Jill, she did find a therapist who is exactly like that, and she is grateful for the support and advice she receives as a result.

Note: Huntington’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Huntington’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.


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