Ask Questions of Your Therapist!!!

Posted on February 5th, 2012 at 3:19 pm by


Last Sunday (1/30/11) “Dateline” on NBC aired an investigation of a couples therapist in CT who was a convicted sex offender and claimed to be a one star general in the Army (You can view this story online at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032600/#41301897 ). The sex offense took place in the 1980s and he was required to register with the Sheriff’s office (which he did). The impersonating a general resulted in a conviction in the 2000s because a client complained (after he showed up to the session dressed in full battle fatigues!). Despite both of these things, he continued to be a licensed practitioner. Disturbing? You bet! But there is more! You see, merely looking up his license information on the licensing board website wouldn’t help. It didn’t list his convictions. If you wanted to know about his past, you had to cross-reference his name with a sex offender registry list. I could understand accusations or even pending cases, but convictions are another thing. It is a serious flaw in the system.

Now this is not to day that a therapist with some criminal history makes them incapable of being competent, as long as they have worked through their issues. For example, many addictions counselors themselves have struggled with addiction and usually have criminal records. By and large, these folks are open and honest clients about it. However, it is those clinicians who are impaired–like the one featured on “Dateline”– that consumers of therapy (the general public) need to be aware of.

This leads me to my point, and my challenge to the general public. It never ceases to amaze me, as a clinician, that people don’t ask more questions about me, my training, my qualifications, and my approach. I even invite people to do so, and a majority of people do not know what to ask. I have also heard people tell me that some clinicians seem to be offended when they are asked to define how they approach issues, or about their training. To me, that seems problematic. My feeling is that the more informed the client is about me (or any therapist), the more active and invested they will be in the treatment. They will also be more comfortable, which increases the chances of success.

So what kind of questions should you ask? I suggest the following (as a start):

1. How do you work with clients? Can you explain to me your approach?

2. Where did you get your training? Have you had any advanced training? Can you explain your licenses and credentials to me?

3. Have you ever had any convictions? What for?

4. Do you yourself have any personal, emotional, or mental illness issues that might impact my treatment (for good or bad)? Are you seeking treatment or have you sought treatment in the past?

If the clinician doesn’t answer the question to your satisfaction, it probably indicates that the therapy won’t go so well either! Remember that ineffective therapy is usually a result of both therapist and client not working well together…BAD THERAPY is entirely the fault of the clinician!

So do your part, and don’t be afraid to demand the best treatment you can get!!