Finding a good therapist that fits you is not easy. You may have asked for recommendations from your family or friends, or your GP might have referred you to a certain psychologist or practice. A large majority of people just use Google and randomly pick a practice that’s convenient, look at the psychologists’ background, and eventually make a decision based on the warm smile in the picture!
Recently, we have seen an increasing number of people who are asking to see two separate psychologists at the same time (simultaneously). Some clients have told us this was suggested by their GP – one psychologist for eating disorders (“ED”) and another at a different practice for general psychological problems. Others have said that it was too difficult to pick one, hence they wanted to ‘try two before committing to one’.
There are a few reasons why this approach might not be helpful.
Issues with ED and other psychological treatment:
- Many people with ED experience other psychological conditions. Research generally recommends treating ED issues to restore your physical health first, before moving on to other psychological issues. You might wonder, “wait, I want to deal with the fear of gaining weight first before actually getting my weight back on track!”. In fact, a lot of people ask this question. The fact is when you are suffering from an ED, it usually takes control of your way of thinking, feeling and behaving. In order to work on other psychological issues, it has proven more effective to have the real YOU in that situation, instead of the psychologist trying to get to the real YOU through a strong ‘shield’ created by the ED.
- This is why evidence-based ED approaches such as CBT-E and MFBT include some work on other psychological issues, after dealing with ED-specific ones.
- This does not mean that all clients who approach BodyMatters have to deal with ED/disordered eating issues first. For example, there are people who used to have ED/disordered eating but now they want to work on other psychological issues because their eating habits are healthy now; there are those who have body image issues but not eating issues; there are family members of a person with ED who want to work on their own issues, etc. In these cases, other types of therapeutic approaches will likely be used. All of these factors, including your feelings about readiness to change, are things you should discuss with your therapist.
Some people think psychologists at BodyMatters only deal with EDs, hence it is necessary to have another therapist elsewhere. This is not the case. We have a special interest in ED but all psychologists are educated, trained and qualified to treat other psychological issues. It is very common for people with ED to have comorbid conditions, such as depression and anxiety which also require treatment. Some treatment is also transdiagnostic in that targeting either the ED or comorbid conditions may have benefit to the other conditions.
Confusion between different therapy approaches.
- Whilst the goal of therapy can be the same, the route to get there can differ depending on the treatment plan each psychologist develops. So having two different psychologists can not only be confusing but also potentially counterproductive if there is a conflict between these approaches.
Difficulty evaluating progress
- Psychologists strive to quantitatively evaluate treatment progress and the outcomes. When there are two psychologists involved, it is difficult to evaluate these and potentially results in wrong interpretations of treatment outcomes.
Steps to choose a psychologist
- Commit to one psychologist for a good chunk of time. Be aware that it takes time to build rapport with any therapist. Be open-minded and give them a chance. Research shows the therapeutic alliance – a good working relationship – is one of the most important factors for positive therapy outcomes. It is extremely important that you feel listened to and understood. If you don’t feel this way, openly share that feeling with your psychologist.
- Assess progress: Again, it takes time to see the fruit of your labour. Be patient with yourself and progress. Ask yourself if you are getting what you need.
- Discuss your honest concerns with them- if you have them.
- Decide to stay or move on.
If you think your psychologist is not a good fit
- Tell them your honest opinion. Don’t just drop-out. It is understandable that you feel awkward telling them ‘Nah, it won’t work out’. You may be a person who hates breaking bad news or worries about hurting someone’s feelings. However, bringing the issue into the open works for both you and the psychologist.
- For you, by doing this, your psychologist may be able to refer you to another psychologist or a service that fits you better and you might not need to go to the back of a long wait-list. Or discussing such issues can actually make the therapeutic alliance with your psychologist stronger or even lead to a major break-through.
- Most experienced psychologists appreciate the importance of a “good fit” and will not be hurt by your feedback. Nonetheless, for the psychologist, feedback can sometimes lead to their professional development. So you are actually helping them instead of hurting them. Your opinion really matters and it may help ensure other clients also have a better experience with that psychologist.