One Question Therapists Don’t Often Ask—but Should
It takes a great deal of courage to make an appointment with a psychiatrist. Oftentimes there is a lag between obtaining a therapist’s number and making the call to set up an appointment. I can only imagine how many crumpled up pieces of paper with a psychiatrist’s name and phone number are buried in coat pockets and at the bottom of handbags representing a fleeting moment of intention.
People usually make an appointment to see a therapist during periods of change or transition–in between relationships, in between jobs, in between the known and the unknown. Turning points bring people to the threshold of a therapist’s office. The psychiatrist inquires about symptoms and tries to help them figure out ways to successfully navigate their way through this difficult time. “So, tell me, what is bothering you?” is a common icebreaker.
The focus is on what is going wrong in their lives. After all, that is what brought them in the door. It makes sense.
Or does it? A few years ago a patient, let’s call her Claire, made me question this approach. I had been seeing her for several weeks when she abruptly terminated treatment. “All we do is talk about all the bad stuff in my life—what I worry about, what’s upsetting me. I sit in your office and complain for 45 minutes straight. Even if I am having a good day, coming here makes me think about all the negative things.” I never saw her again but her words stayed with me. They stung. She was right. All we did was talk about what was wrong. I had spent years studying damage, deficit and dysfunction in the human mind. It never occurred to me to focus on what was right.
For more information check: Time Management Tool Video