3 Theories to Ask Your Therapist About

Posted By: on March 27, 2015
Questions for a Therapist

When you take your car to the repair shop, you expect the mechanic to have a deep expertise around how to repair and maintain your vehicle.

But what about a therapist? Is there a set of ideas and concepts you should expect when seeking out a new counselor?

I believe there is.

If you’re looking for help with your marriage (in the case of marriage counseling), your self (in the case of individual counseling) or your child (in the case of child counseling), you should expect a therapist to have a base knowledge of the underlying conditions faced by people in your situation.

When seeking for a new counselor or therapist, here are a few things you might ask about:

1. A Theory of Personality and Its Formation

When therapists understand the theory of personality, it gives them a basic understanding of how people grow and develop in life.

In particular, it helps the therapist understand how issues such as depression and anxiety develop in the first place.

We all have our own story, which means your specific issues will be unique. But your therapist should have a general understanding of how personalities form. That will give him a solid foundation from which to understand your unique situation.

2. A Theory of Methods

While it is vital that your therapist understand how anxiety and depression form and how the human condition is prone to these painful experiences, she should also know what methods to use to help you resolve those issues.

In other words, your therapist should know what methods tend to work best in specific situations. This should be founded in the therapist’s theory of personality, but also proven out through experience working with clients over time.

3. A Theory of Motivation

Your therapist should know what motivates people to change.

This is very important, because the theory of motivation helps your therapist understand how to motivate change in you.

There are Many Theories

You should know that there are many different theories of personalities, methods, and motivations in the counseling field.

Each therapist follows either a unique theory, or an integration of a handful of theories.

Learning which theories your therapist favors might help you feel more confident in your choice, or it might help you choose the right therapist if you’re deciding between more than one.

Principles Matter Too

Methods and theories are important, but principles matter too.

By “principles,” I’m referring to core philosophies that inform every interaction between a client and his or her therapist.

My hope is that whatever therapist you’re working with shares these two core principles:

1. Respect for each person and where they are on their journey toward healing.

A good therapist understands and respects that each one of her clients has been shaped by past experiences. This, in turn, means that therapists should always be respectful and non-shaming of the client at all times during their sessions.

2. A desire to pursue long-term change, not just short-term relief.

A therapist should want to offer you both immediate relief and long-term solutions. He should work to understand the core of your issue, and he should work with you in a way that tries to uproot the causes and actually solve them. You might say that this approach seeks to create characterological change, not just behavioral change.


I hope this brief summary gives you a sense of what you might want to know about your therapist, or a therapist your’e considering seeing.

Knowing how your therapist understands people, change, methods, and motivation will help you decide if the therapist is a good fit for you. It should also give you all the more confidence in your therapist’s ability to help you.

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