Jeff Guenther on Mar 03, 2019 in Podcast
I have been trying to figure out what clients really want in a therapist for most of my career. I’m a therapist myself and have been practicing since 2004. As a therapist, I feel like I get a good understanding of what clients are looking for in a counselor. Like most therapists, I’m good at tapping into the underlying feelings and emotions that a client is experiencing. I can allow my intuition to guide me when I feel a bit lost or the client isn’t giving me much. I can also pull from my 15 years of experience while I’m in session in order to really get a sense of what clients need. If my therapist spidey-senses aren’t tingling, then of course I’ll be straightforward and just ask the client what they need or what they want to focus on today. Especially if it’s their first session and I’m feeling lost.
But even if you’re an all-star therapist like me ;) you might not really understand what’s going on for the client. First off, why did they choose you? Was it because you specialized in their problem or was it something else entirely? And do they really think that you’re focusing on the right thing in session? Are they put off by something you’ve said but they haven’t mentioned it to you? Are they uncomfortable in your office because they don’t like how it’s decorated? Do they care if they have to educate you about their culture or do they want you to already be knowledgable about it? Have you said something that’s super impactful to them and do you know what it was? It’s these questions, plus so much more, that inspired me to create and launch a new national therapist directory at therapyden.com that specifically caters to today’s client’s needs and what’s really important to them when they are searching for a therapist. But now I’m taking it one step further…
There aren’t therapist review sites and clients are not supposed to leave reviews for us on sites like Yelp. That’s a good thing. Reviews for therapists are problematic for many reasons. However, I have gotten tons of suggestions from people seeking therapists to allow them to leave reviews of their experiences with counselors on TherapyDen. I’ve tried my best to figure out how to integrate reviews in an ethical way, and I can’t seem to do it. So, I decided to do the next best thing and interview people directly about their counseling experiences. The interviews will be shared as a weekly podcast that premieres today! The new podcast is called “Say More About That” and you can listen to the first episode by clicking play below.
Or you can find the podcast on:
First off, the people being interviewed will be anonymous if they choose to conceal their identity. And the therapists that they talk about will be anonymized as well. I’m not looking to call out specific therapists or get anyone in trouble. But I do want the people I am interviewing to be candid with their stories about how therapy has gone for them. So far, I have recorded a number of interviews from a diverse array of clients. I’ve already learned a ton and I can’t wait to share what they’ve said with you.
Some of the questions that I ask are:
The answers that I receive are incredibly fascinating. And honestly, I’ve learned more in these interviews about the client experience of therapy than during the last 15 years of being an actual therapist. There is something very revealing about asking clients that are not yours about how they feel about their therapy journey.
Maybe this won’t be surprising, and it’s something that I focus on in my recent video training on how to attract more clients from you directory profile, but when people are looking for a therapist, one of the important factors is the photo of the therapist. For instance, a woman I interviewed said that too many therapists have “dead eyes” in their photos and she can’t trust them. We explore exactly what that means. Another person said that in the photo he wants to see a person that he’d go to a dinner party with. I had a sense that therapy seekers likely had a certain certain image in their head of what they thought their therapist might look like, but after doing these interviews I was surprised by how incredibly specific some people actually are. And it doesn’t end with just the therapist’s appearance. Office decor also matters!
The conversations explore what the first few sessions were like, from the client perspective. One young woman talks about how she felt when her therapist pulled out the DSM and started reading it to her. Another woman talks about how she hid under the table in the waiting room because she didn’t want her therapist to find her (really).
There are also stories about moments where therapy was truly transformational because of something that was said. And other moments that changed a client’s life just because the therapist had no reaction to something brought up that was deeply shameful.
One client talks about the time she was reported to CPS by her therapist and how traumatic that experience was. How betrayed she felt and how completely caught off guard she was. How she felt like never trusting a therapist again and what needed to happen in order for her to give it another chance.
Another person, who was looking for a poly-knowledgable therapist, settled for a therapist that wasn’t too knowledgeable about poly and open relationships, but was at least affirming of the lifestyle. I asked why she didn’t keep searching for a therapist that knew more about poly terms and relationship dynamics. The reason why she stayed and didn’t look for someone more experienced was because she liked him. He was a nice guy. She could keep searching, but that would take more energy and she was happy enough with the therapist she found.
I think my new podcast, Say More About That, will be very useful for therapists. You’ll get to hear all the secret things that clients really think about us. You’ll get to hear the highs, lows and everything else in between. Some episodes have big laughs and others have some tears (and most have both). If you want get an alert when the episodes drop, click here to be added to our newsletter. And if you’re not a therapist, and you just want to learn about the experience of seeing a therapist, I think you’ll like it too.
Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005. Jeff is the creator and owner of Portland Therapy Center, a highly ranked therapist directory. Jeff, and his team, have launched a new progressive therapist directory, TherapyDen.