How would I know which type of talk therapy is appropriate for me? I’ve suffered abuse both as a child and as an adult. I’ve had problems with amnesia all my life, so never talked about any abuse. Therapists don't want me to go back to the past. What should I do?

Finding the right counseling or therapy is complicated—but you already know that! You have to think about the specific person you are seeing (do they listen to you and care about you) and the kind of therapy they provide (does this approach seem to help you). Start by telling yourself that you are hiring a therapist to help you. That means you get to decide what the most important problem is, and your therapist’s job is to work with you to solve it. Explain how you think that your experience of abuse or trauma affects you now. Ask your therapist how they would try to help you with that. Your therapist should be able to describe some specific things that the two of you can try together. There are different brands of psychotherapy, including cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and EMDR. Each is based on a specific idea about what helps people. Your therapist should be able to tell you what idea or ideas they think will be most helpful for you. And you should be able to see how those specific ideas apply to the things you discuss in each visit. If your therapist suggests a plan that doesn’t sound right to you, it’s a good idea to listen and consider it. Your therapist probably does have some useful training and experience. But you are the best judge of what works for you. Here are some of the most important questions you can ask: How will this kind of therapy help with the problems I think are most important? When and how will we decide if this approach is helping me?

About the Doc

About the Doc

Greg Simon, MD, MPH, is a psychiatrist and researcher at  Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. His research focuses on improving the quality and availability of mental health services for people living with mood disorders, and he has a specific interest in activating consumers to expect and demand more effective mental health care.

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