Changing therapists: Highlighting one of Jaclyn Glenn’s points on depression

First things first: I’ve been a fan of Jaclyn Glenn for a little while now.  She’s an intelligent person with a good sense of humor.  She has a knack for discussing issues in a way that both entertains and educates; she often finds a good balance between depth and wit.  This, of course, has made her pretty popular, at least among those in the atheist/secular and skeptical communities.

I wanted to draw attention to the above video for a few reasons.  First, as a marriage and family therapy student, I naturally find discussions about mental health interesting.  I’m particularly interested in understanding how the general public perceives mental health professionals and how lay advice can either hurt or help those who are suffering.  Jaclyn’s above video is a pretty good example of how to give helpful advice to those who are suffering from depression.  For that, I applaud her.  Among her suggestions are the following: consult with a psychiatrist and a therapist, avoid isolation by talking to friends and family, engage in activities that interest you, etc.  It’s all pretty standard advice, but it’s good advice and she did a good job of delivering it to her viewers.

One of Jaclyn’s points deserves greater emphasis.  In the above video, Jaclyn mentioned that sometimes, things don’t work out with one therapist and that this may be due to a lack of connection.  In such cases, she suggested that these potentially disappointed clients try a new therapist.  I wanted to single out this piece of advice because it seems, to me, like most people don’t explicitly think of this as an option.  However, as a client, you owe it to yourself to get the best therapy you can get.  A critical component of successful therapy involves the relationship you develop with your therapist.  Therefore, if you think you and your current therapist aren’t connecting, Jaclyn’s advice might be your best bet.

Personally, I would add one caveat: Give your current therapist the benefit of the doubt in the beginning unless there is an obvious problem between you two.  Depression, particularly when it is severe, can make it difficult to have fulfilling relationships with everyone, including your therapist.  If you’re having a difficult time connecting with a therapist, a good first step might be to explicitly mention that this is the case to the therapist.  The process of working out problems between you and your therapist may help you identify issues that may be affecting your relationships with other people.  Also, it can take time for trust to develop between a therapist and a client.  But, if in the end you feel like things still aren’t working out between the two of you, trying another therapist could do the trick.  In other words, changing your therapist is an option and it could be the right move for you.  Don’t dismiss therapy entirely if you’ve a bad experience with one therapist.  Try another and see if that helps.

A related suggestion for secular clients: Changing therapists might be beneficial if your therapist is attempting to convert you or otherwise pressure you into accepting certain religious beliefs or participating in religious practices.  Therapists have several ethical responsibilities, which include: avoiding harm, avoiding an imposition of their personal values, and delivering services that have a theoretical or scientific foundation.  Of course, some therapists may not adhere to these ethical responsibilities, particularly if they infuse religiously-based ideas into their practice.  In such cases, it may be worthwhile to try to find a secular therapist or, at minimum, a therapist that respects your identity as a secular person.  The Secular Therapist Project, founded by Dr. Darrel Ray, is a good resource to use if this is a concern for you.

Jaclyn deserves much praise for answering her viewers’ questions about depression and for working to eliminate the stigma associated with pursuing mental health treatment.  Kudos to her!

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