I was at a restaurant Saturday night eating dinner with my husband. It was one of those restaurants where everyone is basically seated together, hip to hip. There’s really no privacy and it was one of those situations where you’re either having a conversation or ease-dropping on somebody else’s. The woman next to me was complaining to her friend about her therapist. This was hardly the first time I’ve heard someone complain about their therapist. Although some people might find that to be an awkward social situation, I find it to be a learning opportunity. These uncensored and completely honest vents by strangers allow me to pick up on not only what the other therapist did wrong (so I can avoid making the same mistake) but what I can do right.
After listening and reading about so many therapist complaints, I’ve found that it really comes down to two things: The therapist didn’t do their job or the therapist was insensitive to the client’s needs or feelings. If you’re like me, then you find that information to be a breath of fresh air. If you want to avoid having your clients complain about you, then just do your job and be sensitive. To me, that sounds very reasonable. Of course we should do our jobs and of course we should be sensitive, we are therapists after all!
Studies have also shown that having happy customers really doesn’t take much. You don’t have to do anything extravagant. For the most part, people just want someone who does what they say they are going to do and does their job consistently. According to the research, if you want a loyal fan base, that’s all it takes. People want a therapist that isn’t zoning out in session. They want someone who listens intently and has obviously put some thought into the session. People want a therapist who prepared for the session and gives thoughtful feedback. At the same time, people also want a therapist that shows sensitivity to them.
It’s been said that you can be the best doctor in the world, but if your bedside manner is lacking people just aren’t going to put up with it. I think the same is definitely true for therapists. We need to remember that when people come in to see us that they are at a difficult and vulnerable time in their life and we need to show sensitivity to that. We need to have understanding and compassion. We need to be careful with our words. We need to feel for the client. Clients want a therapist that understands them and feels their pain. You can’t fake that. You need to actually feel it.
A while ago I got my wisdom teeth taken out. I know, I know, I should have done it years ago, but I was one of those poeople who were too scared. I had heard all the horror stories of tooth extraction and I was freaked out. The dentist office booked me to have the extraction done with their best dentist. I have to say, he was really good. The whole thing was flawless. But do you want to know what stuck with me the most about the experience? Before the extraction, the dentist gave me a warm smile and put his hand on my shoulder in a reassuring manner. He showed sensitivity about my fear. Not only was he a really good dentist, but he was a really good person too. And that’s what the best therapists do: They do their jobs with skill and sensitivity.