As a practicing clinical psychologist, I have found that the best outcomes occur when the therapist and client are a “good fit.” That is part of the reason I employ a diverse staff of associates: to maximize the chance of a client finding a good fit.
I recently spoke with two women who shared the same goal of getting married, but had very different circumstances and sets of obstacles to overcome. Take a look at their situations below, and you will see how oftentimes it’s more important that the therapist pays attention to the how and why of a single person’s story rather than the simple fact that they are single. This type of understanding is what helps me customize therapy to help single people find relationships in the way that works best for them.
Note: The following case studies have been abstracted and stripped of all identifying information, in compliance with state and federal law and in accordance with professional ethical standards.
– 28-year-old woman
– Wants a healthy relationship that will ultimately lead to marriage
– In the past, she would sleep with men without obtaining a commitment
– Sometimes she feels bad about herself, but other times she feels really good about herself
This young woman is sick with a case of “yo-yo” self-esteem. Her self-esteem goes on the upswing as long as a man is coming on strong, but if he pulls away, she ends up feeling bad about herself. She went on to say that during periods of low self-esteem, she had engaged in casual sex, which I suspect validates the idea that she is not worth very much.
I told her my associates and I are ideally suited to help women like her with weekly sessions where she could explore her behavior patterns while also tracking her dating life in real time.
Literally a minute after I hung up with Call #1, I received a call from a woman who had the same goal of marriage but with a totally different career path and temperament.
– 50-year-old woman
– Ready for marriage
– Financially stable
– Somewhat a wallflower
– Old-fashioned, male-dominated profession
As the second caller and I spoke, it became clear to me that her low self-esteem is manifesting in a completely different way than the younger woman I had just spoken to.
This woman is a high-level executive secretary who rose to her position in a “boys’ club” atmosphere for most of her career. I’ve seen women who work in secretarial jobs sometimes falling into the role of being pretty-yet-passive wallflowers, sleeping with their bosses or married colleagues, obviously without any sort of legitimate commitment.
I knew right away that I could help give her an attitude adjustment and get her on a path of self-respect. One of the practices I emphasize most with my associates is teaching clients the ability to parse complex goals into small, attainable steps. The myriad effects of years in a testosterone-laden environment would not simply disappear for this woman. In order to change, she would need to learn to take baby steps.
These two women each called me with the ultimate goal of getting married, but it is important that I understand that they arrived there by very different routes. One was active and one was a wallflower. One had her own career while the other worked as support staff. One had an active sex life while the other was celibate.
Understanding the differences between human beings is what makes a great therapist. By teaching my method to my associates, I have ensured that my own expertise is extended beyond the walls of my own office so that I can help more people, in more personalized ways.