What a Therapist Looks for in a Client, Part One

Last week on the Allender Center Podcast, we concluded a series about what to look for in a therapist. This week, Dr. Dan Allender looks at the other side of that question: What do therapists look for in clients? Dan offers a few categories that most therapists consider when determining if they are the right person to work with a particular client. The therapeutic relationship requires a unique level of investment and dedication on the part of both client and therapist, so it is appropriate that both are concerned about finding the right fit for me.

Dan talks about the category of expertise, and the need for therapists to be able to recognize when their abilities and training do not fit well with particular issues being presented. “A good fit always begins with your presenting problem and whether or not I have skill, knowledge, experience to be of help.” For a good therapist, the ability to pursue meaningful work together always trumps the need to fill a client load.

Dan also discusses the reality that every therapist has their own complex internal world and their own stories to work through. If a client’s personality, style of relating, or presenting issue triggers a reaction that is more about someone else in the therapist’s life, the therapist needs to be able to recognize when that will detract from his or her ability to work on the client’s behalf. “It would not be gracious to work with somebody who evoked in me things that I knew were still in the process of being worked on.”

Finally, Dan addresses the categories of availability and dual relationships, which lead to considerations of time, cost, travel limits, and the ethical implications of pursuing therapy with someone you also regularly interact with in another context. “The therapeutic relationship bears a level of intimacy and depth that needs to be honored as a very rare and unique relationship.” Next week, Dan will continue this conversation by discussing some of the particular qualities he looks for in determining if a client will be a good fit for pursuing meaningful work in therapy.

The therapeutic relationship needs to be honored as a very rare and unique relationship.

Next week also marks the 100th episode of this podcast! Over the last two years, thousands of people have tuned in each week as Dan Allender and guests wrestle candidly with issues of the heart and the messy realities of living out our stories in day-to-day life. We would love to hear what this podcast has meant for you. If you have any feedback, favorite episodes, or stories to share, email Content Coordinator Beau Denton, bdenton@theseattleschool.edu by this Wednesday, October 12. Dan will engage the responses in an upcoming episode.