Finding a good fit with a counselor isn’t easy — and that’s an important relationship to get right if you’re going to get what you need out of therapy.
But the challenge may be growing given today’s political climate, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times.
People stressed out over politics are apparently also stressing out their therapists, the LA Times recently reported — and it’s leaving those who are supposed to care for others needing help of their own. Remaining unbiased and quiet about their political views, some experts say, isn’t easy to do these days.
Therapists Are Human, Too
It is literally impossible to be totally neutral about your own beliefs or personality as a therapist, according to Nicole Richardson, a licensed professional counselor, supervisor, and marriage and family therapist in Austin, Texas. Still, she feels strongly that her clients not know who she voted for in the presidential election, “so that they could fully explore their own struggles, conflicts, and points of view without fear of judgment or unwanted influence,” she told LifeZette.
“If a prospective client asked me who I voted for, it would feel tantamount to asking me about my undergarment preferences. It is simply none of their business,” said Richardson.
It may not be anyone’s business — but that doesn’t mean patients don’t increasingly want to know, said Tom Kersting, a licensed therapist in Ridgewood, New Jersey. He said therapists are routinely put in the position in which patients wants to know the doctors’ political positions — but they should not be transparent about it.
“There are strategies to working around that if a patient raises the question. Therapy/Counseling 101 states that therapists should keep their personal lives, personal problems and personal beliefs to themselves. It is not about us, or what we believe. It’s about focusing on the symptoms and helping the patient navigate through that,” he said.
How to Handle a Conflict
Kersting believes that if a therapist is revealing his or her political views to you, it’s time to find a different therapist.
Orly Katz, a therapist and marriage counselor in Rockville, Maryland, suggests checking out a therapist’s website to learn more about the person or if there’s concern about a therapist’s particular views — as “biased therapists often display their opinions” there.
Psychologist Mark Sharp, Ph.D., with Aiki Relationship Institute in Oak Brook, Illinois, offers a different perspective. He says for someone to be truly neutral politically, especially given how contentious politics can be today, that person would probably also need to be pretty ignorant.
‘Taking the Lead’
“I’m not sure such a therapist would be particularly helpful,” he told LifeZette. “Is it difficult sometimes to do therapy with, or to accept therapy from, someone who has different ideas and values? Absolutely! And sometimes those differences are probably different enough that the work shouldn’t be done. But I think the value of therapy, or a relationship in general, is lessened if we only choose to be in therapy with, or relate to, people who are exactly aligned with us.”
He believes therapists should instead be taking the lead in being accepting and encouraging connection and relationship across political differences.