What are “SuperShrinks”?
Some therapists are just better. There, I said it. It’s a scary statement to make because it just doesn’t seem like a nice thing to say. We want to think everyone is equally wonderful and that every doctor is terrific. When you’re going into surgery, you don’t want to think that your surgeon might not be sub-par, so may ask the surgeon how many of this specific procedure she’s done. But, do you ever ask your surgeon how many procedures she’s done successfully? Not all surgeons have the same success rates. Not all psychotherapists have the same success rates either.
How Therapists Rate Themselves
I was at a conference once and the workshop presenter asked the therapists in the audience to rate their clinical skills as below average, average, or above average. A very large majority of the group rated themselves as “above average”. That’s not possible. The majority of therapists can not be better than average. In fact, research has demonstrated several times that clinicians differ in their abilities. Studies have shown that a small number of therapists are responsible for the majority of good clinical outcomes. In other words, the clients of a few therapists get much more benefit from therapy than the others.
What SuperShrinks Do Differently?
What’s going on? Why are some therapists better? “SuperShrinks” as they are called, seek feedback from their clients. They regularly talk with their clients about how the client feels therapy is going, and SuperShrinks are particularly attentive to the quality of the relationship between client and therapist. They take care to pay attention to early termination of therapy (drop-out rates) and what the client’s goals and preferred therapy style are.
The impact of this therapeutic alliance is so important that in a study of an anti-depressant medication, the patients of psychiatrists who exhibited “SuperShrink” qualities improved more, even though they were receiving a placebo, than did the patients of regular psychiatrists who were actually taking real medication!
Feedback and Continual Improvement
The Institute for the Study of Therapeutic Change found that the key to therapist success is an ongoing stream of feedback, adjustment, and improvement. Great therapists make it a point to improve their skills, not only by participating in ongoing training, but by soliciting feedback from their clients and peers.
Have you been going to therapy for at least six to eight sessions? Are you beginning to see progress toward your therapy goals? If not, share that with your therapist! If they are a SuperShrink, they will listen and make noticeable changes. If not, maybe it’s time to find a SuperShrink!
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Dr. Chantal Gagnon
Dr. Chantal Marie Gagnon, Ph.D., LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist, relationship counselor, and life coach in Plantation, Florida. Dr. Gagnon provides individual therapy, family counseling services, and couples therapy in her Plantation, FL office. Coaching services are available nationwide.
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