Elizabeth Nyblade, Ph.D.
Gateway Centre
1313 E. Maple Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
P: 360.647.8295
Why Trump Won't Give Up the Verbal Abuse
Donald Trump is many things. . . businessman, entertainer and politician. But did you know that he is a verbal abuser?
The Verbal Abuse of Donald Trump

The presumptive Republican Candidate for President is a verbal abuser. Donald Trump has called his political opponents names like “hypocrite,” “weak,” “a pathetic figure,” “liar,” “choker.” And he relishes repeating nasty nicknames for his opponents: “Crooked Hillary,” “Lying Ted,” “Low-energy Jeb.”

I have seen and treated many targets of verbal abuse over my last forty years as a practicing psychologist. With Donald Trump as a candidate, we can all see the cycle of abuse playing out on the national stage.

Part III: How to Take an Adult Timeout
The abuser is in a timeout from you when you can no longer hear, see or pay attention to the abuser. Your goal is to take a timeout as rapidly and as consistently as possible when your partner says something that is verbally or emotionally abusive.
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How to Interview (and Review) a Therapist so You can get the Right 'Match'.

Finding the right therapist calls for some work and some thought. Although you may luck out by looking through a phone book and calling counselors at random, it's more likely that you'll find what you're looking for by asking for recommendations from friends, family, and professionals such as your family doctor.

In fact, if you want your health insurance to reimburse you for a portion of the costs, you may need a referral from your family doctor, but most family doctors will be glad to refer you to a counselor that you've selected by a conscientious process. Or they'll be glad to tell you why they don't recommend that particular counselor for you.

If you are entering therapy for the first time, consider whether you believe that your issues may come from a health problem, or may cause health problems. In either case, you'll probably want a counselor with more background in the biology of psychological issues, like a psychologist or psychiatrist. If your health problems cause you major difficulties in functioning, you might wish to see someone who can evaluate you thoroughly for biological contributions to the problems as well. If the problems may involve others, for example a partner or a child, you should try to select someone who would be able to assist you or family members in those areas as well. If you feel overwhelmed or don't know what is going wrong, you may want to ask for psychological testing to help you jump-start and give direction to the process of change.

However, the most important way to choose a therapist is to ask for recommendations from people you trust. Find out who has a good reputation and then try the therapist out for one to five sessions. Interview a therapist about his or her background and values over the phone and ask yourself how you feel after each session with the therapist to see if it “felt right,” or you “felt satisfied.” You should feel a sense of hope and realize that you have talked about issues of concern and potentially reached some new understandings or new directions for your life. You can't expect to “feel good” after every therapy session, but you can expect to “feel good about the therapist” or “feel satisfied about your own progress” after almost every session. 

Questions About the Pragmatics of Therapy:

It's important to “interview” the counselor about pragmatic issues at some point before or during the first therapy session. Here are some sample questions you might want to ask:

  • Do you accept my insurance?
  • What do I do (and what do you do) if I have an emergency?
  • How often should I see you?
  • What happens if I'm late for a session? What if you're late?
  • If I need to cancel a session, will I be charged for it?
  • How long do you think I'll need to be in therapy?
  • Will you interact with my (doctor? lawyer? child's teacher?)
  • Will you include my (partner, child, spouse) if we decide that would be useful?

Questions About the Therapist’s Values and Beliefs

It's important to “interview” the counselor about issues that are important to you at some point before or during the first therapy session. Here are some sample questions you might want to ask:

  • How active do you tend to be in a therapy session?
  • Do you often work with people who have problems like mine?
  • What usually happens in a session with you?
  • Do you tend to give advice?
  • If I want/don't want medications, how do you handle that?
  • Do you agree with me that ___________________________________?
  • Do you believe ________________________________?
  • What do you like about doing therapy?
  • If I want/don't want medications, how do you handle that?
  • How do you like to work with patients?
  • What do you like about doing therapy?

You'll have a much better sense of trust in your therapist if you actively ask about those things that concern you, and you'll be more confident that you're on the right track if you find yourself agreeing or approving of the therapist's style.

What shall I ask myself after the session?

In the beginning of therapy it is very important for you to review your thoughts and feelings about what took place in the therapy session and ask yourself some questions. Here's a sample list:

  • Did the therapist seem to understand what you were trying to say?
  • Do you think you could come to trust the therapist?
  • Were you able to clarify your position when you felt misunderstood?
  • Were you able to be honest and direct?
  • Did the therapist maintain eye contact with you?
  • Did you feel the therapist was interested in you and not preoccupied with other things?
  • If the therapist was interrupted did he/she handle it appropriately?
  • Did the therapist give you adequate feedback?
  • Did the therapist seem to want to work with you?
  • Did the therapist seem flexible?
  • Did the therapist make the rules of therapy clear, and did you find them appropriate?
  • Do the therapist's business practices seem reasonable?
    (adapted from When Talk is Not Cheap, by Mandy Aftel, and Robin Lakoff)

Does the Therapist Model a Good Relationship to You?

It is part of the therapist's job to show you (and tell you) what a good relationship looks like and feels like. Try asking yourself these questions about your relationship with the therapist:

  • Does the therapist seem caring, and interested in you?
  • Does the therapist raise unrelated issues, or talk about his or her own problems in a fashion that makes you uncomfortable?
  • Do you feel comfortable disagreeing with the therapist?
  • Were you afraid to raise certain issues with the therapist?
  • Does the therapist make judgmental statements that make you uncomfortable?
  • Do you feel you share enough values with the therapist to be comfortable with him or her?
  • Do you feel that the therapist is paying attention to the things that are most important to you?
  • Do you feel more trust and respect for the therapist than you did earlier?

Do You Feel You are Accomplishing your Goals in Therapy?

In the long-run, of course, people don’t engage a therapist, or a doctor, for the pleasure of their company. You come into therapy with goals and you’ll probably add new goals during the therapy. Try asking yourself these questions about the process of therapy:

  • Is the therapist aware of your goals?
  • Does the therapist support you in choosing and working on your own goals?
  • Do you feel you learn new methods to work on your goals with this therapist?
  • Do you feel you are learning new ways to cope with your life that you didn’t know (or couldn’t practice) before?
  • Does the therapist help you to see your issues in new ways that are helpful?
  • Do you feel that you are learning new skills in problem-solving from the therapist?
  • Do you feel that you are learning new skills in recognizing and managing your emotions from this therapist?
  • Are you able to focus each week on the subjects that are important to you?
  • Does the therapist help you to think about the issues of concern to you?
  • Does the therapist support your goals and validate your feelings during sessions?
  • Can you see positive changes in your health in the areas that matter to you?
  • Can you see ways to proceed in your life that you didn’t know or couldn’t accomplish before?
  • Do you feel you are learning what you need in order to make a positive difference in your life?
  • Do you understand any medical problems or issues that you have better than you did before?
  • Has your therapist coordinated positively with other individuals in your life (such as your child’s teacher or your physician) and has that made a difference?
  • Do you feel more confident about your future than you did before?

Remember that your goal is not to find the best therapist in the world. The goal is to find a therapist that is a good fit for you, one that meets your needs, and one that you work well with. It’s not a good choice to remain with a therapist when you aren’t getting your needs met, so you don’t have to make a permanent choice of a therapist before you begin. You’re not a failure, and probably the therapist isn’t a failure either, if you decide to work with someone else.


Related Articles:
  • Considering Seeing a Counselor? Start Here! (01/04/2013)
    A Pre-counseling workbook on when and how to select a counselor. A guide to questions about the process of counseling, the content of counseling, and some of the logistics of counseling by Elizabeth Nyblade, Ph.D.
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