How to Choose a Psychologist in Madrid
Starting therapy is not an easy decision. It is an experience that can change your life significantly and it's worth choosing well who to do the therapeutic work with. There are several different factors that can help you to choose: the therapist's training and experience, his or her way of relating to you, his or her personal therapy and the question of speciality.
Training and Experience
It is important that you know that there is currently no clear legislation on who can be called a psychotherapist or psychoanalyst, anyone can call themselves a therapist if they wish and many people who do have had little training. It is therefore important that you can ask your therapist about his or her training. After graduation, and being licensed by the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos, a clinical psychologist in Madrid will have done the PIR (internal resident psychologist in the public health system) or the equivalent in a private mental health facility. During and after this clinical experience he or she will have trained in one of the schools of psychotherapy. If this training has been psychoanalytic, it takes about eight years.
Way of Relating to You
A therapist should be respectful, kind, understanding and willing to recognize that he can be wrong. He should also be honest and firm, he may sometimes have to say things that are not easy to listen to. In the first interview, you should have the impression of being listened to attentively, but not the feeling that you are being left in an uncomfortable silence for the whole interview. You should feel free to talk about anything, a good psychologist is open to the whole range of expression of human emotion and should be familiar with love, hate, shame, anxiety, sexuality, guilt, aggressiveness, sadness, tenderness, envy, humor, rivalry etc. During the first interview the therapist should also be clear as to how you are going to proceed and what the next steps are.
Therapist's own Therapy
Some patients know, but not all of them, that it is required for the therapist to have undergone his or her own therapy. This is necessary for several reasons: firstly, the experience of therapy will increase the therapist's sensitivity to how the unconscious works and will help the therapist to understand his or her patients in a much deeper way as well as increasing his or her capacity for empathy; secondly, personal therapy is important in order for the therapist to be able resolve any emotional difficulties that he or she may have and then be able to clearly distinguish them from the patient's. Since psychotherapy takes place within the setting of an interpersonal relationship, it is necessary for the therapist to be close enough to the patient to be able to understand him in all his emotional complexity, but it is also necessary for the therapist to keep enough distance so as to remain clear-headed. This highly specialized skill is acquired through personal therapy, often psychoanalysis, the more intensive the better. Do not hesitate to ask your therapist if he or she have had personal therapy.
The question of specialty in psychotherapy is important because it is different from medical specialties. A well-trained psychologist will be able to treat the great majority of adult patients that come to him or her with emotional difficulties. His or her specialty is emotional problems. There is not as much clinical difference as far as treatment goes, for instance, between someone who suffers from obsessive thoughts and someone who has an eating disorder as the difference there is between a person who has had a heart attack and a person who has hepatic cirrhosis. That said, it is necessary to have specific training to treat couples, families, children and adolescents and also to treat psychotic disorders, severely impulsive borderline disorders and mainly psychosomatic disorders.