How to select a therapist who will help and not hurt. A project of Metanoia Communications


4 - Finding The Answer You Already Know

(You just don't know that you know!)

There is a part of your mind, beyond your conscious awareness, that knows if your therapist is helping you. Your unconscious controls your deep emotional satisfaction, or dissatisfaction. If your therapist does something unhelpful, your unconscious knows it, and will tell you. Messages from your unconscious mind are messages from you to yourself, and you can use them to evaluate the true success of your therapy.

Of course, learning to evaluate messages from your unconscious mind can be difficult at first, since your unconscious mind communicates with the outside world only indirectly. After all, it is unconscious. The unconscious mind speaks only through dreams, and through broad themes that play themselves out through other aspects of your life.

Furthermore, your unconscious and your conscious mind often disagree. Consciously, you might think one thing; but deep inside your unconscious, your true feeling is otherwise. Nevertheless, since your unconscious mind controls your deep-seated emotional satisfaction or dissatisfaction, the unconscious mind is often the theater of psychotherapy.

When the unconscious part of the mind communicates, it uses a conscious piece of information as a disguise for its meaning. Although we are saying one thing consciously, another meaning is being expressed unconsciously by way of the same images. In other words, when a patient in therapy tells a story or a dream, there are two levels of meaning in the images being expressed. One level is the conscious level. A story refers directly to the people and events being talked about. But a story may also contain unconscious information -- that is, the details and images may pertain indirectly and unconsciously to what has taken place in the treatment experiences itself. --Robert Langs, MD

You can use these encoded messages from your own unconscious to evaluate the success of your psychotherapy. If you examine and decode the images in your dreams and the broad themes of your stories, you can find out what your unconscious mind really thinks about your therapy -- whatever therapeutic methods your therapist uses.

For instance, after a particularly satisfying therapy experience, you may dream about being held and comforted. Conversely, if someone should interrupt your therapy session, you might dream that someone is breaking into your home. Throughout the therapeutic experience, from referral to termination, you can examine your dreams and conversations for these encoded messages from your unconscious, and use them not only to know yourself in a deeper and more real way, but also to judge the effectiveness of your therapy. Read on to find out more about what I mean.

Next: How a good therapist makes you feel safe >>

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Table of Contents


  1. Why I wrote this article
  2. How to tell if a therapist is competent, or not
  3. What psychotherapy isand why you need to know
  4. The secret that you already know
  5. How a good therapist makes you feel safe
  6. The perfect therapist
  7. Privacy: the essential ingredient
  8. Non-judgmental acceptance: you deserve it
  9. How to choose a therapist to call
  10. How you find out about the therapist
  11. Therapist credentials: the truth revealed
  12. First contact. Watch out for these red flags!
  13. Your first session: what should happen
  14. Safety is in the details
  15. Now what?

Copyright 1991,1996, 1999 Martha Ainsworth. All rights reserved. Please refer to reprint information before reprinting or distributing all or any part of this text.


This resource is hosted by mental health information at Psych Central.