Go to your therapist to prepare to be in a healthy relationship.

On January 19, 2013, psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Friedman proclaimed in an opinion piece “Should Therapists Play Cupid?”, “Looking to your therapist to set up a date is as ill-advised as it is to look to Match.com for help with depression or an eating disorder.” I agree. I can, however, argue that it is understandable why we are asking the question since mental health professionals may have just the right kind of expertise to help someone struggling with finding and maintaining a good relationship.

What do therapists know?

A good therapist knows the inner conflicts and triggers of her clients. It is an intimate relationship and it is, therefore, natural for the therapist to want provide something to someone whom is valued and respected dearly. Yet, it is not a therapist’s job to play matchmaker.   A therapist may, however, be the catalyst to help her clients become his or her own matchmaker or find professional assistance.

How can therapists help clients who are ready to date?

One solution would be for the therapist to find appropriate referral partners and empower her client to find a solution to her dating distress. When a therapy client has diabetes in addition to her anxiety, a therapist does not treat her diabetes. The therapist will refer her to the appropriate medical provider. We may choose to work with the provider closely, with permission of our client, to determine the best course of care as a team.

To facilitate this, the therapist may make a referral to a matchmaker and/or dating consultant who may provide matchmaking, support, an assessment, and/or a structure for creating relationship goals and meeting them. If the client has done her work in therapy, she may be able to articulate her wants and needs succinctly thereby making the consultation and matchmaking process a relatively smooth and efficient one.

What is the difference between Therapy and Coaching?

A 30-something frustrated with dating is a common scenario seen in many therapists’ offices.  Therapy often entails working on a specific targeted behavior or looking for past patterns in relationships to develop insight for future use.  It is a relationship in which the therapist is often in the position of authority and the client is seeking out this person’s expertise to help solve a particular problem.

Coaching is different.  Coaching is a co-created and collaborative process whereby the client and coach have equal power in the relationship.  It is future oriented and does not involve exploring the past as one would in therapy.  Coaching is  an active process by which a client sets particular goals and the coach helps the client remain accountable to reaching these goals by guiding the client out of her comfort zone to make life changes.

Why Collaboration Helps all Clients

I believe that when therapists begin to work with reputable professionals in the matchmaking and dating industry that these healthy alliances will provide a good model for clients to understand how to navigate the complex relationship world. I think it is counterproductive for therapists to believe that they may be the single source of relationship support for a client and that they know undoubtedly whether a match is a good one while engaged in a therapeutic relationship with a client.

For many clients who have had complicated relationship histories or had difficulties in childhood, the collaboration between a therapist and a coach allows each professional to work more specifically on targeted areas in need of support.  This type of structure may be particularly useful for some clients and help the client travel through the journey on a much more organized path.

Benefits of Referring for Coaching, Consultation and Matchmaking

Matchmaking and dating consultation is not simply about putting any two people in the same room or rigging a chance meeting. The process, which hopefully ends with a successful match, may be more important in the long run than the match itself. The referral and work with multiple professionals teaches the client to seek out support and find answers to a challenging dilemma. Perhaps most importantly, the referral protects the therapist’s therapeutic relationship, which may be necessary should the match not work out and the client returns to the therapist’s office to grieve its loss or to seek support through the inevitable bumps in the road a healthy relationship must go through to grow.  Working together as a team gives some clients the best opportunities to develop relationships with professionals, target specific areas in need of improvement and obtain a network of support.

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