What is a Specialist... Advice from Susan

We are leery of professionals who are not trained in how people develop and change from birth through old age before specializing in an area such as sex therapy, hypnosis, trauma recovery, etc.


Dr. Susan Shaffer identifies herself as a clinical psychologist in general practice who specializes in the treatment of sexual,
relationship, and intimacy problems and trauma disorders. She is Certified by the American Board of Sexology and by the International Association of Trauma Specialists.


HOWEVER, a comprehensive study of personality, the importance of early learning and what we've learned as adults, genetics, brain physiology and the impact on us of our first family environment and the family environment that we have created as adults all become the foundation on which "specialty" therapies rests. On the other hand, psychologists cannot specialize in all age groups and conditions. Anyone who states their specialized areas of expertise as a laundry list is not seeing enough cases with your particular problems to focus treatment appropriately.


With this in mind, we suggest:

1) Get the names of 2 or better, 3, therapists from friends, family or another health professional who has specific knowledge of a therapists work or reputation. Consider contacting the State Board of MN to ask who is registered under the specialty you need. Once you make contact, ask for additional qualifications . (e. g. How did they become a specialist? In what organizations are they active? What additional certifications do they hold?) Finally, what proportion of their practice comprise cases like yours.


2) This a three part question.

(1) Ask how your situation and problem will be evaluated

(2) How long treatment with your problem MIGHT take

(3) What approach or school of thought the therapist uses.


Be wary of professionals who give you an exact number of sessions (they maybe in an HMO or PPO and are limited as to how many treatments they're permitted to see you) and those who won't venture even a ball park. We have seen patients once, 10 times, a few weeks, months and a few years. Time in treatment is NOT a measure of how "crazy" you are. The key is: Can the therapist give you a response that makes sense and is easy to understand. Therapists who become defensive or irritated with such questions should be passed over.


3) AIM HIGH. You should begin to feel better within 4-6 sessions. Though friends or family may not see a difference in that time, you should feel more hopeful and have a beginning understanding of where your therapy is headed. If you don't or if you just aren't feeing that "chemistry" between you and your therapist, say so.


Patient and therapist must forge a working relationship based on"getting each other". It's that subtle and not terribly scientific. What RESEARCH TELL US in hundreds of studies, however, is that the connection made BETWEEN PATIENT AND THERAPIST often predicts a good outcome. Therapists who are professional don't take it personally when you shop around for the right fit.

All of that being said, finding a really transformational therapy experience should be your goal. Therapy changes people at its best. At its worst, you are left wondering if a good friend couldn't have done as much and saved you a bundle. So don't be afraid to search out a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th opinion until your ready to dig in.