Therapists Are Just Like Detectives

Discovering clues, checking facts against sources, and evaluating evidence are crucial in solving crimes. They’re also critical skills for treatment planning. It may not be obvious at first, but therapists and detectives actually have a lot in common. Both must be patient, thorough, and willing to go through new ideas with a fine-tooth comb.  

It requires meticulous consideration to come up with the right treatment method for your clients, but some cases require more investigation than others. If you’re feeling particularly stuck, consider thinking like a detective.

Unravel the Mystery of Your Client

Crime scenes are chaotic. Witnesses are unreliable. Stories don’t match up. Old case files seem like an endless maze of information. At first glance, it can feel like there’s no way all of this data can possibly lead to a resolution. But seasoned detectives know it takes patience and a methodical system of evaluation to unravel the knot of a crime into something that makes sense. 

It takes similar patience and methodology to find the right treatment plans for clients too. The process of gathering information and forming your diagnosis for certain clients won’t be a linear one. You may need to repeat steps, or spend more time with one piece of evidence than another. Some knots take time to untie. 

When you’re working with clients with multiple stressors, it can be overwhelming—and unsuccessful—to try to identify and treat everything all at once. It can be effective to spend a dedicated amount of time with each individual stressor before analyzing the bigger picture. 

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Identify the Puzzle Pieces

Detectives solve cases one puzzle piece at a time. They’ll examine a clue from all angles before examining the next one. This strategy can help your clients too. 

Focus on individual stressors and gather all the information related to them. This could include clinical histories, personal stories, family dynamics, as well as lifestyle and dietary habits. Investigate each stressor separately, and examine them from every angle. Find out their sources and the impact they have on your client’s life. This way, you get a comprehensive and accurate view of your client’s life. From here, you can start to explore how all the pieces under investigation fit together.

Connect to the Bigger Picture

As detectives near the end of a case, the bigger picture becomes clearer. Twists and turns unravel. Motives are exposed. And the real perpetrators are eventually revealed. These things happen as the detective starts to piece together the clues—discovering how they fit with each other.

Once you’ve collected and analyzed all the pieces of information, your next step is to connect the dots. And when a bigger picture forms, you can then create the best treatment plan for your client—one that addresses all their concerns in a holistic and thorough way.

When you’re looking for that bigger picture, remember that patience is key. You’ll have to spend a lot of time chasing down each individual lead, which is time-consuming and can be frustrating. All clients are unique, and even if they don’t have multiple concerns that need addressing, it’ll take time to find the right diagnosis. 

Once you successfully implement complicated treatment plans, think about what exactly made them successful. Did you take more sessions to make your decision? Did you talk to family members or other providers your client sees? Whatever pieces of the puzzle worked, consider replicating those steps with future clients.


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