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Find therapist using dating strategy

By Stephanie Mitchell, Oprah.com
One woman comes up with a novel way to match therapists with clients.
One woman comes up with a novel way to match therapists with clients.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Writer couldn't tell if she clicked with therapist by looking at their Web site
  • She visited 8 in her insurance plan; cost same as her out-of-network therapist
  • She wrote fictionalized version in her novel "Speed Shrinking"
  • She held Speed Shrinking parties where guests chatted with self-help gurus
RELATED TOPICS

(OPRAH.com) -- Having a good relationship with your therapist is priceless, which is why author Susan Shapiro says she lost it when her therapist "abandoned" her by moving away and she was left alone to work through her issues.

But she pulled herself together and set out to find the shrink of her dreams...

When she first set out to find a new therapist, her top priority was cost.

"The way the whole thing started was that my shrink was $200 a session, and if I picked a shrink on my insurance network, it was only a $25 co-pay," she says. "So I went on the [insurance] Web site."

Shapiro's problem: There was no way to really get to know each therapist on the Web site.

"There is no apparatus in place if somebody wants to find a good therapist," she says. "In therapy, there aren't any meet-and-greet events. It's interesting because therapy is probably more important than anything in the world because you want to feel comfortable with somebody and you don't want to waste $100 on an intake session."

Instead of seeing one or two to find the right fit, she figured she'd try the cost equivalent of one session with her previous therapist by using the next eight days to visit eight of the therapists on her insurance plan, hoping one of them would click.

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So did she find the new therapist that she was searching for? Ironically enough, Shapiro decided to stick with her out-of-town therapist, seeing him when he returns to New York every six weeks.

For Shapiro, art actually does imitate life. She saw the connection between her experiences with seeing eight therapists in eight days and speed dating and decided to write "Speed Shrinking," a novel about a character who goes through a similar experience.

At the book's release party, she re-created her speed-shrinking concept for her guests. "I invited eight shrinks that I knew that had written books that I liked," she says. Guests had three minutes to meet with each therapist and share their issues.

Her first event at Knickerbocher Bar & Grill in New York City's Greenwich Village neighborhood was quite a success.

"So many people bought the books from the therapists," Shapiro says. "A lot of people took business cards, and a lot of the shrinks said about 10 people signed up to have at least one intake session."

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So far, she's had three speed-shrinking events, including her book release party. Because charity is important to her, she donated all of the books sales at one of the events to Housing Works, a nonprofit bookstore cafe in New York that works to end AIDS and homelessness.

For Shapiro, the speed-shrinking parties combine all her favorite things. "I'm totally impatient, I love shrinks and I hate small talk," she says. "So I invented a party where everybody is talking about therapy and everyone is spilling all of their stuff and there's no small talk."

She believes speed-shrinking events can benefit the therapy industry by allowing prospective patients to speak with self-help gurus and therapists about their problems and get to know them better.

"Out of any field in the world, you have to open up and tell this person your secrets," she says. "Knowing that there's chemistry, knowing who they are and what their specialty is, it's very hard to find out."

Some psychological institutes gave her a hard time, thinking she was trying to replace regular therapy with three-minute sessions that could "change people's lives."

"I had to come out and proclaim, 'I'm helping your business,'" Shapiro says. "This is an introduction to therapy, demystifying the process for young people who have no idea [how] to get into therapy. Therapy saved my life and my career, so I'm trying to make it cool and fun."

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By Stephanie Mitchell from Oprah.com © 2009

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