At Kip, we often explain that a therapist’s job is to ‘debug’ your brain. In software engineering, debugging means identifying and correcting errors in computer software code. In therapy, your therapist identifies unhealthy patterns in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and then works with you to rewire your brain so that it creates better, more helpful ones.
Debugging in software is all about the details; the more you know about the problem, the easier and faster it is to resolve it. It’s also vital to have accurate information, since inaccurate details could lead you down the wrong investigative path. The same process applies to therapy. The more your therapist knows about you, and the more accurate that information is, the better they’ll be able to help you.
In regular therapy, your therapist only knows what you share in-person once a week: your thoughts in that moment and memories, which aren’t always accurate and are subject to recall bias. Kip supplements regular therapy with a way for therapist to see your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as they’re happening between sessions. They get more and better accurate information so that they can be better at debugging.
When we choose therapist, we vet them to make sure that they’ll be great at debugging. Here are three qualities we look for that tell us that:
The best therapists use data-driven, evidence-based methods
Kip therapists all practice care that’s back by science. Our service blends the office visit with clinically-proven technology that tracks how you are improving. If you go to therapy, it is important that you see results in your care so that you “know” that you are getting better. We think it is important that you work with a therapist who uses the most modern, most effective techniques and who incorporates data in their work. And that data is unique to you, and the more unique and personalized your care, the more you will respond to it.
The best therapists are clever
Cleverness is a central ability of all Kip therapists. Our therapists are trying to find patterns in your behavior and thoughts that are negative, not helpful to you, that are causing issues. Their aim is to “debug your brain” and figure out how to rewire your thought and behavior process to work better for you.
Our therapists need to be clever because they need to be creative when working with you. Often, therapists give you ‘homework’ to work on between sessions. If you don’t follow the homework, then it’s up to the therapist to find out why and come up with a better version of the task. A great therapist modifies the treatment plan to fit your needs and goals. In a way, a Kip therapist works like a scientist. If data is not what they expect (e.g., you had a hard time completing the assignment), then they ask, “Why? What’s happening? Is there something else going on? Let’s dig deeper.” They have the knowledge and creativity to modify the treatment process.
The best therapists are curious
You want a curious therapist because a curious therapist will ask questions that push you. You want to feel comfortable and safe in therapy, but you should also be challenged so that you can grow. A curious therapist asks you questions about everything you have been doing. And they will ask that particular question that explains something to your therapist that you hadn’t thought was important, but in fact helps them and you discover new things about you.
How do we evaluate for curiosity? Curious therapists ask more probing questions and when you say something it triggers imaginative responses. During a therapist interview we might mention a feature of the app. Some therapists might just say, “Oh, that’s a really cool feature.” But a curious Kip therapist will dig deeper and start coming up with ways that they could use that feature in specific situations. They will say, “That’s a great feature. Can I modify it for this homework assignment that I give to my social anxiety clients?”
That’s curiosity. You want a therapist who thinks like a journalist, someone who is an amazing listener but is also extremely curious and always thinking of the question that will push the conversation further. That’s what we’re looking for in a Kip therapist.
Originally published at blog.hellokip.com on March 27, 2017.