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Therapists Take a Page From Video Dating : Orange County Service Updates Referrals by Letting Clients Screen Professionals on Tape

May 03, 1985|DENNIS McLELLAN | Times Staff Writer

Click. The picture on the television screen shows a conservatively dressed woman sitting on a cranberry-colored sofa in a relaxed setting resembling a living room.

"What," an off-screen interviewer asks her, "do you enjoy most about being a psychotherapist?"

"I like helping people understand how they act and react," says Jane Myers Drew, a Mission Viejo licensed clinical social worker. "I don't know if I can express the pleasure that I get when I see somebody who came into my office in tears and then, through therapy, has that kind of smile that just radiates that they feel good about who they are. I really enjoy being an integral part of somebody changing."

Click. Same couch, same interviewer, different therapist.

"What would it be like," the interviewer asks, "for a person to first walk into Dr. Hayter's office and meet with you?"

"Well, hopefully, comfort," says Dr. George M. Hayter, an Orange psychiatrist. "I'm going to try to do what I can to put you at ease. My office is comfortable, and I try to make it that way. In spite of this coat and tie, I'm usually a kind of a relaxed person, and I think therapy should go that way . . . ."

Click. Another therapist . . . .

At first glance these videotaped interviews look like outtakes from a television talk show, but there's more to them than psychotherapy shop talk.

These mental health professionals are part of a 29-member panel of Orange County psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, licensed clinical social workers and marriage, family and child counselors who make up Therapy Selection Services--the latest twist to the video revolution of the '80s and a high-tech alternative to the traditional name and phone number method of referral.

In operation in Santa Ana since January, Therapy Selection Services (TSS) was designed to match people seeking professional help for mental health problems with the right kind of therapist and the appropriate kind of treatment.

And a major part of the process is having clients view three- to five-minute videotapes of several potential therapists whose training, experience and expertise are most suited to the client's needs.

"The advantage of the videotape is that the person can get a valid first impression of the therapist as a person and how the therapist works," said Dr. David Davis, executive director. "A name and a phone number doesn't tell you anything."

Davis, a psychiatrist in private practice in Santa Ana, maintains that "there is really no way anybody can do better than they themselves in selecting a therapist that they'll feel rapport with."

Having good client-therapist rapport, he said, "is extremely important. Research shows that if there's not good rapport, therapy doesn't go well. I think a first-rate therapist can create an environment where that happens, but what goes on in watching the tapes is there's really a feeling that 'There's something about that person I'm drawn to.' It's an intuitive sense."

Watching the videotapes, however, is only part of the process that begins with an initial consultation with TSS administrator Dean Wilson, a licensed marriage, family and child counselor.

During the 50-minute session, which costs $67, Wilson identifies the nature of the client's problem and determines what kind of therapist and treatment methods could most appropriately meet the client's needs.

Educational Process

"Dean's job," Davis explained, "is to make the person feel comfortable, answer questions about therapy and then help them decide on the best kinds of treatment. I think a lot of people really don't have a clear idea of what therapy is all about. They really don't know what therapy can and can't do or the different types of therapy.

"TSS is essentially an educational process for the persons. They become educated and informed about therapy and are able to make a selection about the type of therapeutic approach that best suits them. Most people don't bother to do that on their own."

Davis believes that Therapy Selection Services also helps alleviate fear of therapy.

"When somebody comes through here, they're not afraid to seek therapy anymore," he said. "It gives them a positive outlook on therapy and what it can do and what they can expect."

In three months of operation, about 40 people have gone through the service, which has attracted an unusually large percentage of men. Wilson, who said men traditionally are less inclined than women to seek therapy on their own, is not sure why the men-to-women client ratio is three to one, except that "the whole procedure just seems to be appealing to men."

"I thought it was a rather ingenious idea," said John, a 35-year-old technical writer from La Mirada. "I'm a video-oriented person so it seemed natural for me."

John, who said he has been depressed over his inability to "come up with a decent job, " was considering going to a therapist when he heard about Therapy Selection Services.

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