Making the decision for yourself to see a therapist is no small feat. If this is you, congratulations, you are on the well deserved path to self-fulfilment. But what now? Do you go to just any therapist? Is therapy a one size fits all deal?
To make it a little less daunting, and to increase your chances of finding the therapy that works for you, here is a short guide to keep in mind while undertaking this transformative journey.
There are many types of therapy to choose from, and just as many therapists offering those choices. The process of choosing a therapist can feel as difficult as the decision to start seeing one. It’s no small task to tell a stranger how you’re really feeling deep down. It’s no wonder that so many people decide to stop or avoid therapy altogether after uncomfortable experiences they or others may have had.
While simply reaching out is a colossal act of courage, the importance of choosing the right therapy and therapist can be the difference between a life-changing healing journey and bitter aftertaste for the process.
There are many different types of therapy modalities available. Though not an exhaustive list by any means, some examples include:
Focuses on the process of bringing to light those parts of the self one is not wholly aware, often described as buried in the unconscious. Through self-discovery with the therapist you are able to address the root cause of symptoms, encouraging deep and long-lasting healing.
Read My Approach for a deeper dive into this kind of therapy
A short-term goal-focused therapeutic approach, which incorporates positive psychology principals and practices, and helps clients change by constructing solutions rather than focusing on problems.
A time-limited and structured approach used to treat mood disorders. Offering both individual and group settings, IPT’s main goal is to improve the quality of interpersonal relationships and help reduce stress and anxiety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
A short-term therapy solution directed at identifying patterns of thinking, feeling, and behavior associated with mental health concerns. It provides strategies to overcome them with healthier thought and behavioral patterns.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
A skills-based therapy like CBT with the addition of a mindfulness component that is often used to meet challenges with distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal challenges.
For a more extensive list of therapy modalities, check out:
Type of therapist
A therapist is someone who practices in the mental health field as a clinician. A few examples include:
Social Workers (LCSW)
Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC)
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT or LMFT)
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC)
Life coaches, spiritual healers, etc. are not usually qualified to practice mental health services.
You may feel you know yourself well enough to know the kind of therapist you wish to see. If not, don’t be discouraged. You can research online some of the examples above, or speak to your doctor for recommendations on where to start.
It is important to check the credentials of your potential therapist. Good therapists will make their education and training accessible. Therapists will have completed a masters, doctorate degree and clinical training from an accredited institution. Aside from training, as part of their qualifications, therapists also receive therapy. This allows them to not only know both sides of the therapeutic relationship, but it also supports their ability to practice therapy more skillfully.
It would be nice to assume that the more education and training a therapist has, the better a therapist will be. This, of course, is not always the case and brings us to another important thing to consider as you hone in on what's best for you.
When making your selection it’s important to remember that therapists are human beings. Needless to say, it’s important to be selective - as you would with a friend - with whom you choose to build a relationship with.
We are all incredibly complex individuals with equally complex narratives and experiences. Everyone has different needs and expectations for their therapeutic relationship. Maybe you need a mirror for your thoughts, a place you can vent without judgement, or actionable advice on changing behavior, all three, or something more.
Remember: You decide on your terms how the therapy proceeds. Maybe you only feel comfortable receiving teletherapy via phone or video, or in-person therapy just once every two weeks. Only you know what works for you, and a solid therapist will help you find out what is true for you.
If people around you go to therapy, you could begin by asking them about their therapists. What are they like? How do they approach the process? What is their personality like?
If that’s not the case, or you’re not comfortable asking, you can ask yourself questions like What are my friends like? Would I be comfortable if they were my therapist? Why? What do I need from my therapist?
Answering these questions can help you navigate the first impression of your prospective therapist. It can be difficult to know when or if you’re comfortable, and talking about that with them can be a wonderful way to break the ice.
If you feel you aren’t making progress or your therapist isn't a fit, you can always switch to someone else. A good and ethical therapist will be happy to refer you to another provider. That said, good therapy is not always easy or comfortable. It helps to bring a willingness to self reflect. Courage, perseverance, and patience can pay off for you on your healing journey.
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Some other therapists or therapy centers you might like to consider are:
On this page, we aim to satisfy the hungry curiosity common among those considering Psychotherapy.