Whether in our families, intimate relationships, or at work, sooner or later we all come to a point where we notice we need to change something in our thinking and our behavior.
More often than not, this happens when we feel like we’ve hit a wall and we’re actually forced to step out of our dysfunctional patterns.
Complex unhealthy patterns may stem from ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and may require professional help.
Although many people may still feel that there is a stigma attached to seeking mental health services, we all need help from time to time. Seeking therapy and healing from ACEs is a sign of new-found strength, not shame.
“Therapy” is often used interchangeably with the terms “counseling” and “psychotherapy.” It is essentially a helping relationship between a licensed mental health professional and a client. In this article, we’ll discuss how to choose the right therapist for you.
What areas do counseling and therapy address?
Counseling and psychotherapy are used with virtually all types of mental illness including:
- Bipolar disorder
- Trauma or abuse history or PTSD
- Eating disorders
- Personality disorders
- Specific phobias
- Behavioral disorders in children and adolescents
- Substance abuse disorders
- Problems with family or relationships
Counseling and psychotherapy are often assisted with medication such as antidepressants or mood stabilizers, which must be prescribed by either a psychiatrist or, more frequently, your general practitioner.
Different types of therapy are often suited towards different things, but studies have shown that any form of therapy is often better than no therapy.
For many people, the simple act of talking about their problems with someone who listens intently, is empathetic, and develops a rapport with the client is in and of itself beneficial.
Although therapy and counseling go hand-in-hand with diagnosable mental illnesses, it is often incredibly helpful for less severe problems. For people undergoing stressful life events, such as divorce, death of a loved one, stress in a marriage, stress at work, or simply to learn better coping skills, therapy can offer an extra source of support that may be necessary in stressful times.
Working with a skilled mental health professional can be extremely helpful and rewarding. It can foster insight and create even seemingly small changes that can drastically improve your mental health and overall well-being.
Tips for choosing a therapist
The most important element in choosing a therapist or counselor is the rapport that develops between your therapist and you as the client.
If you aren’t comfortable with your therapist, or you don’t feel a connection with them, all of the schooling and technique will be nowhere near as effective as it will be if a professional bond and a sense of rapport are established.
This makes choosing a therapist or counselor a very individualized endeavor. Sometimes this means experimenting with different therapists.
Finding a good therapist that you can develop a rapport with and who has a style of counseling that works for you can be likened to trying on clothes: sometimes you have to try on a few different ones before you find the right fit.
- Community Therapy or Group Practice
If you choose to utilize services from a community mental health clinic or a group practice, you may automatically get assigned to someone, but often there is flexibility to see a different therapist if the first one isn’t a good match.
- Individual Therapy or Private Practice
If you choose to see an individual in private practice, you can often find out more about the individual’s areas of expertise, years of experience, and the types of interventions that they offer from their biographies listed online.
Some therapists even offer free, brief assessments before determining if you want to make an appointment with them.
When determining how to choose a therapist, remember that YOU are the client, and the counselor or therapist is a professional and understands that there are many different individual characteristics of both the client and the therapist that don’t always equate to an ideal match.
However, the main goal of the therapist is to ensure that you, the client, receives the best treatment possible and they are guided by a strict code of ethics to ensure that they are providing it.
What if my therapist and I are not a good fit?
If the therapist feels that they are not the best fit, they are required to provide other options. Likewise, as the patient, if you feel the therapist isn’t going to meet your needs, for whatever reason, you should never feel as if you are committed to stay with that therapist.
Therapists are trained to not take the request for a different counselor or therapist personally, so you should never feel as if the desire to see someone different will be met with negativity or hurt feelings.
Where do I look to find a therapist?
Initially, a simple internet search for “mental health professionals” or “counselors” or “psychologists” and your zip code should bring up plenty of results.
For therapists working in private practice, there is often a brief write-up posted of the individual’s years of experience, their training, what types of counseling or therapy they provide, and what particular problems they specialize in working with.
When going through insurance, it is possible to call your insurance company and ask for names of mental health professionals in your area that will take your insurance. However, these may not be exhaustive lists and often you can find a wider variety through an internet search.
Choosing the right therapist or counselor may seem like a daunting task. We hope that the tips we’ve listed will make this process easier for you.
Although the initial session is typically seen as the introductory phase, sometimes it takes more than an initial session to determine whether or not you feel this person will be best able to help you.
If you want to know more about the types of therapies and mental health providers available, feel free to read this blog. For further help tailored to your specific needs, you can also check Online Therapy.
Remember: when choosing a therapist or counselor, you are the expert as to whether or not you feel this person is going to meet your individual needs.
Clinical Psychology PHD Student