Help for help: Finding the right therapist for you

Help for help: Finding the right therapist for you

It can be an anxiety provoking and intimidating decision to seek therapy. Both because of the acknowledgement this decision brings about some conflict that needs resolution and because of the angst associated with finding the right therapist. It is important to have a clear understanding of what it means to pursue therapeutic intervention as well as to attain some tips on how to help yourself get help. 


Do

Do use available resources

There are a myriad of resources that can be accessed to find a therapist that is the right fit for you. Take your time to mobilize these resources before making a decision. Use the internet. There are many sites that will guide you to finding a therapist in your town who specializes in your area of need. Ask your friends and/or trusted colleagues or family members if they have a recommendation about a therapist who has resonated with them. Also, make sure you call your insurance company and ask for a list of potential clinicians in close proximity. It might mean that your sessions are all or partially covered financially and it will definitely mean you are provided with a list of viable professionals.  

Do show compassion towards yourself

Seeking therapy doesn’t mean there is something “wrong” with you. In fact, it confirms there is something quite right with you. You have acknowledged you are struggling and are looking for resources to help yourself. This process is not a sign of weakness -- it is the opposite. It is a sign of strength that you are taking care of yourself and looking for support so your pain or conflict can be contained or resolved or soothed. That is a very healthy approach to problem solving. Ignoring or denying the problem would represent an unhealthy approach to coping with an issue that is interrupting your sense of well being. So be nice to yourself. Pat yourself on the back for doing the right thing and taking care of yourself. Everyone has wounds and pains. Your courage to acknowledge your need for help is admirable.  

Do interview multiple therapists

Many people think that they should just choose the first therapist they see. This notion is not always well advised. Sometimes the first therapist is a great fit and the search is quickly over. However, if you find yourself not feeling completely comfortable or not “clicking” with the first therapist, then interview a few more. Indeed, it takes time and money to go through a lengthy search, but it is worth it in the long run. The therapeutic experience is a relationship and it is critical you find someone who resonates with you.  

Do trust your gut

Pick the therapist who resonates with you. Follow your intuition on this decision. If you slow down, pay attention, and listen to yourself, your gut will lead you to the right person and thus the correct decision for you. Don’t let outside influences dictate, allow yourself to choose who is the best fit for you.  

Do go more than once

Going to therapy, while a positive step, can be hard. It means talking about issues that might be painful or that might be typically avoided. Starting to explore difficult topics may make you want to stop, to give up. Encourage yourself to continue. Healing usually follows the processing of pain that occurs in the therapeutic environment. It might get worse before it gets better. However, seeking support for difficult issues invariably means finding more effective ways to cope and a reduction in the angst associated with the conflict. Give yourself the chance to get the relief. But the only way to do that is to keep on going.


Don't

Do not see multiple therapists at once

Regularly meeting with more than one therapist is not recommended. Having two distinct and unique processes occurring simultaneously can be confusing and ineffective. Choose one therapist who seems like a fit. If over time (say, after 4 or 5 sessions), the dynamic is not working for you, then consider searching for another option.   

Do not choose a therapist who also treats a close family member or friend

Seeing a therapist who works with someone with whom you have a very connected and involved relationship can be a conflict of interest as it is challenging for the therapist to remain objective and be an advocate for both clients. It is perfectly appropriate to see a therapist who also treats a distant friend, family member or colleague as your mutual issues will not intersect.  

Do not expect changes immediately

It can be a lengthy process to unravel previously unexamined issues or behavior. Therapy is not a magic wand. It is a vehicle to begin the process of self exploration and healing. But it takes time and effort and commitment on your part. It may be uncomfortable or frustrating at times. If you stick with it, in the long run, a sense of well being can be found and restored. Be prepared to tolerate some difficult feelings. Also be prepared for peace to ultimately follow.  

Do not go less than one time per week

Therapy cannot be effective if it is sporadic or infrequent. Once a week is absolutely recommended for folks seeking therapy for the first time. Once a week is the minimum requirement for building a relationship with your therapist, establishing trust in the process and processing relevant issues, behaviors and feelings. Know that less than once a week will not yield the changes you seek, so make sure to be prepared for a real investment in the process.  

Do not discontinue accessing other sources of support

Therapy is one of many ways to help make changes in your life. It is critical to surround yourself with other arenas of support that could include family, friends, romantic partner, religious affiliations, hobbies etc. Therapy alone is very powerful. But continuing to build other parts of your life that provide enjoyment and relief is an important way to actively promote peace and healing in your life.  


Summary
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Pursuing therapy can be a life altering, critical event that begins to facilitate change and healing. It is important to approach this decision slowly and carefully so there is time and space for the right therapist to be found. It is also important to have patience and commitment as you find your therapist and begin the therapy itself. The work can be tedious and sometimes painful but often brings about a greater set of coping skills and emotional relief.  


More expert advice about Health Psychology

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Dr. Hillary GoldsherClinical Psychologist

Dr. Goldsher is a clinical psychologist that specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, couples/relationship therapy, trauma/grief, parenting, and forensic psychology. Dr. Goldsher also works with clients dealing with issues related to t...

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