As the cultural perception of mental health continues to broaden, stereotypes are challenged and negative perspectives shift, I feel it's only right to share some things to keep in mind when trying to identify the right therapist.
For those of us who reserve negative opinions of therapy, let me first share that seeking psychotherapy does not mean you are crazy. What it does mean is that you have identified deficits in your ability to rationalize your or others behavior, process childhood or present trauma, establish and maintain a positive self image, and/or manage anxiety, depression and/or any other formally diagnosed mental health disorder. The fact that you've identified your deficits and are willing to tackle them deems you a ROCKSTAR in my eyes. You take pride in being your best self and are willing to do whatever necessary to achieve it.
KUDOS for taking an active role in your development, establishing and or maintaining your mental health!
So, as we've identified the significance of therapy, lets review 4 things I deem significant to consider when choosing the right therapist!
I. Service Specialty
The first and most important thing to remember is that just like you go to stores for certain brands and or types of clothing (e.g. sports wear, lingerie, etc.), therapists typically focus their services in speciality areas, thus, its very important to know what your needs are, and to find a therapist that services as a specialty your diagnosis or need.
To make that easier to digest, therapist essentially categorize themselves in two general ways; first by identifying the population they service, for example, some therapist only provide services specifically to children, adolescents, adults, couples and or families. Second, therapists highlight or display on their profile whether their focus is in either trauma, depression, anxiety, childhood development, grief management and or cognitive or behavioral deficits. Therefore, its best to know what you need from your therapist before searching so that you can locate the individual that meets your needs. And if you don't see this on their online profile don't fret, the answer is a call away. Just reach out and ask what their specialty is.
Additionally, it's important to know that there are also many therapists who focus on clinical, psychosocial or psychological assessments, therefore, if you have no idea what your challenges or issues are, identifying a therapist (or psychologist) that focuses on therapeutic (or clinical) assessment is a great place to start. This way you can first be assessed and be provided therapeutic recommendations to follow.
Remember: You wouldn't go to Nike for Groceries, so why go to a therapist who doesn't specialize in the service that you need?
II. Pay attention to how you feel!
After locating the right therapist, as you are engaging in therapy it is important to make sure to consider how you feel while in the office and in the therapist's presence. Essentially a therapeutic setting should be designed to make you feel comfortable to be open and vulnerable enough to tackle the issues, but if you can not be open with your therapist, or if you are not comfortable in the setting, then that may not be the right therapist or setting for you.
III. Ask Questions!
Additionally, as you are engaging in therapy, while we understand that therapists are to assess and provide us with recommendations for treatment, you as the client, also have a right to ask them questions. As about your progress. Be curious about your therapist's success rates or patient outcomes. Inquire about your therapeutic goals (if not shared). Remember the timelines set and ask why if and when timeframes are exceed. In other words, question why therapy services may go longer or shorter than you anticipate.
As you are asking questions and receiving responses, remember to assess your therapist to see if their dedication, interest in supporting you and commitment to your success is genuine.
IV. Don't get stuck on what you have in common with your therapist. REMEMBER: Commonalities are good but they can also be a hinderance to growth!
Many of those new to therapy assume that the more they have in common with their therapist the more effective they may be. However, that is not always true.
Very fundamental commondalities in ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, etc. can benefit a therapeutic setting, but they can also be a hinderance. For instance, if you are having issues relating to another culture/ethinicty, someone of your same culture may not be as objective as you think, in turn that could hinder your growth potential.
Whereas, if you are having issues with personal cultural/ethnic acceptance, identifying a therapist of a similar cultural/ethnic orientation may be best to help navigate that challenge. OR if you are having issues with cultural childhood trauma, finding a therapist of your same ethnicity or culture could reduce the time you are in therapy because they may be able to identify with your experience and help you navigate processing your trauma in a health way, essentially faster than someone who may not have shared your experience or perspective.
Overall, be thoughtful about the nature of your issues and properly consider whether a therapist of your or another community would be best to challenge you in a way that prompts grow. Growth is essentially the goal. If you are in therapist to have your ego stroked or be affirmed, you may be pursuing therapy for the wrong reasons and or you may need to reconsider your true issues...
Therapy is designed to help promote healthy behaviours, encourage positive lifestyle changes, manage and maintain mental health and self sufficiency. The only way to get the best results is to actively engage and find a therapist that will help you achieve your desired goals.
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