Seeking help from a mental health professional can be one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellbeing. Countless studies have shown that therapy, which teaches patients strategies and tools to manage and resolve unhealthy behaviours and thoughts, is effective for treating many mental health issues.
Once you have made the decision to sit down with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist/counsellor, you still have the very important task of choosing the right person for you. One of the best predictors for a successful counselling experience is making sure that the therapeutic environment is safe, comfortable, and open for you to explore your issues.
Finding a therapist is the easy part, but finding the one that fits your own personal needs is what takes time and consideration. Spend a few minutes on the internet and you will quickly see how a couple of keystrokes can produce hundreds of names.
Just because there seems to be an endless amount of professionals to choose from doesn't mean you should pick the first person on the list. Probably one of the most difficult things to determine is if you've found one who is right for you.
Here are some tips to help you choose the best person for you:
1. Ask family and friends
Often the people we trust and who know us the best can be a great resource for finding an appropriate fit.
Research and familiarise yourself with the types of therapies that are offered by each professional. If they are part of a group, is there a chance that you could be subject to seeing any of the mental health care providers, and if so, do they all adhere to the same philosophies and techniques.
3. Gender and age
Some people have a preference regarding the gender and age of their therapist. It's also important to consider other parties involved, if you are seeking out marriage or family counselling.
4. Areas of expertise and type of treatments
Many mental health professionals specialise in certain areas (such as anxiety, depression, children, marriage, and bereavement) and it's important to find out if the person you are seeking out has expertise in your area of need. Some common types of therapy include individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and couples therapy.
Many mental health professionals will offer a free consultation for you to find out more about what they can offer. If you take advantage of this service, make sure to ask yourself the following questions: What does it feel like to sit with the therapist? Do you feel safe and comfortable? Are they easy to talk to and do you understand them?
The therapeutic relationship should be grounded in empathy, compassion, and respect. One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to trust your gut. Often, a therapist looks good on paper, with all of the right credentials and recommendations, but ultimately it's how you feel when you are with them that really matters.
Sara Lindburg has a B.S. in Exercise Science and an M.Ed. in Counselling. A 41-year-old wife, mother, and full-time secondary school counsellor, she combines 20-plus years' experience in the fitness and counselling fields and she has found her passion in inspiring other women to be the best version of themselves on her Facebook page, FitMom. Her inspiration for writing comes from her 6-year-old son, Cooper, and 8-year-old daughter, Hanna. Follow Sara on twitter.