Whatever issues you are facing, and no matter how big or small they seem to you, a therapist can often be tremendously helpful in your recovery and healing process. Someone able to offer both professional expertise and a gentle, nonjudgmental sympathetic ear can help you look at your difficulties in new ways, and allow your recovery to progress in ways unlikely if you had to figure it all out for yourself. There are a wide variety of personality types, approaches, and other factors that make each therapist different. The process of finding a therapist can seem intimidating, and it’s worth taking your time to find someone who is truly going to be supportive and helpful for you. Here are some pointers to help you in your quest to find the therapist who is right for you.
Speak to friends, family, or people in your support group about their experiences, what therapists they have seen and what there experiences have been like. If someone facing similar issues to you has had good experiences with a particular therapist, get in touch with him or her. Even if that particular therapist is unable to meet with you, you can receive a list of referrals that could lead to someone helpful. In addition, rehabs and institutions, social workers, and clinical directors should have relationships with qualified therapists in the area, and can help you determine who might be a good fit for you.
You can also do your own research to find someone. If you have health insurance, you can use that site to find providers covered by your plan, and that can be a good starting point to at least know people you can get in touch with. In the U.S. and Canada, the Psychologist Today Therapist Finder can let you know about therapists in your area, who provide a basic description of their work and philosophies.
Once you have found several therapists, you can arrange to talk with them over the phone. Ask any questions you have, and mention the specific challenges you are facing and gauge their level of experience dealing with related issues. You want someone who is able to listen to you and express concern without judgment, and someone who can make you feel comfortable being as open and honest as possible.
Dr. Cliford Lazarth suggests that, in the current mental health care market, there are over 500 different therapeutic approaches, and the variety can easily get bewildering. Fortunately, there are basically just a few basic approaches that most reputable therapists choose from.
Psychoanalysis places a great deal of emphasis on the unconscious reasons behind our thoughts and actions. A lot of time will be spent free-associating, making connections between your challenges and your perceptions about your past, trying to bring subconscious thoughts to the surface, until you gain a better sense of the meaning behind your mental health difficulties.
On the other hand, cognitive-behavioral therapy is often more concrete and results driven. Emphasis is placed on direct life change, and discovering ways to change both the way you see yourself, and the way you behave in the world. The goal is to unlearn bad habits, and replace them with new coping mechanisms.
Of course, most people will need some of both approaches. Sometimes it is most helpful to focus on changing thoughts and behaviors directly, and other times it is valuable to reflect on the deeper meanings and reasons behind those thoughts. For this reason, most good therapists are not dogmatically tied to one method over the other, but practice a hybrid of different methodologies, adjusting their techniques based on what they think will be most helpful to you. A good therapist will be open to input on how much of a positive difference they are really making, and should be able to try different ideas if what they are doing doesn’t seem helpful.
Although looking for a therapist can sometimes seem like a daunting task, there are a wide variety of people out there willing and able to walk with you in your healing and influence your life for the better. Keep searching until you find the person who truly empowers you with a sense of hope that healing is possible.