Finding a Therapist

Therapy involves working with a trained mental health professional on issues in your life you hope to address.

What is therapy?

  • Therapy involves working with a trained mental health professional on issues in your life you hope to address. These issues include, but are not limited to (Healthline, 2019):

    • Experiences you have had

    • Mood and emotions

    • Challenging situations

    • Behaviors

    • Thought processes

    • Coping skills

  • Therapy allows an individual to understand and explore their feelings, emotions, and experiences in a safe and confidential environment

    • Studies show that individual therapy significantly improves symptoms in a wide array of mental health illnesses (NAMI, 2022)

  • Note: Statistics show that individuals are 27% more likely to positively respond to treatment(s) by combining therapy with medication in the management of mental illness (NIHR, 2022)

 

Are there different types of therapy (NAMI, 2022)?

  • Yes! There are many types of therapy available for a variety of issues and concerns. Below are some common types of therapy available:

    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – explores the relationships between the person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors

      • Uncovers unhealthy thought and behavioral patterns

      • Core principles involve identifying negative/false beliefs and either testing or restructuring them to a more realistic and positive belief or perception

      • Often involves homework

      • Studies show that CBT has been effective in treating a wide array of mental illnesses including depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and schizophrenia

      • CBT changes your brain activity leading to improved brain functioning

    • Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT) – heavily based on CBT but unlike CBT, DBT emphasizes validation and coming to terms with troubling thoughts, emotions, or behaviors. This type of therapy is considered a “manualized program” and is more formal than CBT

      • Therapist will help develop new coping mechanisms and mindfulness practices

      • Goal is to help the individual find a balance between acceptance and change

      • Studies show that DBT is effective in producing long-lasting improvement for people experiencing mental illness

      • DBT is effective for many mental illnesses but is most commonly used in treatment with individuals suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD)

    • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) – used to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

      • EMDR studies have shown it reduces the emotional distress that has resulted from traumatic experiences

      • During this therapy, the therapist stimulates the brain using back and forth eye movements while the individual being treated stimulates memories by recalling the traumatic event

      • EMDR assists with replacing negative emotions attached to the traumatic event (changes the individual’s emotional reaction by changing the architecture of the brain)

    • Exposure Therapy – main goal of this therapy is to identify the triggers of the individual’s anxiety and to learn techniques that would help prevent the individual from performing rituals or becoming anxious when exposed to triggers. This type of therapy involves physically facing your fears and triggers

      • In a safe environment, the individual being treated is exposed to and confronted by their triggers to safely practice coping strategies

      • Commonly used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and phobias

    • Psychodynamic Psychotherapy – goal is to recognize negative behavior and emotional patterns that have developed from past experiences

      • Open-ended questions and free association are used by the therapist in treatment

        • This gives the individual an opportunity to discuss whatever may be on their mind

      • Identifies unconscious patterns of negative behaviors, thoughts, and feelings

      • This therapy is often used in treating depression, anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorder, and other mental illnesses

 

How do I find a therapist?

  1. Identify your needs and goals for therapy

  2. Decide which type of therapy or specialization you are looking for

  3. Begin searching for therapists near you

    1. Use the internet to find therapy services near you – below are some online websites that may be helpful in your search for a therapist:

      1. Psychology Today - https://www.psychologytoday.com/us

      2. Behavioral Healthcare Providers - https://www.bhpcare.com/patient-information/find-a-provider/

      3. Minnesota Mental Health Clinics - https://mnmentalhealthclinics.com/our-professionals/

      4. GoodTherapy - https://www.goodtherapy.org/

      5. Find A Therapist - https://www.findatherapist.com/

  4. Call your health insurance

    • Your insurance provider will be able to provide a list of therapists who are in-network with your insurance company

 

Questions to ask when reaching out to clinics/organizations to set up an appointment:

  1. “Are you accepting new patients for therapy?” – if they are not, it does not hurt to ask if they have any referrals for you

  2. “What insurance do you accept?” – keep in mind that your insurance most likely will not cover any therapy sessions if the therapist/clinic is not in network with your insurance

  3. “How long is the wait until I can get in for an intake?” – as mental health is in high demand, wait times for an intake could be months out

  4. “Do you have any providers that specialize in       ? "– it is good to find a therapist who specializes in your primary needs, concerns, and/or diagnosis

  5. “What does your intake process look like?” – establishing care usually involves many steps, typically the person you speak with will be happy to familiarize you with their process

  6. “What are the costs of the session?” – having a plan for how you will pay for your care will allow you to focus on therapy, not the bill

  7. “What does the provider’s availability look like?” – make sure you find a therapist whose schedule aligns with yours if you do not have flexibility in your schedule

  8. “Does the provider offer in-person or virtual visits?” – many therapists have gone virtual since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic

  9. “What else is important to me?” – establishing a relationship with a provider you trust who is a good fit for your goals will save you time down the road and make your therapeutic experience a meaningful one. Asking questions before you start therapy or in your first couple of appointment is the best time to make your needs known and ensure you’re working with the best provider for your unique situation (e.g., having a preference on a male or female therapist)

 

How do I know if my therapist is a good fit for me?

  • There is no concrete answer to this. The only way to decipher if a therapist is a good fit for you is to ask questions, which can be very uncomfortable however, the more information you know about them the easier it will be to determine if it is a good fit

  • Some questions you can ask to determine if a therapist is a good fit for you are (Bloudoff-Indelicato, 2016):

    • How long have you been practicing?

    • What licenses and certifications do you have?

    • Have you worked with many clients with similar circumstances as my own?

    • What is your general philosophy or approach to treatment?

    • How often do you seek consultation from peers?

    • How often do you anticipate seeing me?

    • What does a typical session with you look like?

    • How do you determine treatment goals?

    • What does a successful treatment look like to you?

    • Do not be afraid to ask any other questions that may be important to you!

 

What is a healthy therapeutic relationship (GoodTherapy, 2022)?

  • A therapeutic relationship refers to the close and consistent relationship between a healthcare professional (the therapist) and the individual in therapy

  • Trust in a therapeutic relationship is healthy for the relationship and vital in the recovery process

    • The individual being treated should have trust in their therapist’s knowledge, skillset, and motivation to provide the most appropriate care

    • It is also important to trust that your therapist will keep confidential matters confidential and that you are safe from harm or exploitation from the therapist

  • Individuals are more inclined to open up emotionally and provide further details about issues and concerns in a healthy therapeutic relationship

    • This allows the therapist to comprehend the client’s point of views, perceptions, feeling, and motives allowing the therapist to be able to provide the most appropriate treatment and strategies to address the issue(s)

 

What can happen in an unhealthy therapeutic relationship (GoodTherapy, 2022)?

  • An unhealthy therapeutic relationship may involve a therapist violating or overstepping boundaries and ethics of acceptable behavior

  • Unhealthy therapeutic relationships can cause significant harm to the individual receiving services

  • Some warning signs of inappropriate therapist behavior include:

    • Does not pay attention to any changes you would like to make in therapy (goals, approaches, etc.)

    • Judgmental of conduct, lifestyle, or situation

    • Encourages you to blame friends, family, or a partner

    • Does not elaborate on suggestions, tips, or how you are supposed to know that your therapy is complete

    • Tries to be your friend outside of therapy

    • Starts a romantic relationship with you

    • Tries to touch you without prior consent

    • Talks too much or not at all

    • Attempts to push their own personal or spiritual beliefs on you

    • Tries to make decisions for you

    • Too supportive or too nice – does not guide you in making any change(s)

  • If you feel you may be in an unhealthy therapeutic relationship, there are seps you can take to address this:

    • Discuss your concerns openly with your therapist

    • Terminate therapy with the therapist

    • Meet with another therapist for a second opinion

    • File a complaint with your therapist’s employer and/or licensing board

    • Seek legal counsel for support

 

Please note: There are many therapists and many kinds of therapies. It can be challenging to find what is the right fit for your unique situation. Keep looking until you find what works for you. The results can be life-changing.

 


Patient Success Story: Therapy completely changed my life, once I gave it my all

 

I spent the first day of 2017 crying by myself in a public park. It wasn’t the happiest start to the year, but it also wasn’t entirely unexpected. Less than a month before, I had been signed off work with depression and anxiety, but instead of getting better, I was starting to spiral.

On New Year’s Day in 2017, I contemplated suicide – not for the first time – but that day, something shifted. The ties that were keeping me alive were starting to unravel.

I didn’t reach that point overnight.

 

My experience with depression started about a year and a half before that day. In the final months of my undergraduate degree, something changed within me. I started to feel disconnected from everyone around me – it was like I was looking out at the world from behind a veil –  and I was filled with dread that stopped me sleeping and shattered my wellbeing. In September of 2015, I finally accepted that things were not improving, and I went to a GP.

 

The doctor prescribed me an SSRI, an antidepressant, and recommended I see a counsellor. After much stalling, I finally did. But that first foray into therapy was a doomed expedition: in my first session, I told my counsellor that I didn’t want to discuss my childhood or my past – I just wanted to find strategies to help me cope better. I told her that I was unable to cry and felt emotionally blocked, but also refused to explore why that might be.

 

Needless to say, it didn’t work. After six sessions, I told myself that I had done the work and would be able to continue as normal. I soon came to realize that I had only papered over the cracks in my life – I hadn’t fixed them. As the months passed, I slipped back into depression – and this time it was much worse. I spent so many days lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, unable to find the will to move because I no longer cared about anything.

In December 2016, I was finally signed off work by a GP who seemed genuinely distressed and concerned by how unwell I was. Weeks later, on New Year’s Day, I contemplated suicide in a public park – but even that didn’t prompt me to give therapy my all. I was put on a new antidepressant and put all my faith in it, but months later, nothing had changed. I was starting to feel hopeless – like I would never escape this hole I had found myself in.

 

It was around this time that somebody recommended a therapist back home in Roscommon. Soon afterwards, I packed up, moved home, and booked in for a session. This time, there was a fundamental difference: I was going to put everything on the table, even though it frightened me. I knew I needed to talk about what I was feeling, especially painful memories that were haunting me.

During that first session, we quickly got to the root of many of the issues I was experiencing. Within minutes, me and my therapist were able to pinpoint a number of toxic relationships, as well as a traumatic incident, that were feeding my depression. Through those relationships, I had come to see myself as being unworthy of love and inherently bad. I realized I was never going to get better until I confronted those issues.

 

Over the course of six sessions, I tackled these problems head-on. I delved into deeply painful experiences and spent much of my spare time writing about what I was feeling. During that period, I came to realize that there were people in my life who were making my mental health worse while offering little in return. That year, various relationships that I had once considered essential dried up and vanished. This was the hardest part of therapy for me – but it also made me stronger and happier in the long run.

 

While I spent a significant amount of time in therapy talking about things I had experienced long ago, I also talked through a wide array of other issues. I worked hard to challenge my core beliefs that had built a fragile sense of self, and I learned to silence the inner critic that persistently told me I wasn’t good enough. Importantly, I had to learn to call myself out when I slipped into destructive thinking patterns, and I had to quell my vicious perfectionist streak that only ever made me feel bad about myself.

 

One thing in particular my therapist encouraged me to think about has really stuck with me. He asked me to challenge the idea that I am mentally ill. Before I went to therapy, I had come to think that I would likely be depressed for the rest of my life. I saw depression as a permanent, inescapable prison, and believed all I could do was learn coping mechanisms to try and deal with it.

 

In hindsight, I can see that I had taken this on as a part of my identity. Challenging this idea was essential if I wanted my mental health to improve. Now, when I have a dip in my mental health – which still happens occasionally – my therapist asks me: “Are you depressed?” I always say no – now I say that I am feeling depressed. It might sound like an arbitrary distinction, but sometimes the way we think about ourselves can hold us back.

 

Therapy completely changed my life, but only when I committed to giving it my all. Now, when friends and loved ones tell me they are depressed, I always encourage them to see a therapist. I always tell them that they need to discuss everything: nothing should be off the table in therapy.

 

For me, talking about trauma helped me to feel like I had power over it – and it also helped me see how it had crept into so many parts of my life without me even knowing it.

 

Retrieved from: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/therapy-completely-changed-my-life-once-i-gave-it-my-all-1.4351460

 

 

 

References

 

 

Bloudoff-Indelicato, M. (2016, March 3). The 14 questions you should ask a therapist before your 

 first appointment. https://www.washingtonian.com/2016/03/03/the-14-questions-you-must-ask-

 a-therapist-before-your-first-appointment/

GoodTherapy. (2022). Therapeutic relationships.

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/definition-of-therapeutic-

 relationship#:~:text=Why%20is%20a%20Therapeutic%20Relationship,desire%20to%20provide%20appropriate%20care.

 

Legg, T. (2019, March 1). A guide to different types of therapy. Healthline.

https://www.healthline.com/health/types-of-therapy

 

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). (2022). Popular types of psychotherapy.

https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Psychotherapy

 

National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). (2022). Combined drug and psychological therapies may be most effective for depression. Doi: 10.3310/alert_40468