Are you new to counselling or therapy and seeking help on your own?
Ready to start looking for a therapist and not sure where to start? Sometimes there can be apprehension about going to therapy or uncertainty about what to look for or even what you want to get from therapy.
Sometimes life circumstances will determine whether we seek out therapy and during these times we can’t always decide whom we see. This could mean being assigned a therapist or an organization through work, insurance companies, lawyers, our doctors etc.
For others it may fall on the individual to take steps to find a therapist and pursue their own mental health support. Sometimes friends or family notice we aren’t doing so great or we ourselves notice we aren’t well. Another reason to seek out counselling would be to find someone impartial to talk through life’s changes, learn some new coping skills, or release stress. Much like going to the gym or yoga, therapy can be that monthly mental health exercise.
Avoiding the therapy room?
Sometimes the mind may work hard to come up with reasons not to go to therapy. Reaching out can feel vulnerable.
Reasons not to may swirl around such as, I’m too busy, my problems aren’t that big, it could be worse, talking about it won’t help, fear of judgment, labels, I’m too nervous, it’s too expensive, I already know what I need to do, I should be able to do this on my own, what will others think, I’ve had other negative therapy experiences…. the list could go on.
If you’ve never had therapy before this can seem like a lot of barriers to overcome but let’s talk about the reasons to go, what you might expect, and how you can get the most out of your therapy!
REASONS TO GO
Benefits for overall well-being! Especially for those struggling with severe mental health concerns or traumas.
Therapy can teach you new skills.
Therapy can provide you with new insight into unhelpful patterns.
Therapy can be for everyone at all stages in life.
We don’t necessarily need to be in crisis to learn and grow to better be able to handle life’s challenges.
You may think, can’t I just read a book or go online?
Reading self help books can be very helpful and encouraging. I often recommend reading to my clients. The therapeutic relationship offers something unique in providing a human connection that activates our social engagement system, gives us a mirror to see our challenges outside ourselves, challenges old patterns, and offers safety while we explore the vulnerable parts of our selves. This therapeutic relationship is what research shows facilitates change.
Weekly, monthly, occasionally?
How often should some attend therapy will be very individual and depend on the mental health concerns a person is challenged with. Sometimes once a month check in is plenty and others will feel they need weekly sessions.
I like to think of it as an investment in your mental health. Just as we pay to go to yoga or the gym, paying for 1 or 2 sessions a month with your therapist should be just as beneficial and worked into the budget.
Psychologists are highly trained professionals and in Alberta have a rate of $200/hour set out by the PAA. This can be a barrier for many.
Many insurance plans only cover about 3 to 6 sessions. Some therapists will offer a sliding scale but this can still be expensive outside of insurance.
If you have a very low income or have no financial assistance, there are lots of great mental resources out in the community with professionals who can provide incredible help. These resources come with other challenges, as you are not always able to select whom you see or what level of training the person has, and there may be a wait list. Some psychologists are able to do a small portion of pro bono work or will often work in these organizations alongside their private work.
I offer a modest sliding scale for those that do not have insurance, are unemployed, and who are not receiving additional subsidy.
WHAT YOU MIGHT EXPECT YOUR FIRST PHONE CALL OR SESSION
Each therapist will operate a little differently as some provide free phone intakes, in person intakes, or simply require you to book a number of sessions right away. Some have online systems to schedule; some require you to reach out by phone or email. This is merely a guideline on what you might expect.
The first time you speak with a therapist you may have to fill in an intake form or provide more information about your history, concerns, and goals. This will help create a treatment plan or goal for you. You may be asked to fill in informal assessments or questionnaires to track changes and progress throughout therapy. You’ll be informed about some basics such as fees, confidentiality, payments and other policies a therapist would require you to know.
You may learn more about your therapist’s areas of practice and treatments they use or may use with you. Here’s where a little research about different therapy tools can come in handy if you want to pick a therapist that’s right for you.
For my own practice I offer 30 minutes free meet and greet to connect with a person in an attempt to overcome this feeling of nervousness. If I’m a good fit, we continue with treatment planning in the first session we do more of an interview. Not many therapists will offer this or you are more likely to find 15 minutes phone call for this purpose. Yes I do give my time, but I want you to be confident coming in for the first session ready to start your work.
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR THERAPY
If you have the freedom to choose, this is a great chance to think about what you’re looking for.
Are you looking for skills, relief, treatment, or a formal diagnosis/assessment?
Is this for yourself or a dependent or a couple?
Therapists will often have multiple tools in their therapy tool boxes of different therapies to use for a variety of different issues. But often you’ll find therapies who specialize in a few or have a particular approach or population they are skilled in. It may be helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the therapies.
For child or family work there are a number of expressive arts therapies such as play therapy, art therapy, theraplay, music therapy, and behavioural therapy.
Couples work is often done using Gottman’s theories and CBT.
You may look for a therapist that has a strong spiritual or religious approach.
Trauma therapists will often use EMDR, neurofeedback, MBCT, or somatic therapies.
Art therapy is a very versatile form of therapy that can be useful for all ages and many presenting challenges.
This is the point where it can be helpful to read potential therapists websites to see what therapy techniques they use and learn more about them. Each of the different therapies will have a different look to the process and it may be helpful to think about what you want to try and seek out a therapist that uses these.
Other approaches include, psychodynamic, family therapies, DBT, play therapy, Gestalt, etc. Lots of therapy is “talk therapy” and if you’re looking for something different, you’ll have to ask some questions and read up on different therapies that you’d like to try!
In my work I utilize the expressive arts therapies along with the somatic therapies with all ages within trauma-informed practice. If appropriate, I use motivational interviewing, CBT, EMDR, and behavioural therapies to work where the client is at.
I approach therapy with knowledge of neurobiology, attachment, and holistic healing. Which means I take in to consideration our attachment patterns, our body’s reaction to stress and/or trauma, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.
This makes my work most appropriate for those suffering from chronic stress or illness, depression, anxiety, grief, or PTSD.