Didn’t realize that finding a therapist would be the first hurdle in your search for the new and improved you? You are not the only one. Finding the right therapist can sometimes take time, research, and persistence but if you use these tips as a roadmap, you will be headed in the right direction.
The first step in finding a mental health professional is to identify which mental health services you are looking for. While we all provide mental health services, the types of services that psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists offer differ. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who is licensed to diagnose, treat, and prescribe medications for psychological disorders. If you think that you might benefit from medication to help with your psychological distress, your family doctor would be the best person to turn to as they will either address and manage your concerns or refer you to a psychiatrist. A psychologist has obtained a doctorate degree and is licensed to assess, diagnose, and treat problems with cognitions, behaviours, and emotions. If you are looking to get a diagnosis or tested or a learning disability, for example, they may be the right professional for you. Psychotherapists hold a master’s degree and proper educational training to enable them to register with the College of Psychotherapists of Ontario. While psychiatrists and psychologists may also offer psychotherapy, psychotherapists can offer counselling to address “disorder of thought, cognition, mood, emotional regulation, perception or memory that may seriously impair the individual’s judgment, insight, behaviour, communication or social functioning” (CRPO).
Once you have decided on which mental health professional is right for you, it is time to begin your search. When looking for a professional, it helps to keep your presenting problem at the forefront. While therapists are often trained to address a wide range of presenting problems, they often have areas of specialization. This means that they have taken extra training or received supervision in a specific area, and may be better equipped to address your concern. If you have gone to therapy in the past, reflecting on the aspects of what you liked and didn’t like about the therapy may help you narrow down your ideal therapist. For example, some might appreciate the structured, goal-oriented, and skill-based nature of CBT while others may appreciate how DBT helps you walk the middle ground in life by bringing together the wise mind, the emotional mind, and the reasonable mind. I encourage you to research the various treatment modalities used in counselling (e.g., narrative, solution-focused, strength-based, emotion-focused , acceptance, and commitment therapy).
Before you get bogged down with all of the different forms of counselling, it is important to note that the type of therapy has been shown to only account for 15% of the overall effectiveness. The relationship that you have with your therapist accounts for 30% of the overall effectiveness and 15% comes down to whether or not you think therapy can help.
Given the impact that your relationship with your therapist has on achieving your goals, I encourage you to find someone who makes you feel safe, comfortable, heard, and understood. Do not just settle for just ok. Just like listening to a new song or dating a new person, it sometimes takes some time for you to settle into a groove and feel comfortable. However, if after the third session you still aren’t feeling it, I encourage you to look for another therapist who might be a better fit.
Now that you have a better idea of what you are looking for, you can more confidently browse through Psychology Today and find your ideal therapist. Alternatively, if you are comfortable, you could ask family members or friends, your family doctor or religious figure, and of whom may also be good resources to help you find a professional in your area.