Therapy is a place where you can talk about issues and problems in your life in a confidential setting. It is different from talking to family or friends because you are focusing on the particular issue or issues that brought you to therapy without the distraction that socializing can bring. Unlike with family and friends, you are not going to be told what to do or what your therapist’s opinion is; instead, you will be provided the tools and environment to access your own solutions and knowing.
In this way, therapy provides a unique environment for you to address what is going on in your life. Therapy takes courage and a willingness to deal with your stuff rather than run away, hide from it, stuff it down and the million and one other ways we can distract ourselves. I always have enormous respect for my clients because of this.
Sometimes there is a specific issue or problem in life which can feel beyond your control or simply keeps resurfacing. For instance, with addictions it can be confusing because even though we know it is destructive to continue with the addiction we can’t seem to stop ourselves. It can be useful to have a place where underlying patterns or beliefs can be explored. This requires a focused setting and a specially trained listening ear, which therapy provides.
Therapists are trained to notice and name patterns and motivations underlying our actions. This insight and understanding can be the first step towards untangling complex problems.
Asking friends for recommendations or researching online are probably the most common methods. Look for a therapist who has knowledge about what you’re dealing with. I recommend interviewing initially on the telephone. How does the therapist work with your particular issues? What is their training and background?
If you like what you hear and you feel like a good initial connection was made, arrange for a session. Sometimes therapists will give an initial half session for an interview.
I recommend interviewing at least two or three therapists before deciding. This can be challenging as you are essentially meeting a stranger and talking about intimate aspects of your life. If you are not in crisis, it is better to pace your interviews.
When you have done all the above it is time to decide. Which therapist did you feel really understood what you are dealing with? Was a good connection made? Do you feel like you could trust this person?
In the end choosing a therapist is largely an intuitive process. Despite all their credentials or the recommendations given, if you didn’t feel a connection this therapist is not for you. Trust your heart and go with your gut.
Some people come into therapy with a very specific problem or crisis in which case it is possible to give a more realistic time frame for its desired resolution.
A therapist can work with you to come up with an outline for your treatment: How to address your issue; what methods will be used; an approximate time frame; check-ins and finally resolution and termination.
Other times people may have long standing issues and difficulties that have been running them for awhile but are not urgent. These issues can have deep roots in childhood or even earlier. In cases where deeper exploration is needed, therapy will involve a longer ongoing process. In this case you have a safe place to explore deeper underlying issues. It is important to have regular check-ins with your therapist to discuss how you feel your treatment is progressing, what is working well for you, what you might like to do differently etc. This will facilitate a more timely and fine tuned process for your healing. In both cases, having a strong and trusting relationship with your therapist will both speed up and deepen your healing work.