Mental health difficulties are as serious and as important as your physical health, and, just like for physical health, you should get help when and if you need it. Your search for a therapist should be a careful one, as you want to find someone who will take care of what you need. While it can be confusing, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Hopefully, this will help you figure out what you’re looking for.
Finding a therapist shouldn’t be a matter of settling on who’s closest; you might have to hunt around a bit before you find one who suits. The first step is getting recommendations, which you can do in a number of ways.
Check with your GP as a start, and don’t be afraid to ask friends, and family. It’s okay: they won’t judge you. If they like their therapist, you can call them, and either set up an appointment or ask them for a list of recommendations for yourself.
Check accreditation bodies
Search the accreditation bodies, which are responsible for maintaining professional standards for therapists. There are many, but a few of them are the Psychological Society of Ireland, the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, and the Irish Association of Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy.
Some therapists place ads in journals and on medical websites. In this case, make sure they’re nearby, and also that they’re not trying too hard to “sell” themselves, as opposed to advertising their work.
For this initial call or meeting, it’s a good idea to ask a lot of questions, as well as use this chance to get to know the therapist, and see if you think you’ll get along.
Where did they go to school? How long have they been practicing? In most cases, it won’t matter; a good school or a long time working won’t guarantee a good therapist—as long as they didn’t get their degree in some two-hour online course.
Are they licensed? Again, a license doesn’t guarantee a good therapist, but someone who operates without one, or has an infraction against them, is breaking the law, and you deserve to be aware of that.
What is their approach? There are literally hundreds of types of therapy, and some of them may work better than others in your particular case. Here are just a few common ones:
- Psychodynamic: focuses on discovering causes of distress that are older rather than immediate; for if you think you need to work through issues from childhood
- Psychoanalysis: a cooperative approach between you and your therapist; particularly good for self-discovery, to figure out how you tick
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy: identifies negative thinking; for if you want to change negative thoughts and behaviors
- Solution-oriented: focus on the here-and-now; for an immediate event or trouble in your life
- Mindfulness approach: focuses on being more aware, but less absorbed by problems
If they mention an approach that you don’t understand, just ask them to explain it, and what that entails. Know what will work for you: would you prefer to talk more, or have them ask you question?
- What is their specialty?
- If a therapist says they specialize in everything, you may want to be wary; even if you don’t know specifically what course you would like to take, the therapist you’re calling may have insights, but may not if they do “everything.”
- Have they treated patients with similar problems to yours? Were those treatments successful?
Some other factors to consider during your search:
Try them out
If you seem to get along with the therapist, give them a chance. Go to a few appointments, and see how you get along. You don’t have to “like” them—“liking” them doesn’t mean that you’ll make progress—but you should feel comfortable talking to them, and trust them. It’s important to remember that if you don’t feel—for any reason—that the therapist is working for you, you don’t have to stay with them.