Therapy has changed
Finding a therapist has changed. In the past, most therapy was offered in person with only a few therapists offering online sessions. Now, many therapists have shifted to online sessions which opens up more opportunities for you to find a therapist who is a good fit. You’re no longer restricted to therapists within driving distance- you can have a therapist who practices hours away.
What does it mean to have a good fit?
Based on research into how and why therapy works, we know that the specific method used (CBT, EMDR, ACT, etc) or the therapist’s credentials (MFT, MSW, PCC) don’t matter as much as the quality of the relationship between you and your therapist. Finding a therapist should focus more on finding a good fit.
Good fit can include feeling comfortable with your therapist; feeling heard and understood; having shared beliefs, history, or experiences; and many more factors. If you’ve been in therapy before, it can help to think back about what helped you connect with your past therapists and what made it more difficult. If you haven’t been in therapy before, think about others you’ve felt comfortable with and why.
Because it’s so important to be able to be open with your therapist, consider every factor. Are you more comfortable with a therapist close to your own age or one who reminds you of an older figure in your life? If you’re having relationship issues, would you prefer talking to someone of the same gender or a different gender? Do you want a therapist who feels more casual or one who is more professional in session?
Finding a Therapist: Reaching out
Once you’ve found a therapist you think could be a good fit, the next step is to make sure they have an available appointment time. Most therapists list a phone number or email address on their website, and many offer a free consultation call to get started.
It’s also important to make sure you find a therapist who has a fee you can comfortably afford. If you want a more expensive expert, you may need to pause some of your extra spending. You shouldn’t need to go into debt to see your therapist. There are many low-fee counseling centers, mid-range private practices, and high-fee concierge therapists to meet your budget.
A consultation call is a 15-30 minute phone conversation between you and your potential therapist. During that time, they may introduce themselves, ask more about what you are looking for, and tell you a bit about their approach. It’s not a therapy session, but it is a time to ask any questions you have about them to help you determine if they’re a good match.
If everything goes well during the consultation call, they will usually ask you about scheduling an appointment. Therapy is most effective when you can have weekly appointments, so think about a time and day that typically work for you week to week.
After you’ve set up the initial appointment, your therapist will send you paperwork to complete before your first session. Each state has different requirements for the documents therapists need to get from a new client before sessions can start.
In California, those will include informed consent about the risks and benefits of therapy, your therapist’s policies and procedures, and possibly also a questionnaire about your mental health history.
Some therapists prefer to go through the documentation and history during your first meeting together, so don’t worry if you don’t get a packet right away.
Finding a Therapist: The first session
The initial sessions are all about getting to know each other in order to develop a working relationship. It takes time and trust to dig deep into your mental health, so don’t be surprised if the first few sessions feel like they’re only touching on surface issues.
Your therapist will teach you skills to manage that issue and practice them in session. Skills like deep breathing, assertive communication, and meditation help manage your mental health symptoms. As you experience some symptom relief, therapy can stay focused on managing symptoms or move into insight-based work.
Finding a therapist: Skills vs insight
Skill-based therapy is focused on teaching you how to manage thoughts, feelings, and habits that get in the way of you living your life the way you’d like. Insight-based therapy focuses on exploring the factors in your history, environment, and internal world that are contributing to the issues you’re facing.
Therapy based on skills is typically short term. Therapy lasts for as long as it takes for you to learn the skills that manage your symptoms or issues. You’ll probably have “homework” between sessions to practice the skills. The idea is that practice helps you use them when things come up in your daily life.
Therapy that’s oriented toward insight usually takes longer because you’re trying to describe and explore your internal world. You and your therapist will look at enduring patterns in your life. You can then trace them back to a root belief, cause, or memory.
In my therapy work, I like to start with skills-based sessions. This lets you experience some relief from the issues at hand. Then I like to move into insight work so we can address the root causes of your issues. In your consultation calls, you can ask your therapist if they work more with skills or insight. Their focus should match your needs.
If you are doing skill-based work, you can end therapy when you’re able to use the skills you’ve learned to manage the issues that brought you to therapy. It’s not as straight forward to decide when to end insight work. You and your therapist should talk about what changes in your life will show that things are better for you and you’re ready to move on.
Ready to get started? Call or text 831-531-2259 for a free consultation.