If you've caught yourself wondering "do I need therapy?" this is the post for you. In this article, we cover the basics, including what therapy is, how it can help and how you can get started.
Table of Contents
What is Therapy and How Can it Help?
Psychotherapy is a talking intervention between a client and a licensed professional. Therapy can help with a number of issues, including:
Mental health challenges, such as depression, bi-polar and anxiety
Life transitions, such as job changes, moving, new relationships and breakups
General stress, feelings of burnout and overwhelm
Problematic behaviours, unhealthy patterns and addictions
Grief and sadness from a loss
Before moving forward it's worth addressing a popular misconception, which is the belief that you need to have a diagnosis to start therapy. This is not the case. You do not need to have a diagnosis, personal crisis or "big reason" to benefit from counselling. In addition to the issues mentioned above, many people seek therapy for self-care and personal growth. You may find it beneficial to have someone to touch base with or to hold space as you go on a journey of self-exploration to understand yourself better, make sense of your past decisions and create plans for the future.
The Role of Your Therapist
Therapy provides you with a safe space to explore your emotions, navigate life’s challenges, and understand yourself better. During counselling, your therapist will offer insight, tools, emotional support, and/or coping strategies to help you:
Decrease painful symptoms and problematic behaviours
Increase well-being, emotional stability and personal skills
In addition to coping strategies, tools and support, you can also expect to find the following qualities when working with a therapist:
Objectivity: having an outside perspective allows us to offer unbiased feedback and highlight potential blind spots that you may have
A non-judgemental, supportive relationship: unconditional positive regard is a core condition of client-centred therapy that many practitioners subscribe to. This means that while we may occasionally offer a gentle challenge (aka call you out), we will not judge you. Unconditional positive regard means that you will be fully accepted and cared for, no matter what you bring up or do in therapy.
In-Person Vs. Virtual Session
Therapy may be in-person or virtual. In-person sessions typically take place in your counsellor’s office, and the main benefit of meeting face-to-face is privacy. Privacy tends to be most important for people who live with others. That’s because having family, roommates or partners around can make it more difficult to find a quiet, interruption-free space where you can speak openly without the worry of someone overhearing you. If you have this concern, I want to share two suggestions. First, schedule your sessions during a time when you know that others will be out or busy doing their own thing. Finding a room or space that is slightly removed from others and creating some background noise (for example, turning the TV on in another room or a vent to drown out your sound) can help. The last logistical suggestion is to use your headphones whenever possible. The second piece of advice is to remember that your therapist will understand. At this stage, we are used to having kids, spouses, and dogs make cameo appearances in sessions. So if you have screaming kids, wandering partners or barking dogs in the background, don’t worry about it. We’ve just about seen it all (and most of us have been in your shoes a few times ourselves).
Speaking of virtual sessions, the two main benefits that clients tend to appreciate about meeting online are related to health and convenience. At the time of publishing, the world is still collectively dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are apprehensive about meeting in person with health guidelines frequently changing, making online counselling a desirable alternative. Health concerns aside, many clients also love the convenience of dropping the commute, showing up in sweat pants, and engaging in counselling from the comfort of their couch. Virtual therapy also increases the options available to you. Before, you were confined to a 25-km radius when searching for a counsellor. However, with the popularity of online counselling increasing over the past few years, you now have a greater ability to choose a therapist based on fit instead of proximity.
Will Therapy Work?
One of the most commonly asked questions I see from those considering counselling is, “will therapy help me?” The short answer, yes- generally, psychotherapy is effective. Research has shown that 75% of individuals that participate in counselling report benefiting from it. So, what determines whether therapy is successful or not? While several factors influence the effectiveness of psychotherapy, research suggests that the key to effective treatment is a strong therapeutic relationship. That means that it is vital that you feel comfortable and safe with your therapist. You need to find a counsellor that makes you feel seen, heard, understood, cared for and supported.
How To Find a Therapist
1. Starting the Search
The two most common ways of finding a therapist are to do a Google search or browse through a directory. The Google search option is self-explanatory, so I won’t spend too much time on that. Directories, on the other hand, are a new concept for many. Counselling directories are designed to make your search easier by organizing a list of mental health practitioners in one place and giving you the option to filter your search. The most well-known directory is Psychology Today. Another option is to ask for referrals from family, acquaintances, or a family doctor. And if you are covered by insurance, many companies now provide a database of pre-approved service providers on their websites.
2. Preliminary Research
You want to make sure that your therapist is well trained and certified. You can often find information about counsellors’ qualifications on their website (typically on the “About” page).
3. Booking a Consultation or Initial Session
Remember that credentials matter when it comes to therapy, but so does chemistry. So, if you have the option to book a consultation, book it. If not, prepare a set of preliminary questions to bring to your initial session and know that you don’t have to commit unless you feel safe, comfortable and confident in your counsellor.
Therapy is a talking intervention that is used to treat various mental health, emotional and behavioural concerns. Many clients also utilize counselling for self-exploration and to have a regular time, space and person to touch base with. Regardless of your personal goal, it is important that you find a therapist with which you have a solid bond because the therapeutic relationship is a key determining factor of counselling success. So during your search, remember to listen to your gut. Feeling like you and your therapist are a good fit is crucial. A last word of advice is to be patient with the process. Therapy can take some time and be hard work. However, once you find the right fit and get into a rhythm, the work you do can have a tremendously positive impact on your relationships, habits and life.