Over the last year, the global coronavirus pandemic has affected us all in many different ways. For some it has been their physical health that has suffered the most, whereas for others it has had huge consequences for their mental health. We are facing more mental health challenges than ever before, so much so that you could say it has become a pandemic in its own right. One positive however, is that conversations around mental health have become a lot more open and a lot more accepting, which means we are much more likely to firstly accept we need help and secondly to seek help when we need it.
Talking to close friends and family can help, the main thing is that you’re opening up, but sometimes you need more than that. There are times it is better to talk to someone entirely neutral, someone who can give you expert advice, and that’s when finding the right therapist can be hugely beneficial.
There are lots of different therapists and types of therapy out there and so it can feel incredibly daunting when you first reach out for help. How do you know which type of therapy will work and how can you trust which therapist is going to ‘get you’? These are both really important questions, so well done for asking them. To make the job easier we’ve put together 5 things to think about to help you find a therapist that is right for you.
Does It Matter Where My Therapist Is Located?
Yes and no. It all depends whether you would prefer to talk to a therapist face to face in person, or whether you would prefer to choose the option of virtual therapy, which means you can talk to the therapist from the comfort of your own home.
Both have their advantages and it really does boil down to personal preference. Online therapy delivered through platforms such as Skype or Zoom, and telephone therapy has grown in popularity over the past year due to the fact that it means we don’t have to worry about social distancing and Covid restrictions. This option is great if you don’t feel safe leaving the house, if you are unable to travel, or if you are having to self isolate. All you need is to find a room in your house that is private and that you can get comfortable in so that you feel fully at ease to talk openly with your therapist. Be sure to tell other household members not to disturb you, turn notifications off on your phone and remove all other distractions so that you can fully concentrate on your therapy session.
On the other hand, perhaps you would prefer to talk to someone in person, in which case you must then establish how far you would be willing to travel to see a therapist. Ideally you should choose one in your local area, as you are much more likely to attend regular sessions if there are less hurdles in your way. Start by researching the therapists in your local area and see whether they offer the type of therapy that could work for you. Your GP should also be able to offer you a list of local therapists and in some cases you may even be eligible to free treatment.
What Type Of Therapy Should I Go For?
This is the all important question and one that is perhaps the hardest to answer, because there are so many different types of therapy available that finding the right type can be incredibly overwhelming. Firstly, you need to establish what it is you want to get out of therapy, and this may be something your GP can help you with or you could try doing some research online to find out which therapy deals best with certain issues.
There are 4 main branches of therapy:
- Psychoanalytic/Psychodynamic – This type of therapy looks at how memories and past actions influence and shape our current state. This is usually a long term therapy option.
- Cognitive/Behavioural – This therapy on the other hand is centred around any present issues you may have. Sessions are usually booked over a shorter period of time with specific goals being set to help you overhaul your current way of thinking.
- Humanistic – This takes a much more self exploratory stance, helping you to get back on track and focus on what it is you want from life.
- Art – If talking isn’t for you and if you prefer to express your emotions through creativity, then this is the therapy for you. Art therapy is usually group based, so may not be available during lockdown periods.
Some therapists may use a combination of therapies, which can be useful as this offers a wider range of techniques that can be adjusted to suit individual needs.
Once you’ve established what it is you’re hoping to get from therapy, it should become clear as to what type of therapy would work best for you.
Should I Go To The Same Therapist As My Friend?
Many of us use products and services that come recommended to us from friends. We like to know that something is good value, can be trusted, and is fit for purpose. However, the thing with therapy is that there is no one size fits all approach. Your friend might constantly rave on about how they’ve got the best therapist ever who’s helped solve all their problems, but that doesn’t mean that same therapist is going to do the same for you. We all have different needs, different problems, different solutions, and on top of that who’s to say you’re going to connect with the therapist in the same way that your friend has?
Whilst recommendations come with the very best intentions, you do have to treat them with a pinch of salt. By all means check them out when you’re doing your research, but don’t feel the pressure to have to commit to a therapist just because they have been recommended. When choosing a therapist you should find out about their professional memberships, experience and qualifications, as will as making sure they are registered with the relevant bodies (in the UK it is the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) ).
So in answer to the question, should I go the same therapist as my friend?, while there is nothing wrong in going to the same one, but it won’t come with a guarantee that just because they helped your friend they will be able to help you.
Is It Going To Be Expensive?
You can’t put a price on good mental health, but realistically you can and should only pay what you can afford, otherwise you risk going into debt and making your problems much worse.
Start off by sitting down and working out a budget, then it’s time to do more research. Hopefully by now you have a list of a few potential therapists, so take a look for pricing information on their website, or if it isn’t listed you can give them a call to find out.
You will need to know:
- How much each session costs.
- Whether there is a free introductory session.
- Whether there are discounts for block bookings.
- Whether there are any penalty fees for missed appointments and if so what they are.
At this stage you are probably unlikely to know how many sessions you will need, but don’t be afraid to ask the therapist as they may be able to give you a rough idea to help you out with your budget. And if you haven’t already asked your GP about being referred, make sure you do because if you are entitled to it this could save you a lot of money.
What If It Doesn’t Feel Right?
There is a lot to be said about going with your gut feel. You and only you can truly know whether you a) click with someone enough to open yourself up fully to them and b) feel comfortable and at ease with a particular person/environment/therapy plan, so trust in yourself and go with what feels right.
You might not know straight away, but that’s not a problem. If you decide a few weeks along the line that actually it’s not working, or that you don’t feel connected with your therapist after all, then it is totally fine to change. It’s not a failing on either of your parts, if the relationship isn’t there it’s a much braver thing to admit and then do something about, than trying to struggle on.
Therapists know how important forming a good relationship is and so many offer an initial telephone consultation purely for this gut feeling to take place. A lot can be determined from a quick chat and so it is advisable to do this with two or three therapists so that you can compare between them and pick the one that feels right for you.
It may take you some time before finding the right therapist for you, but by following the guidance above it should help you on your way to good mental health.