Picking the right therapist is a challenging task. The goal is to find someone you can trust and who is going to help you navigate your counselling needs. Unfortunately, it’s a bit like online dating; you won’t know if they are going to be a good fit until you meet in person. Here are some helpful tips to start the process:
- Do your research, read the bio, see if it speaks to you. Pick someone you feel you would connect with.
- Ask your friends, family and your health professionals for referrals.
- Make sure that the therapist is familiar with the challenges you are facing.
- Call them, have a conversation over the phone, see if the conversation flows. You are looking for the right style, personality, type of therapy and approach.
- You may want to make a first appointment with a couple of therapists, and then pick the one that you connected with the most, made you feel the safest or most comfortable, or the one whom you feel will be able to help you the most.
During the first session, trust your gut. If you have a good feeling, then it’s a good fit. If you have a bad feeling, trust it and try another therapist. If you are unsure, give it 2 or 3 sessions to make your decision. You want to leave your session feeling safe and respected.
Not all therapists are the right fit for everyone. You may have gotten a recommendation for someone, but they may not be the right person for you. This process is a self-care process, do not force yourself into a therapeutic relationship that is not right for you. The point of therapy is to feel better, if you don’t feel you can open up to your therapist and trust them, it’s not going to work out. It may take a few tries to find the right therapist but it will be worth the effort.
You will have to check with your insurance company to find out what kind of coverage your provider offers. You will want to find out if they cover services rendered by a Registered Social Worker, by a Registered Psychotherapist or by a Therapist supervised by a Psychologist. Different companies offer different packages and they vary per organization.
The first session(s) is for the therapist to get to know you and for you to get to know your therapist and their approach. They’ll want to find out what brought you to therapy and what you are looking to get out of therapy. Your own questions about the therapeutic process are welcome.
Each therapist is different in their approach and style and therefore not all elements listed below will be present:
- A discussion of your reasons and motivations for wanting therapy,
- Some assessment of your life situation,
- Discussion of goodness of fit with your therapist,
- Some feedback,
- Some psychoeducation,
- Development of a preliminary plan for your therapy,
- Setting goals and expectations,
- Understanding family history/dynamics
There is no standard level of quantity or frequency when it comes to therapy sessions. Trust your own sense of how often you want to come in and for how long and discuss with your therapist. This can change over time and you can adjust as needed.
Each situation is different and you will decide what best meets your needs at the time of your session. Sometimes you’ll find out after the fact, if you meet weekly you may notice it is too much, or if you meet bi-weekly you may notice that it is not enough for your current needs. It is common to want to meet weekly at first and then taper down to monthly with time.
There are some guidelines with psychodynamic therapy in particular, as therapy is conducted 1-2 times a week over a short (under 6 months) or long term (over 6 months) time frames. But most types of therapies do not have such guidelines.
Yes, your sessions will be kept confidential. Therapy is built upon high degrees of trust between client and therapist, and you will be provided a written confidentiality agreement upon your first meeting. The content of your sessions will not be discussed with anyone unless you have given your therapist your written and/or verbal consent to do so. For example, if you would like your therapist to speak with your physician or other medical professional about the work you have done you would sign a consent to disclose before your therapist talks to another professional.
There are a few circumstances where confidentiality may be breached and is required by law. In these instances, your therapist would try to advise you before it happens. These include:
- If you are in danger of seriously hurting yourself, your therapist would need to take action to ensure your safety.
- If there is a danger that you will hurt someone else, your therapist would need to inform that person and/or the police.
- If your therapist has reasonable grounds to suspect a child presently under the age of 16 is being abused or neglected, they would need to inform the appropriate authorities.
- If a known sexual perpetrator is in close contact with a child under the age of 16, your therapist would need to inform the appropriate authorities.
- If your therapist becomes aware of sexual abuse committed by another professional, the therapist would need to report this to their professional College.
- If a case goes to court, your therapists’ records may be subpoenaed by the courts.
- If case files are randomly chosen for assessment by your therapists’ regulatory body.
Your therapist will usually endeavor to inform you in advance of the need to break your confidentiality.
Many people worry that if they disclose to their therapist that they have thoughts of harming themselves or have suicidal thoughts that their confidentiality would be broken. There is a difference between talking about wanting to hurt oneself or kill oneself, and having a conversation with your therapist to help you through those feelings; and having a plan that you will hurt yourself or kill yourself in the near future.
Therapy is for anyone, whether you are having a hard time coping with life, or want someone to brainstorm with.
Most often people go to therapy when challenging life situations become too hard to manage on their own. The support of a therapist in those times can be very beneficial, but it is not the only reason to come to therapy. Therapy can be effective when you just want to get to know yourself better and you want someone to listen who is not part of your life.
Some signs that you are ready for therapy:
- When you are concerned about a behaviour or feeling that has been getting worse and that you are finding it more difficult to cope that usual,
- When you keep repeating the same patterns in your relationships,
- When you are going through a life transition that brings on strong emotions such as a separation, birth of a child, death of a loved one, loss of a job, etc.
- When you want to improve your relationship with a loved one,
- When you want to understand some of your behaviours and want to explore your family history and trauma,
- When you have had some form of trauma in your past that you buried and that you are now having flashbacks of,
- When you want to talk to someone and there is no one to talk to because you’ve isolated yourself, your network is not supportive or anyone you would usually talk to is involved somehow,
- When you want to take responsibility for your actions,
- When everything feels heavy and hard to cope with,
- When you want to learn to communicate with your loved ones better,
- When you need someone to vent to and your network is tired of hearing the same story coming from you,
- Just because you want to.
Many people arrive to their first session feeling some level of anxiety, which is common. You are meeting someone new and inviting them into your personal journey. Hopefully you will connect with your therapist and your anxiety diminishes as the session progresses. If you do not feel it is a good fit, please take charge of your mental health and find yourself a new therapist.
You do not need to prepare for your first session. Have a sense of what brought you to this point, what your motivation is to come to therapy and what you want from therapy. Your therapist will guide you through the process.
If you are one of those people who want to prepare, here are some questions you can think of
- What specific problem/concern brought you to therapy?
- How long has this been a problem/concern for you?
- What would you like to achieve in therapy?
- What would you like to get from the first meeting?
- What have you done so far to work on your problem/concern?
- Is there anything that you feel is important for your therapist to know about your gender, culture, ethnicity, religion, language, sexual orientation, mental or physical health, or other?
- Is there anything that you think might be important for your therapist to know?
- What is it you would like to share with your therapist?
Think about what you want from therapy.
- Are you hoping a therapist can help you through a specific situation or stressful event?
- Are you planning for therapy to be long term?
- Do you want a place where you can vent, or do you want to learn techniques for dealing with something specific?
Decide what you would like from your therapist. Remain open to their approach, but it’s worth thinking about what style of therapist you’d like to talk to. Do you want someone who will offer advice? Listen silently? Would you like them to be casual and chatty or feel more like an expert?
Have any questions about the logistics – payment, appointment timings, appointment frequency.
Shut off your phone, tell anyone who may need to contact you that you’ll be out of contact for a bit, and don’t schedule anything for immediately after your appointment – you may find you need some time afterwards to decompress. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to find your therapist’s office, and you may want to arrive a few minutes early to fill out different forms that your therapist may have for you to read or fill out before your first appointment.
Sessions are usually 50 minutes in length, though you can request longer sessions such as 1.5 hour or 2 hour sessions.
Before deciding on which type of therapy you may need, or which therapist you want to see, it is important to know what you want from therapy. Do some research on the different types of therapies to see what would be a good fit for you.
- If you want to learn to think through situations, to get a different point of view, you’ll want therapies which include CBT, DBT and schema therapies.
- If you want an experiential therapy where you express your feelings and thoughts through a creative means, you’ll want Expressive Arts therapies or Sandtray.
- If you want to be in touch with your body and heal from trauma you’ll want Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, Sensorimotor therapies.
- If you want couples of family therapy you’ll want Emotion Focused Therapy and Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy.
- If you want to learn how to be present in your life, make space for unwanted inner experiences, and move toward who or what is important to you, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy could be of use to you.
You may start to experience some relief after the first session, as being able to share your experience and receive non judgemental support can be a great source of relief.
Results vary depending on what you are planning to work on and your counselling goals. Healing from deep rooted trauma is very different than working through workplace stress. Improving communication in a relationship is different than working through an infidelity. Grieving the loss of a spouse because of death is different that grieving the loss because of dementia.
You may go to therapy for a few sessions, take a break and come some time later. It can be an ongoing process or a single session experience, up to you.
Something to note in the process is that if you are working on deep emotional issues, you may be triggered through the week, and it may seem like you are doing worse; or things that you had forgotten may come to the forefront. This happens when we have healed some of our trauma, and now our bodies have room to deal with things we had buried for many years. As a result, through the process of therapy, you may find you go through ups and downs of feeling better and feeling worse. The roller coaster of emotions is normal.
You do not need a referral from your doctor to see a therapist. However, if you are planning on getting reimbursed through your third-party insurance, your insurance provider may request a referral from your doctor to reimburse you. We are social workers and psychotherapists supervised by psychologists, you will want to check your benefits to make sure that our services are covered.
Our therapists offer a variety of therapies that include Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, Psychodynamic therapy, Expressive Arts, Narrative therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Mindfulness, Emotion Focused Therapy, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Nutritional therapy, Animal Assisted Therapy, Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy, Sandtray Therapy. Each therapist is trained in different modalities and incorporates the different therapies to best suit your needs.