Want To See A Therapist? Demystifying Therapy and Therapists

Do you want to find a therapist but don’t know where to start?

What is a therapist?

find a therapist counseling jodi amanA therapist meets with individuals, couples, and families while or after they go through a difficult situation or there is a mental, emotional, or spiritual concern or a problem.

The words therapist, psychotherapist, and counselor can be interchanged. Problems can range from relationship conflict, low self esteem, enduring difficulty and or loss, to having severe depression, anxiety, eating issues, or OCD.

Psychotherapy is a process of talking through attitudes and beliefs about oneself, other people and the world. It helps people make meaning about what they are going through in ways that make them stronger emotionally, mentally and often spiritually. Because our “issues are in our tissues,” changes in our attitudes and beliefs often effect us physically in positive ways too.

How to find a therapist according to their credentials

Psychologists, social workers, and licensed mental health counselors can all be therapists. The difference being that psychologist are taught intelligence and personality testing in school. The modality of therapy (i.e., cognitive behavioral, narrative therapy, psycho-dynamic) is usually acquired post graduate school, so whether he or she is a social worker, LMHC, or psychologist matters little in what modality a therapist chooses to study and practice.

psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in prescribing and treating mental health problems. A psychiatrist may or may not do therapy. In modern times, psychiatrists often see patients for a short visit and just monitor medication. Because of the shortage of psychiatrists, primary care doctors often prescribe psychotropic medication.

A non-MD therapist may share his or her opinion about medications, and help clients think about how to decide, but we can’t make suggestions on what medication, if any, to take.

Why would someone find a therapist?

Humans are story tellers and meaning makers. When we experience life, we make meaning out of it. Sometimes we get stuck in a negative story–quite often a negative story of ourselves–and we realize that we don’t want to stay there. Friends, family, coworkers, ministers can often provide a new perspective and usually do. This is sufficient for many people.

Sometimes people would like to consult with someone not involved in the situation when they are seeking a new perspective and they might choose to see a therapist. Inviting people to new perspectives is what therapists do.

People often say, “I need to see a therapist.” Or ask, “Do I need therapy?” I don’t think of it like that. Therapy is just one option to heal. People can find help from so many things, books, friends, communities, prayer, and activities. One can try therapy, and if it helps, then it is worth it. Deciding to go to therapy is more of a “risks vs. benefits” question. Ask yourself do the benefits outweigh the risks. And this can be reassessed at each visit.

Benefits of Therapy

There are many benefits of therapy. A therapist is trained to invite you to new perspectives without “going down with the ship,” (getting caught in the negative story.) We can see how you may be judging yourself harshly, and how this is affecting everything. We can help you take a stand against your problem, discover your skills to counter it, and help you make a sustenance plan for those skills. Also, we can help you understand what is going on with other people in your life, to help make sense of how they are acting.

Therapeutic conversations can provide hope, and may make you feel better quicker than other methods of healing.

Why people wouldn’t want to find a therapist?

Therapists cost time and money. Even though your medical insurance usually helps, there are co-pays, gasoline, and time taken from something else. (But in the long run, it could be a good investment as emotional problems can lead to missed work.)

Therapy is not the first thing everyone turns to when they have problems. Many people worry that going to a therapist means they are crazy- or worse-weak. This often stops people.

Occasionally people worry that they are no good, and not even worth a therapist’s time. They worry a therapist will discover a darkness in them, that they don’t want anyone to see. They may worry the therapist will point out their flaws and pathologies.

I have never discovered anyone to be “no good,” no matter how much he or she might try to convince me.

Afraid the therapist will see through them. People are often worried that if people got to know them better they will see the true person, who they feel is terrible.

How to find a therapist:


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The process of finding a therapist is streamlined in today’s day and age. In the comfort of your own home, you can just Google “Therapist [Your town]” Or “Family Therapist” or “Child Psychologist.” And a list of websites will pop up.

You can also ask your friends, your doctor, or the counselor at your children’s school.

Deciding which therapist to see

Now that you have names, you have to decide which one is right for you. Read websites, look at pictures, check licenses, and call the office to talk to them or their staff person to get “a feel” for them. Therapists therapize with different modalities and you can ask about how they help people. Judge how comfortable you are with these descriptions since trust can be an important element.

Some people want to meet face to face to get a good feel that it is a good fit. When you find a therapist, it is fine to have one meeting and then decide you don’t want to come back for any reason.

The best way to find a therapist is to go with your gut!

33 thoughts on “Want To See A Therapist? Demystifying Therapy and Therapists”

  1. Hi, Jodi–This was very helpful! I’ve been to therapists through the years and had mostly positive experiences. But I remember before I ever saw my first therapist–I was scared to go! I thought it would mean that I was a terrible person if I needed to see a therapist. I got a different perspective when a good friend told me she was seeing a therapist. This friend was a smart, wonderful person, and knowing that she was looking for extra help gave me the courage to ask for help too. I’m so glad I did, because my first therapist helped me so much.
    Tina Fariss Barbour recently posted..I want my normal house back!My Profile

    1. Thanks Tina! I am so happy when I hear about people’s good experiences. It is often I hear the bad stuff. There is some use to us yet!

  2. My wonderful journey with therapy began as a court requirement after I left home at 15 (and subsequently got caught shoplifting!) and boy, I am so grateful that it unfolded the way it did. I am also thankful to have had access to free therapy for 20 years in Canada; since I moved to the U.S. 10 years ago, I’ve gone far less. I’ve always found therapy to be such a helpful tool in the toolkit and wish that more people would go!
    Laura Zera recently posted..Mental Health: Mobile Technology Use in Developing CountriesMy Profile

    1. I am so glad you had a great experience, it could go either way! Maybe the payment makes people take steps faster and get better to avoid having to stay long! Whatever works is fine with me!

  3. Your capacity to make sense of the unknown, to shine a light on things we may sometimes fear is powerful!

    I’ve been in therapy — many times. 🙂 I also have taken both my daughters — when they were 11 and 13 and then later. And always, the benefit was a safe and courageous place to find truth.

    Louise Gallagher recently posted..Awakening to Life!My Profile

  4. This is excellent advice, Jodi. You clarifying what the differences and similarities are between therapists vs. psychologists is helpful. I know I’ve had many people ask me that question. Going to therapy makes us vulnerable and that stops many of us. I’ve found it really helpful when I’ve been overwhelmed with life events.
    lisa thomson recently posted..An Ideal Divorce-Is There Such a Thing?My Profile

    1. I hope to help people see that they are really not vulnerable. That’s my goal anyway! I want them to feel the power of themselves! <3

  5. I can’t say enough about therapists. I prefer to see women therapists. I feel I can talk to them better. I’ll never forget the one who helped me through my divorce. When I started seeing her all I’d talk about was my ex and the latest thing he did that bothered me, hurt me, annoyed me, etc. But each time, she kept trying to focus on me, trying to get me to talk about myself and stop thinking of him. That was the best advice and certainly a turning point when I finally started talking about steps I was taking to improve my life. In time, he became an after thought. A piece of dust to flick away. I loved my therapist. Karen was her name and I’ll always be grateful to her.
    monicastangledweb recently posted..In My Next Life…My Profile

  6. I was first introduced to therapy when I was 18 years old and have tried different people from time to time through out my life. I always felt limited in what I could share about my feelings and who I am. I was much less limited than in society and everyday life but still felt limited. Two years ago I tried something called art therapy and it was really a NON-invasive way of identifying emotions and issues that I couldn’t other wise see, but still something was limited. It wasn’t until I found the right therapist for me, that I could truly measure its results. I think following your “Gut” as you said, is key. Once I found a platform where I was comfortable and could say anything, be anything, and explore anything with the kind loving help of another person, I knew I was in the right place to start unfolding/changing. Finding the right match seemed to be the Key to success for me. Its an environment where the absolute level of comfort really has counted! Thanks for another great blog this week Jodi!

  7. Very informative, Jodi. It seems more complicated that it actually is or should be. When a person needs someone other than a family member or friend to speak with they should’t have the address pressure of who to call.
    Brenda Moguez recently posted..Having It AllMy Profile

  8. A therapist is supposed to point out flaws in a constructive way, right? I think I’m worth their time but I don’t see myself going, really. I watch Dr. Phil, so I’m pretty much ok with my life when I look at the folk on his show. Just a matter of getting over yourself and stop making the world revolve around self. It’s really gonna be all right, is my motto.
    totsymae1011 recently posted..Laughing: A Cure-All for What Ails YouMy Profile

  9. As a child (and even early adulthood) I used to think that a psychologist is someone who can read your mind, understand your issues and know the real “you”, just by looking at you. I have always wanted to see a therapist who would understand me so that he can explain my problems to my parents.
    I don’t know if I wasn’t lucky in therapy or if it’s that old belief that prevents me from being open with my therapists and rather wait for them to guess everything or at least ask direct questions I can answer.
    I still don’t know exactly what are my expectations when i go to therapy. It’s not to be able to say things since I don’t, but I think I’m still hoping to find one who will take off the mask.

    1. You are not a passive recipient, you take off your own mask. (I think you know this.) But when they don’t, it is just more evidence that you are beyond fixing or something. The story is created to keep you in failure.

      But I know you tell more than you think you tell and everyone does see you. We all see you, and you are gorgeous, but this doesn’t make sense so you keep your story that nobody sees you. But this makes you lonely. So very, horribly lonely, even with loads of lovely people loving you.

      You are going to be OK. I promise.

      1. You are right. I am not the passive recipient I used to be, at least not always. As for therapy and saying things, I do say almost everything, all the facts, but I can’t remember sharing emotions or how I feel.
        I will be OK. You say it, I believe you. Thank you.

  10. When it comes to treating specific behavioral issues, behavioral therapy can often be more effective than other approaches. Phobias, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are examples of problems that respond well to behavioral treatments.

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  12. It’s interesting that therapists can be psychologists, social workers, or licensed mental health counselors. It’s probably beneficial to look into a therapist’s background before deciding on someone. Even though they can all help, mental health counselors may have different methods than social workers would. Doing your research can help you find a therapist for you. Thanks for the article.

  13. I would agree that there are so many benefits that can come with attending therapy with a psychologist. That it is cool how psychologists are able to test your personality and behavior to best cater their treatment to your state. Going to a short visit every so often sounds like a good way to work through any struggles that you may have.

  14. There is a certain negative stereotype about someone who sees a therapist regularly. I think there is no shame in seeing someone who can help you understand yourself better. Thank you for demystifying therapy and therapists. I agree that it’s helpful for people to consult with someone not involved in your life and who can provide a fresh perspective.

  15. Thanks so much for sharing this. Going to see a therapist can be extremely intimidating but ignoring problems may just make things worse like you said. Great advice all around.

  16. Seeing a therapist is like seeing a beautiful aquarium of colorful fishes. Makes you relax, unwind and makes you breathe clearly. But not all the time cause some therapist are not that good.

  17. People are often apprehensive about seeing a therapist for the first time, and they feel that if the first one doesn’t work out, then therapy isn’t for them. You touch on all these points and dismiss the sources of anxiety toward seeing a therapist. Thanks for sharing!

  18. I like your point that therapy is just one option to heal. My sister has been pretty negative lately and has been saying that she needs a therapist. It seems that she might really need one. I may help her look into finding a professional.

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