Want To See A Therapist? Demystifying Therapy and Therapists32 comments
Do you want to see a therapist but don’t know where to start?
What is a therapist?
A 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.
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.
A 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 choose to see 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 see 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:
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. It is fine to have a meeting and then decide you don’t want to come back for any reason.
The best way to pick a therapist is to go with your gut!
Jodi Aman / /