Starting Therapy: Where to Begin


Taking the steps to go to therapy can feel ambitious, especially when you are struggling with an emotional or mental issue. It takes a lot of courage to speak to someone about your problems and go through the learning process to endure and grow into a stronger person. With Nearly half of American households having had someone seek mental health treatment, it is important that we make the therapy process known. In this blog we are going to talk about what are some types of therapy, how to find a therapist and what to ask the therapist during your first appointment. 

Let’s start by looking at some types of therapy as there are many.

Some of the most common therapies are:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This is where you work with a mental health counselor in a structured way, attending a limited number of sessions, generally between 30 minutes and 2 hours. CBT helps you become aware of negative or uncomfortable thinking, so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.

Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – This is a comprehensive evidence-based therapy. The standard DBT treatment package consists of weekly individual therapy sessions, approximately 1 hour, a weekly group skills training session, generally 1.5-2.5 hours, and a therapist consultation team meeting between 1-2 hours. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – This is an individual therapy typically delivered 1 to 2 times per week for a total of 6-12 sessions, although some people benefit from fewer sessions. Sessions can be conducted on consecutive days. EMDR therapy aims to help the mind heal from past psychological trauma by overcoming symptoms and emotional distress that is associated with traumatic memories.

Trying to find a therapist can be overwhelming but remember if you make an appointment with one and realize they are not the best fit for you then you can always find another so keep calm and use some of the tips below to start your therapy journey. 

  1. Look on your insurance carrier website. Getting mental health help is not cheap, if you have insurance, sign into your patient portal and look for therapist options. Most insurance companies have directories filled with medical professionals who take your insurance, making the process much more affordable.
  2. Speak with friends. Your friends know you best, if you are comfortable with sharing your struggles and that you are looking for help, then they may be able and willing to support you on your search. Getting a referral from a friend is helpful because they are a trusted source.
  3. Read medical journals. For some specialties there may not be many directories, if this is the case for you, look for medical journals related to the specific situation you are inquiring about and reach out to the professionals listed on the articles for a recommendation and maybe even see them directly.   
  4. Check medical centers. Most hospitals, clinics or other trusted medical centers have stands with flyers of therapists and treatment processes that are credible and may be right for you. 

Now let’s look at what you ask once you find a therapist you want to see and schedule the appointment. A preliminary conversation with a therapist can help you get an idea of how treatment will proceed and whether you feel comfortable with the therapist.

Below are 5 questions you can ask to get a better understanding of if this therapist is right for you:

  • What approach will the therapist take to help you? Do they practice a particular type of therapy? 
  • Does the therapist have experience in diagnosing and treating the age group and the specific condition for which treatment is being sought? 
  • What are the goals of therapy? Does the therapist recommend a specific time frame or number of sessions? How will progress be assessed and what happens if you feel you aren’t starting to feel better?
  • Will there be homework?
  • Are our meetings confidential? How can this be assured?

These are just a few possible therapies, ways to find it and what to ask during it. Getting help for mental and emotional problems can be a long process but your therapist, counselor or mental health professional only wants to help you grow and build your emotional skill set.  

References

Mayo Clinic. (16 March 2019). Cognitive behavioral therapy. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/about/pac-20384610

Chapman, A.L. (2006). Dialectical Behavior Therapy Current Indications and Unique Elements. Psychiatry (Edgmont),  3(9): 62-68.

American Psychological Association. (31 July 2017). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments/eye-movement-reprocessing

Ponte, K. (8 April 2019). Finding the best psychiatrist for you. [blog post] Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/April-2019/Finding-the-Best-Psychiatrist-for-You

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Psychotherapies. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/psychotherapies/index.shtml

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