- Psychologist Qualifications
The first step is to ensure that the individual who will be doing psychotherapy with you is properly qualified. For instance, a psychologist is a person that is licensed through the College of psychologists, to assess, diagnose and treat individuals with emotional difficulties. The primary form of treatment offered by psychologists is psychotherapy (though there are many forms of psychotherapy), so there is a good chance that in finding a psychologist you will have someone with knowledge and experience in providing psychotherapy. There are also psychotherapists who are knowledgeable and experienced but are not psychologists. Some, but not all, of these individuals have received extensive formal training in psychotherapy.
It is important to ensure that the therapist you choose has the proper qualifications to practise and you should feel free to ask the person specific questions about his or her training, and the degrees, diplomas or other certification that indicate they are properly qualified to provide psychotherapy. Once you have ensured that the psychotherapist you found has the proper qualifications to practise, you then need to ensure that this individual has some experience in treating the type of difficulty you have. Most psychotherapists indicate the age group and type of problems with which they have experience. For instance, the Ontario Psychological Association has a referral service that lets you know the psychologists in your area who have knowledge and experience with the type of problems that you are having.
- How To Find the Right Therapist?
Psychotherapy is a process
This process requires the involvement of the client/patient in a way that is different than almost any other 'doctor-patient' relationship. In psychotherapy, you are not the passive recipient of care, but rather an active member of a therapeutic relationship that has the potential to change your life. It therefore stands to reason that the therapist you have is someone that not only has the right training, but is also the right fit for you.
A Good Fit?
The most important part of finding the right therapist comes when you meet the individual and evaluate whether you can work with him or her. It is crucial that you find a psychotherapist that is a good fit for you. This means finding someone with whom you feel comfortable. The relationship with your therapist will be one of the most important factors in determining the success of the psychotherapy. When you initially meet your psychotherapist, you should feel free to ask questions about his or her training, experience and treatment approach. Furthermore, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I trust and feel comfortable talking about very personal matters to this psychotherapist?
- Do I have confidence in his or her ability to help me?
- Does my psychotherapist help me to open up and discuss my difficulties?
- Is the way that the psychotherapist speaks to me clear and understandable?
- Does the psychotherapist listen and accurately hear what I am saying?
- Does he or she understand me and my difficulties?
You might of course ask how you are supposed to know the answers to these questions. Simply pay attention to the 'sense' or 'feeling' that you have with the therapist you are seeing. In other words, trust your own judgement or intuition about whether the 'chemistry' between you and your psychotherapist is right. At this point, some people would say that they would initially feel uncomfortable discussing their personal problems with anyone. While this is often the case, and is completely understandable, it is still likely that your level of comfort will vary depending on who you are speaking to. If you do not have an increasing level of comfort in the psychotherapy after two or three sessions, you may want to bring this up with your therapist and see if it can be resolved between you. In some cases, there may simply not be a very good fit, in which case you should consider asking for a referral to another therapist. While this is a hassle, not to mention costly, it is essential that you find a psychotherapist with who you can develop a trusting and open relationship. In the absence of such a relationship, psychotherapy is much less likely to be effective and helpful.
- What to Expect at Your First Session?
You may be wondering how much you will be asked to reveal, what kind of commitment you will be asked to make, how quickly you can be helped or how to determine if this is the right therapist for you.
When you arrive at the office you will be asked to fill out an intake form and to provide your consent to engage in a therapeutic relationship. You will then be invited to discuss what brought you to psychotherapy. How much you reveal about your life circumstances is up to you, but it is generally the case that the more open you can be about your difficulties the easier it will be for your therapist to be of help. If you have come in for individual therapy, there is likely something distressing you. The therapist will want to hear how you define the problem and where you feel you need help. This first session is mostly about gathering information. The therapist will be asking questions about your current difficulties, as well as the history of these difficulties.
Feel free to ask questions!
In the first session, you are encouraged to also ask questions about how psychotherapy works, your therapist's experience in dealing with the types of difficulties you are experiencing, or any other question about the psychotherapy process and your therapist's qualifications.