As a therapist, the most common question I get is "what is therapy?" I am also asked "how does therapy work?" Let's start by understanding that when people seek therapy, nothing is "wrong" with them. They are not broken and do not need to be "fixed." In this post, I would like to shed some light on the questions I hear most, related to therapy. The questions and answers are from my personal experiences, the opinions and information expressed here will be guided by those experiences.
"What is therapy?"
There are numerous definitions of therapy. Merriam-Webster define therapy as the treatment, especially of bodily, mental, or behavioral disorders. Therapy can also be defined as treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder. I believe that therapy is whatever you need it to be at a specific moment. For some of my clients, I am helping them work through childhood traumas, anger management, or grief. Other times, I am simply checking in with them, assisting with stress management strategies, providing support, or allowing them to vent. It's a major part of the client's self-care.
"How does it work?"
Therapy works best when it is done face to face, in a safe, welcoming environment, on a regular basis. The client and therapist need to have respect for each other. The therapist needs to provide a safe space for the client to feel comfortable enough to be his/herself and share things that they may not have ever told anyone else. The therapist needs to be patient and supportive with the client, letting go of all judgments they may harbor. The client benefits the most from therapy when he/she is invested in personal healing. The client needs to be open and transparent with the therapist, show up to sessions on time, and participate fully in treatment. The therapist is part of the client's life team and can be in communication with other health care providers or important people in the client's life, with the client's permission. Over time, and with consistent therapy sessions, the client will feel more empowered to face daily circumstances and have tools to overcome challenges from the past.
"Where can I find a therapist?"
There are many resources for locating a therapist. My first suggestion is always www.Psychologytoday.com. There is a locator button on their site. Simply enter your city, state, or zip code, and a list of area therapists will pop up. Another online resource is www.goodtherapy.org. If you have health insurance, there are usually a list of therapists that works with your particular insurance. Typically, all of that information can be located on your insurance provider's website. If you do not have health insurance and paying out of pocket for therapy is not economical for you, there may be free or discounted therapeutic services in your area that can be found online. There are some therapists who travel to their clients, if transportation is a challenge. Outside of these suggestions, word of mouth is another excellent way to find a therapist. Therapy is still a taboo topic, you would be surprised how many of your friends and family members have been to therapy and could suggest therapists to you. Just ask!
"What if I don't like my therapist?"
That is totally okay. Looking for a therapist is like dating, you have to try to a few before you find the best fit. There are certain qualities you can look for in a therapist. First and foremost, your therapist needs to provide a welcoming, safe, judgment free environment. If you do not feel welcome or safe while you are with your therapist, communicate that. Your therapist may not be aware of how he or she is coming across and be happy to hear your feedback. Your therapist may be open to shifting the way he or she conducts therapy sessions. If you communicate your concerns and nothing changes, feel free to find a different therapist. Share any feelings of discomfort, unhappiness, or insecurity with your therapist so you can work together on finding the best fit.