How do I find a therapist?
In my experience, there are several ways to find a therapist that might best fit your needs. Those include word of mouth, online search directories, and community referrals.
One of the best ways to find a therapist is through the word-of-mouth recommendation of a friend, family member, or colleague. While sometimes others do not want to disclose that they have been seeing a therapist or you may not want others to know you are looking, receiving a personal recommendation from someone who has experience with a particular therapist and can speak to their qualities can be an excellent way of sifting through what can seem like an endless ocean of possibilities. Additionally, since the recommender may know both the therapist and you, there is a great likelihood of there being a goodness of fit between the two of you.
Another great way of finding a therapist can be through an online search directory, such as PsychologyToday or Good Therapy, to name a few. This approach may not ease the challenge of having so many options, but if you already have in mind certain qualities, practice types, or qualifications, this approach is certainly valid. For example, if I specifically know I want to see a psychologist in the south part Denver that has particular specialties in trauma or anxiety management, an online search platform can save you a tremendous amount of time.
Finally, another useful path to finding a therapist can be through other professionals in the same or associated fields. A common example may be seeing your medical doctor and mentioning anxiety or depression during a questionnaire, who may then provide you with referrals in the community for psychotherapy or psychiatric providers; however, this could occur with any number of professionals in the community, ranging from nutrition and personal training to others mental health providers who may have specific specialties that might better fit your needs. Personally, one of my biggest goals in meeting with someone is that they find the best fit for their needs, even if that isn’t me, which is why I maintain a list of other vetted psychotherapists that I trust.
What should I look for in a therapist?
Finding a good fit with a psychotherapist you feel comfortable with and trust is essential to building a good relationship, and that relationship is the vehicle through which all meaningful outcomes occur. But what does a “good” relationship mean in the context of therapy? I find it important to meet with someone who is not just interested in making me feel understood but actually understanding, who pays attention to the inherent power dynamics in the meeting room and remains flexible in their interpretations of my concerns, and is not dissuaded from nudging me towards something I may not be aware of.
How long does therapy take?
The answer to this question depends on many factors, many of which are not terribly predictable from the start, as progression in therapy does not look like a linear line of growth. This is because, even while in therapy, people still exist in the same challenging contexts and systems in their lives, many of which would be disrupted if that person changed. Additionally, therapy is hard work, and often we are working together to shift long-standing patterns that may have taken years or longer to develop, making their resolution not readily amenable to only a few sessions.
For a more technical answer, much outcome research on therapy would suggest that it takes approximately 20 sessions for 50% of people to experience clinically meaningful benefit from therapy and 40 sessions for 75% of people to do so. While the term “clinically meaningful” is subjectively reported by each person, what it tells me is that therapy takes some time, and that’s a good expectation to have coming into it.
What kind of therapy should I do?
As I like to tell my students, “Everyone wants to write their own book,” and therapists are no exception. Last I checked, there were hundreds of different kinds of therapeutic models out there, and to confuse matters more, each therapist is going to practice a certain model in their own unique way. A therapeutic model, sometimes referred to as an “orientation,” is jargon for the therapist’s worldview – the way they understand people, how problems of living might develop and get resolved, how much they disclose about their personal life, how much talking is done, whether homework is given, etc. You may have heard of more mainstream models, such as cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic/psychoanalytic, humanistic, existential, behavioral, or solution-focused, to name a few.
Despite what internet articles may say and what therapists themselves might like to believe, a great deal of research has consistently shown that no therapeutic model is better than the other. What matters most is the quality and genuineness of the relationship that develops between the therapist and the client, which is why I highlighted the “goodness of fit” factor above. While doing one’s research on types of therapy can be important and interesting as another ingredient in finding a therapist you might be able to trust, it can also unnecessarily delimit what options you may have to choose from.
How does therapy work?
This is probably the area where the greatest differences of opinion exist between therapists and how they understand people. Some might say people need more information, learning, insight, or repetition of new behaviors; however, in my opinion, what I think people need are new experiences, which is what I hope to provide through the therapy relationship, insofar as it can be expanded into the rest of that person’s life. Although occasional new pieces of information can be helpful, most do not come to therapy lacking it. In fact, if you can Google it, you probably don’t need to pay a therapist for it. If the therapist is the wise sage that dispenses knowledge in the therapeutic relationship, it makes the client a passive recipient of information, which often does not create a helpful context for mutual engagement and active change to occur.
Hopefully, what your therapist spent years in graduate school doing was not just learning to talk but how to engage in a certain manner. By this, I mean that they learned how to help recognize, enter into, and work with problematic patterns in their clients’ lives. In doing so, the hope is that a safe and trusting enough relationship will been created, wherein news ways of being may arise, and those concerns may be resolved.
How can I get the most out of therapy?
In addition to finding a therapist with whom you feel connected, the most important facilitators of therapy are a willingness to be vulnerable and self-reflective. Many learn throughout life that there are some things or aspects of themselves that should be kept hidden (i.e. unpopular thoughts/beliefs, certain bodily sensations, immediate reactions to certain experiences, etc.), lest they be rejected or invalidated; however, these are often prime therapy ingredients, and it has long been known that things that remain in the shadows are most likely to get the better of us.
Alongside an openness to disclosing oft unstated aspects of your life, creating a habit of reflecting on those experiences curiously is also immensely helpful. This could mean considering what other emotions or thoughts followed certain statements that were made or letting your mind wander to other topics. It all belongs. And the options for doing so are endless – journaling, developing a mindfulness/meditative practice, deep breathing, exercise, talking with a close other. Regardless of the method, paying attention to your own experience can help generate important content during the week that often helps facilitate the therapy process.
If you’re interested to see if any of our therapists might be a good fit for you or could help provide other helpful resources, please do not hesitate to call us today!