If you have never been in psychotherapy or mental health counseling, it may seem like a mysterious process. You might not know where to start or how to find a good therapist. Even those who have been in therapy before may find it a daunting task. Here are some things to consider.
Choosing a Therapist
Choose a therapist you feel is approachable and a good fit (good chemistry or ‘vibes’) for you. Select and call one or two professionals; if you feel there is a good connection, set up an appointment to meet with the therapist as soon as possible. If the first session feels right, stick with it.
Choosing a Type of Therapy
Psychotherapy and mental health counseling have some things in common. Both aim to heal emotional and psychological wounds. Both aim to help you find your own answers rather than giving advice; and, both support you in making your own choices. They differ in the following ways:
Psychotherapy focuses on understanding what is happening in the present by exploring the past. The process promotes healing by uncovering feelings about unresolved issues and examining life experiences and patterns. The goal is to achieve greater self-understanding so that unproductive patterns can be altered. Sessions take place one or more times weekly for several months or longer.
Mental health counseling generally addresses a specific problem that has been identified. Treatment is focused on the present rather than the past. The goal is to promote symptom relief, alter behaviors and strengthen coping skills. Sessions take place once weekly over several weeks or months.
It is normal to feel anxious about starting therapy! Know that psychotherapists and mental health counselors want to help you to feel safe and to understand how therapy works. In time and with a good faith effort on your part, you will learn to trust the process.
Attaining Your Goals
You can achieve self-understanding and mental clarity by learning to reflect upon and process your feelings, thoughts and experiences.
Your experience of therapy is enhanced when you:
• Talk openly about your life
• Reflect upon your thoughts, feelings and experiences
• Engage in a sense of curiosity about your life and relationships
• Learn to work with and trust the therapy process
• Remain open to new ideas and ways of thinking
• Consider new strategies and solutions
• Attend sessions regularly
In the end, these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you learn to let go?
– Jack Kornfield –