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  • allisoncgary

Finding the Right Therapist

Updated: Jan 29, 2020

Counseling is not a "one-size-fits-all" experience. It's important to feel a rapport/connection to the counselor or therapist you select for the healing you want in your life.

I encourage individuals to do research to get connected with the right therapy care. It may feel a little daunting at first, exploring all the many options that are out there. But it is important so that you are getting the right care for your needs.


A common thing I hear is: "I don't want to tell and retell my story over and over again." Sometimes this then means that a person will "settle" because it feels too hard to "start over" in therapy and ultimately may continue working with a therapist who isn't the right fit for them. Or sometimes a person will subsequently determine that all therapy will be the same way/won't work and they will stop therapy altogether because one professional wasn't the right fit.


Most therapists will offer a free phone consultation, myself included! This is an opportunity to discuss the logistics of therapy, but also for you to ask questions about the therapist that you may choose to help you on your journey toward healing.


Not all counselors/therapists/clinicians/providers are the same. There are many variables including education background, supervision experiences, specializations and various training credentials that shape counselors. Additionally, approaches to therapy, different theoretical orientations, and modalities used will vary from one to another. If you don't like art, an art therapist might not be right for you. If you are grieving, solution-focused therapy might not help. If you are allergic to animals, an animal assisted therapy program may not be best. Some of this might sound silly or extreme, but what I'm getting at is that it's okay to look into your options because there are so many!


You are allowed to ask for more information from any therapy professional about who they are, what they do and how they do it. It is important to make sure that it is a good fit for you so that true healing can occur.


The rapport between a client and counselor can be everything to feel safe and supported in the therapeutic process. The counseling process is an active process between you and your counselor. I encourage you to engage in this process and provide feedback to your therapist/counselor/clinician/healer/coach about your goals, needs, and questions you have about methods being used for therapy.


Terminology:

Therapist and Counselor are terms often used interchangeably. Sometimes the title "Counselor" is used for a role that doesn't require the same degree of advanced training or licensing as other clinical roles (a "benefits counselor" vs a "mental health counselor" for example). The title "Therapist" is a protected title, and can include a variety of licensed/regulated professionals (licensed counselors, psychologists, social workers, and marriage and family therapists). Psychologists typically teach at colleges or universities, conduct research and use research a a part of their approach to treatment, and can use different assessments for clinical evaluations and diagnosing. A Coach is a newer profession, and increasing in popularity. Life-coaching has less stigma than therapy in most cultures. The differences between a Therapist and Coach includes regulatory standards, goals and expected outcomes, scope of practice, format, etc. Properly trained coaches and therapists can help individuals make changes in their lives, a lot of it will depend on your personal preference.


Some Questions to Ask:


What is your credentialing? Licensing and certifications will look different depending on the professional you are seeing. Some will be licensed through the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), some are certified through other regulatory boards, others aren't formally credentialed anywhere. What type of credentialing feels comfortable for you as a client?


What kind of training have you received? Different professionals will have different training in their background to give them the skills that they have and how they approach healing. Whether it's graduate coursework or specialized trainings, this experience is informative to you about what this professional will be able to work with you on. Some individuals don't have formal training but have life experiences that they feel are helpful to share with others for healing more as a "peer counselor". Is that comfortable for you? If so, great! If not, great!


What is your approach to therapy/counseling? The orientation of a clinician will influence how they work with you in the room. You want to make sure that you get a feel if their view makes sense to you. Is there something that sounds too "far fetched"? Is there something that increases your curiosity? Are they too text-book/academic? Are they too experienced/inexperienced? Do they sound spot-on aligned with you?


Have you treated others with my situation? It's helpful to know that who you are trusting your care to is familiar with what you are facing. If they have never worked with someone in a similar situation to yours, you may feel that inexperience in the room. You want to feel comfortable and that the professional you choose is competent and confident. As some examples... If you have had a traumatic experience, someone who is not trauma-informed may be limited in how they can help you. If you are grappling with a severe/persistent mental illness and they don't have experience with that type of treatment, you may not feel supported in the way you need. If you are processing significant grief, and the clinician has only one class from college in their background, they may not have the depth of knowledge or experience to meet you in your grief processing effectively.


What is your cost? What type of payment do you accept? Do you take insurance? Cost can be a barrier to treatment. You want to make sure that you are able to afford the care and not be caught off-guard regarding cost. In Colorado, average costs for therapy is between $100-$150 per hour. Not all professionals accept insurance. If you have health insurance, it is helpful to contact them first to see what they cover, if they have a list of providers that are in-network who specialize in what you need, and what their process is for out-of-network providers for reimbursement if they do that. Not all insurance providers will reimburse for services, so it is important to verify before attending appointments.


Do you prescribe medications? If you feel that your care is in need of medications, it will be important to seek a psychiatrist who can prescribe medications. Some psychiatrists have very limited time to be able to support or assist their clients, so having a therapist as well as a psychiatrist can be helpful. Sometimes community mental health is a great way to have this "one-stop-shop" feel.


Is therapy time-limited? Some individuals will benefit from short-term, others long-term. It's important that you are engaged in care for as long as you need for the concerns you are facing.


How often should sessions take place? It is typically advised to meet with a therapist on a weekly basis to start, this helps with developing rapport (i.e. the trusting relationship) as well as getting your needs met to feel stability and healing. With time typically sessions are reduced and eventually termination from therapy services occurs. Everyone will be different in how that progression looks. And for some, weekly sessions aren't possible (either for financial reasons or scheduling challenges). It's helpful to know if there's flexibility from the counselor to meet these other needs where you're at.


What is your availability like? Some clinicians have evening/weekend availability to work around the "working person", others are strictly Monday through Friday, and some are only part-time; some have wait-lists and others can get you in right away. Check to see if their schedule will have compatibility with yours.


What is the first session typically like? Sometimes the hardest part is the first session, it can feel like an awkward blind-date, not really knowing what to say or ask. So knowing what to expect can help ease any anxious feelings. Typically there is paperwork to be done (unless if paperwork can be sent to you in advance), there will be a review of the disclosure statement (to ensure you are aware of your rights as a client), and then some "get to know you" conversation where you will be invited to share a bit more about yourself and what brings you to counseling.


All individuals are deserving of support and to be able to honor their individual unique experiences.

There are risks involved in the counseling process. You may experience strong emotions, confusion, emotional pain, anxiety and even physical distress during this process. If you experience any of these during therapy, it is important that you notify your therapist and that you feel comfortable doing so.


The results of counseling work can include increased resilience and strength, increased comfort in emotional regulation and the expression of emotions, increased self-awareness, feeling successful, and resolution of wounds. There are many reasons to seek counseling/therapy support, and finding the right support can make a significant difference in your healing and growth. I encourage you to do the research, make the calls, ask the questions. Your care is important.


If you are interested in a free consultation with me, please contact me directly at 720-619-1058 or AllisonCGary@gmail.com.

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