Its one thing to be convinced to go for psychotherapy and quite another to find a psychologist/ psychotherapist you can work with. If you have reached the stage of accepting the need for therapy, it means that you have overcome the harder part. Even if you are still making up your mind, this post will help you see that it only gets easier here on.
So what are the things you must keep in mind when looking for that ‘Right Psychotherapist’? Well, it’s not as difficult a process as it sounds. It only requires the awareness of a few critical things and some amount of patience.
Understand the qualifications: It’s not just enough to know the qualifications of your therapist but also understand them. Psychology is a vast field with multiple specialisation’s and expertise. The Indian of licensing is unique in terms of the qualifications it requires. It is only recently that licensing of psychologists has been taken seriously in India.
A Clinical Psychologist is a professional who has at least completed 2 years of clinical supervised degree of M.Phil in Clinical Psychology after completion of their Masters degree in Psychology. They would have a license from the Rehabilitation Council of India. Clinical Psychologists during their training undergo an extensive exposure to a variety of concerns and are trained in a range of therapy approaches. Many professionals after the completion of their degree chose an area of specialization in terms of population they work with or therapy approach.
A Counselling Psychologist is a professional who has completed at least their Masters degree in Psychology with a possible specialisation in counselling. Many practitioners after completing their Masters degree may have pursued courses in school counselling, child and adolescent counselling, family counselling, marital counselling etc. They have then essentially charted out their area of interest and expertise.
Many confuse a psychologist with a psychiatrist. However, a Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has completed his/her MBBS and then pursued a postgraduate medical degree in psychiatry (MD, DPM etc). Simply put, the Psychiatrist is the one to prescribe your medication.
When you search the therapists in your area or contact them, it is a good thing to check their qualifications and clarify the same if you have any doubts. It’s not rude! It’s only wise to know the person you may work that closely with in the future.
Areas of expertise and therapy approach – Each therapist has their own areas of interest and expertise. Though in training Clinical Psychologists are generally exposed to and work with the entire range of mental health problems as well as all age groups. However, most of them will develop a preference of working with particular concerns and/or certain age groups. In your first meeting or (telephonic) interaction, it’s a good idea to ask your therapist about their interest areas.
Apart from interest areas, each therapist has their own expertise and training in specific therapy approaches. There are multiple forms of therapies that exist, such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Psychoanalytic Therapy, Brief Psychodynamic Therapy, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy etc. Read more about them here http://www.apa.org/topics/therapy/psychotherapy-approaches.aspx. The choice of the therapy approach taken is a combination of the most appropriate approach for the concern of the client and the expertise of the therapist. It is a common practice for therapists to refer clients to other therapists if they do not feel adequately equipped to assist them.
How do you feel with the therapist? – This aspect is particularly crucial. Your therapist may have the requisite qualifications and expertise, but the more important thing to consider is whether you feel you can work with them. Since psychotherapy is a collaborative approach, you must pay attention to how you feel about your interaction with the therapist.
It is important that you feel a sense of comfort and security in your session with your therapist. It is ok to share your fears and apprehensions about therapy, a good therapist has enough empathy and compassion to accept the reluctance and help you understand the same. But if despite that you do not feel a sense of affiliation it is completely acceptable to inform your therapist and search for an alternative. At no point must you feel condemned or judged in therapy.
I will say this again – finding the right therapist requires some amount of patience but it’s completely worth it!
However, be aware of your own reluctance and apprehensions coming in the way of developing a collaborative relationship. If you find yourself unable to feel a level of comfort with any therapist, it may require you to remain with one therapist and address the concern. Therapists are trained to understand and work through such apprehensions with their clients.
Word of mouth – Think of friends you may know who have been in therapy and may be able to refer you to a therapist they liked working with. If you know a mental health professional personally, (it may not be appropriate to work with them), but you can always ask them to refer you to a trusted colleague. You can even write to therapists you have heard about from friends/family to refer you to a known therapist in your area.
That’s all there is to it. Hopefully, you feel empowered enough to make an educated decision in choosing your therapist now! A therapeutic relationship is significant in determining the success of therapy, so it’s important to choose wisely.