Taking the first step to make an appointment with a therapist can be a little daunting. If you are making the decision to go to a therapist for the first time, there are a few things to think about. First off, do you really need it? If you are asking yourself the question, then it probably is a good idea. But why not just call up your best friend or parent for advice? Therapy is not the same as a chat with a good friend or family member, as helpful as that can be. A therapist has training and experience to help with a number of issues and has an objective viewpoint on what's happening in your life. Often we won't burden a friend with problems that we need to talk about. A therapist can help when you don't want to talk to a close friend or if you don't have anyone appropriate to speak to. The foundation of therapy is the relationship that develops between you and the therapist. It’s not the same as friendship, but good rapport and trust you feel with that person will be fundamental. For it to be effective, you should like your therapist. If it's working well, you will be opening up all parts of yourself in therapy, so you want to feel that that openness is honored. You have to feel that you can trust the therapist with your deepest thoughts, sometimes the ones that you are not even honest with yourself about. As you are deciding if you should go to therapy, think about why you want it. It’s not enough that someone told you that you should go to therapy. For it to be helpful, you have to be the one to want it. Think about what you would like to change in your life. What could be different? If you woke up tomorrow and that something changed, what would it be like? What would you be doing differently? What would you be feeling? Thinking? Answering these questions can help you come into therapy with an idea of your goals.
There are a number of types of therapists, coming from different schools of thought and training. It’s helpful to take a look at these and think about which kind fits with your life experience and viewpoint. Here’s a link to a guide to the different types of therapists:
In Colorado, one doesn’t have to have any specific training to become a therapist. So skills and experience vary. It’s helpful to explore the credentials and training of a therapist before you attend therapy. There are different types of licensure that are common: LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist). Each of these licenses require that the therapist has a Masters degree, has passed a clinical exam, has passed an exam covering the legal and ethical requirements of the profession and has a minimum number of hours of clinical experience under supervision of a licensed professional. The Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) regulates these licenses in Colorado and has a list of unlicensed psychotherapists in Colorado.
Does therapy help? In a nutshell, yes. Psychotherapy in general has been shown to be helpful, regardless of the specific method. There’s a nice review of the literature here:
The days of lying on the couch to explore your repressions and unconscious motivations like Freudian psychoanalysis are gone. Many therapists will start with what's going on today and think about your functioning in the context of your thoughts and feelings. However, it’s impossible to ignore your past when you are talking about the present. My work is “trauma informed,” which means that I understand that trauma impacts client’s mental health and overall well being. Many clients say that if they try to ignore traumatic events, it’s like having a road block in relationships and happiness. Unfortunately, trauma doesn’t go away. Sometimes it takes some time to get to a place when you are ready to tear off the bandages and start to work on it.
Finally, consider availability, cost and whether you need to use insurance coverage. Take a look at location and appointment times. I encourage clients to find a service they can afford, because I never want cost to be a reason a client avoids therapy. You also want to be able to get there easily so consider your work schedule and traffic. Good luck. Feel free to contact me with any questions you have about finding a therapist. Another good resource for referrals is the Colorado crisis and support line at 1-844-493-8255 available 24/365.