Being open about your experiences and the possibility of needing help is the first step to healing. Many people get to the point that they realize they need professional help in the form of therapy, but simply do not know where to start.
There may be so many questions you have around professional counselling that the whole process can appear daunting and overwhelming. In this article, we address some of the commonly asked questions people have when considering therapy so that you can feel empowered and confident in your decision.
1) What type of therapy do I need?
There are different branches within the mental health field. The professionals in each branch are experts in specific areas.
If you are unsure what type of therapy you need, we recommend you ask your family doctor. Your doctor likely knows you well and will be able to suggest the right type of therapist for you and your circumstances.
2) What is the difference between a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, and Psychotherapist?
This is the most common question I have been asked by clients looking into their options for mental health support. While this question can be answered with much more detail, I will break it down generally for the sake of simplicity.
Psychiatry is the medical study of emotional and mental disturbances and disorders. A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor and will assess their patients for a possible diagnosis. If necessary, a Psychiatrist can prescribe mediation as treatment for mental illnesses or disturbances.
Psychology is the scientific study of the brain and it’s relationship to behaviour and emotional disturbances. A Psychologist can conduct testing in order to establish what course of treatment would be most effective for their client.
Psychotherapy is the treatment of emotional and personal issues without medical intervention. A Psychotherapist can use a variety of therapeutic tools to support their clients overcome their personal challenges.
3) How do I know how to decide on the right professional for me?
Once you and your doctor have decided what type of professional support you require, there are other factors you might want to consider.
Personality: The personality of your mental health professional is a very important factor. You want to be sure that the person you choose to share your most intimate thoughts and feelings with is someone you are comfortable with, and someone you feel you can trust.
Approach: Different professionals will work with different approaches. We suggest you do your research and consider whether their approach is one that you resonate with.
Convenience: The location and schedule of your therapist are important to consider when choosing the right professional to work with. It takes physical and mental energy to be in therapy of any kind. Ensuring accessing your professional is convenient for you will increase the likelihood of being able to commit to and follow through with your appointments.
Referral: Many people prefer hearing about a professional through the experiences of those they trust. Friends, family members, other medical professionals, and coworkers, can offer the names of professionals they might know who might be a good fit for you.
3) What if I can’t afford therapy?
Unfortunately, money is a common barrier for many individuals seeking therapy or counselling. While it is understandable that this may be discouraging, you do have options to explore.
Family Doctor Visits to your family doctor are covered by OHIP. If you are struggling with your mental health, seeking counsel from your medical doctor is an important first step. Many doctors are qualified to offer Psychotherapy, which will be covered by insurance. Your doctor may also refer you to another mental health professional who is covered by insurance, or prescribe medication.
Free Services Free centres and helplines can be useful in times of crisis and overwhelm. Here is a list of free services in Ontario to try if you are in need of support.
Children’s Mental Health Ontario
Universities and Colleges: Psychology and Psychotherapy Programs
Training institutions for mental health professionals are great places to check out if you are looking for free or subsidized therapeutic support. Students completing their internships often see clients for free or at lowered students rates.
Employee or Insurance Benefits
More insurance carriers are now covering psychological and psychotherapeutic support services under certain benefit packages. We encourage you to look into your benefit plan if you have access to one.
More information regarding the coverage of Psychotherapy services can be found here.
Through the website for Registered Psychotherapists Insurance Committee, you can download a letter to request coverage through your employer.
Sliding Scale Rates
Many professionals offer sliding scale rates, depending on what their clients are able to afford. You can always inquire whether or not a professional offers this option when you book your initial consultation as you research your prospective therapist.
Once you have done your research and decided to move forward with the professional of your choice, you still might have some questions if you’re new to the world of therapy.
4) What can I expect from therapy?
You should expect to be treated with compassion and respect. Your therapist is not there to judge you, but to help you achieve better mental and emotional health.
You should expect to have client/patient confidentiality. Psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists are required by law and their governing professional bodies to abide by certain ethical and professional standards. Your confidentiality is a right that you have, unless there are extenuating circumstances that your therapist is required to inform you of. Be sure that you are aware of what these circumstances are and are able to give your consent before you move forward with therapy.
You should expect be an active participant in your therapy work. Your therapist can offer suggestions, readings, and many other resources. However, your healing will involve your dedication and commitment.
5) How often do I need to go to therapy?
Each individual is unique, and your personal circumstances will dictate how often you will need or want to attend therapy. You and your therapist can decide together what will benefit you most, considering your budget, your schedule, and the goals your have for yourself in therapy.
Many clients choose to attend therapy weekly, or biweekly when they first begin their healing process. When the client feels that they have more tools and stronger internal resources to cope with their challenges, they may decide to decrease the frequency of their visits.
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If you still have questions, that’s ok!
Be sure to ask your therapist anything else you feel you would like to know.
The most important thing is keep moving forward with the process of finding the right support for you!
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Thank you for the comment about how a therapist of only there to help you achieve better mental and emotional health. My sister has been thinking about looking for some help for the depression that she has been dealing with. I will be sure to help her look around for a local therapist that can help her recover.