Searching for someone to help support you through your difficulties with diabetes or other challenges can be a daunting task. There are many mental health providers out there, each with different perspectives, ways of working and experience. This quick guide will provide you with some key steps to help you get started in looking for a therapist.
Who offers mental health services?
There are a variety of professions that can offer psychotherapy services. Who is able to do that differs by province. Registered psychotherapist, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists are typically associated with mental health services, but there are also nurses and medical doctors that provide counselling and therapy services.
Each field brings a different perspective and approach to providing people with support. For example, social workers can provide a holistic approach to therapy and help you navigate health and social assistance systems, but they cannot diagnose. Only psychologists and medical doctors can do this. If you are hoping to discuss and obtain a prescription for medications, only a medical doctor or psychiatrist can do this for you. On the other hand, many psychiatrists these days do not offer traditional ‘talk therapy’ and only do medication consults. So, these are important factors to understand and keep in mind when you start your search.
Where do you start your search?
Ask your doctor.
If you have a good working relationship with your general practitioner or a specialist you are seeing, they often have a list of public and private resources. If you are hoping to discuss medication options or be referred to a psychiatrist, consulting with your family doctor will likely be a necessary first step in that process.
Do an online search.
If you do a quick search for therapists in your area, you are likely to come up with several hits. Additionally, sometimes you will come across local directories of psychotherapists, social workers, or psychologists that you can browse or search.
One of the larger online databases for therapists is Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist directory. There are a wide-variety of professionals listed on this site and they are a searchable by various criteria, such as location, type of therapy offered, language, gender and presenting issues.
Word of mouth.
If you are comfortable, ask you family or friends if they have any recommendations for therapist or counsellors. The benefit of asking someone you know about their experiences with different professionals is that you can ask them about the experience and get a better picture of how that therapist works. This can make it easier to figure out whether or not that particular clinician would be a good fit for you too.
How do you decide who to see?
Most therapists offer a free phone consultation in which you can relay a bit about what you would like to work on with them, find out a bit more about how they work, and figure out how you feel about working with them.
Some questions that you might want to consider when you are doing your search online and during a consult are:
- What approaches to therapy do they use in their practice? (Common ones include cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical-behavioural therapy (DBT), mindfulness, narrative, psychodynamic, sensorimotor. A more extensive list and overview can be found on www.goodtherapy.org)
- Have they seen others dealing with the issue that you want to work on?
- Are they familiar with diabetes and, if not, would they be willing to learn more about the challenges people with diabetes often face?
- What are their hourly rate? And if need be, do they have a sliding scale?
- If you have insurance that only covers certain professionals providing therapy, be sure to ask what is the person's professional designation. (For example, some insurance will only cover psychologists, while other will cover psychologists, social workers and other professional that provide therapy.)
A large part of what makes therapy work is the relationship you have with your therapist. If, after several sessions, you are not enjoying the work you are doing with your therapist and don’t feel it will be beneficial to you moving forward, it is okay to stop seeing that person and try again with someone else. Just as you don’t befriend every person you meet, you are not always going to find a good fit with every therapist you consult. The important thing is to not give up on therapy if this happens, but to try again with someone new.
If you are interested in trying group therapy sessions, join Virtue in a private, online group session the first Wednesday of the month.