People don’t like to talk about needing a therapist. Often there is a stigma attached, but I’m honestly not sure where I’d be today if it weren’t for my therapist, Andrea Share. The countless hours I spent chatting with Andrea was one of the best things I did for myself when I separated. Some sessions were so emotionally draining that I’d go through an entire box of Kleenex before I was ready to leave. Other sessions were so powerful that I wish I’d have taken notes to jot down Andrea’s advice. It was her words, her way of making me see my situation, that helped me learn to be happier than I was when I was married; stronger than I knew I was capable of being.
Now I’ve put Andrea in the hot seat to find out how you know if you need a therapist, what happens during a session and how to find one of your own.
Me: Why would someone need the help of a therapist?
Andrea: I think that you should see a therapist when the issues that you face are more than you can handle. A therapist will help you to navigate the uncharted territory – even if friends or family have been through it, everyone’s situation is different. In other cases, if your marriage is suffering or you or your spouse initiates separation it is important to learn skills for communicating. Experienced counsellors explain how they can help, are able to provide a basic ‘road map’ to their approach and can even give an indication of how you will know when therapy is finished. A good one is nonjudgemental, accepting and patient.
Me: How do you go about finding a good one?
Andrea: Finding the right therapist who is a good fit for you takes research and patience. A therapist doesn’t need many years of experience to be helpful; you do want to feel it is a good match. A good therapist must be professional, credentialed and competent. Keep in mind that credentials are not everything – they may be smart but that doesn’t mean they have good common sense. You could also consider specialization; often therapists specialize in counselling couples or families. You might want to start by asking friends, family or colleagues if they can recommend someone. You could call a university psychology or social work department for referrals. Call a clinic and ask the receptionist for recommendations as they will know who specializes in what type of counselling. You could try asking your general physician. As part of your research, check professional associations for a therapist’s expertise. Go with your gut – pick person you were the most comfortable talking to on the phone or who seemed the most interested in you and your situation.
Me: What are the different types of therapists and what might they cost? Is any of it covered?
Andrea: You want a licensed professional counsellor who has obtained a Master’s degree in social work, counselling, psychology or a related field. Therapists from different fields (MDs, MSWs, PhDs, MSs, PsyDs) all provide mental health services but each has different training, experience and insights. Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MDs) and have the ability to prescribe medications but they may or may not be trained to provide therapy. Some services are covered by Extended Healthcare Plans. Therapists sometimes offer a sliding-scale fee, or based on your ability to pay as opposed to by the hour.
Me: What is a session like?
Andrea: In a typical session, you want to feel listened to and comfortable. Did your therapist ask enough questions and did he or she ask about the outcome you want from therapy and your goals? If what your therapist says doesn’t make sense to you or it seems like bad advice, move on.
Andrea’s top advice? “Get past the stigma around asking for help as the outcome is too important!”
Andrea Share, MSW, RSW, has a practice in Thornhill, ON. She can be reached at 416-817-0092 or firstname.lastname@example.org.