Seeking therapy for the first time can feel overwhelming. There are many types of therapy, many types of therapists, and many ways you can get therapy, whether it’s through phone, video, texting, or in-person. So which one is the best one for you?
The good news is that you can take it one step at a time and try a few options to explore what works best for you. Therapy is a valuable tool in improving mental health and well-being but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and it usually takes a few attempts to find a good match for your needs. There may also be a combination of types of therapy that you find are the most effective.
In this blog post, we’ll go through 5 steps to finding the best type of therapy for you.
Step One: Define Your Therapy Goals
Before we dive into choosing options for receiving therapy, it’s good to know why you want therapy to begin with. This may be obvious to some, but others may feel generally unhappy or unsatisfied with their current situation without a clear sense of why they feel that way. Defining your goals will help you to identify what you want to achieve through therapy.
How to Define Goals:
Reflect on your current mental health: Think about any symptoms you are experiencing, such as anxiety or depression, and how they impact your life. Consider any areas of your life that you would like to improve, such as relationships, work, sleep, or self-esteem. It can be helpful to make notes throughout the day about how you feel when you’re feeling this way, and current situations to get clarity on what to talk about.
Identify specific areas of focus: Based on your reflection, identify specific areas of focus that you would like to work on in therapy. For example, you may want to work on reducing anxiety or improving communication skills in your relationships.
If you’re unsure what your goals should be, that’s okay too! Sometimes the first therapy session is simply figuring out which areas you need the most support with. Setting goals is often a collaborative process between you and your therapist, and it is important to communicate openly and honestly about what you want to accomplish. Your therapist can help you develop strategies and tools to achieve your goals.
As you progress through therapy, remember to re-evaluate your goals regularly. Adjust your goals if necessary based on your progress and new insights gained.
Step Two: Choose How You’d Like to Receive Therapy
There are four main ways to receive therapy, online via phone, video, text, or in-person.
Online therapy options:
Video Therapy: Video therapy is the most similar to traditional in-person therapy and is conducted through a secure online video platform. Video sessions allow you to speak with your therapist the same way you would in-person, but with the convenience of an online setting. This is great for clients who need more in-depth conversations or are meeting a therapist for the first time since it allows a face-to-face interaction.
Phone Therapy: Similar to video therapy, phone therapy is a great way to connect with a therapist for deeper conversations. While you can’t see your therapist, some clients may feel more comfortable that way.
Text Therapy: A newer form of therapy compared to other options, text therapy allows you to text your therapist through a secure messaging app whenever you need to. Typically your therapist will respond once a day Monday through Friday. This is a great option for clients who have a very busy lifestyle or prefer expressing their feelings in writing.
Some of the biggest benefits of online therapy are:
- Accessibility: Talking to a therapist from the comfort of home can be very helpful for clients who are unable to go to a therapist’s office.
- Privacy: You can choose the environment that makes you feel safe and comfortable without having to leave home.
- Affordability: Online therapy is typically much less expensive than in-person therapy so is great for lower budgets or if you have less coverage from extended benefits.
Otherwise known as traditional therapy, in-person therapy is when you physically go to your therapist’s office to have your session.
Some of the biggest benefits of in-person therapy are:
- In-person connection: Some clients want to physically meet their therapist for sessions because they feel more connected to their therapist that way.
- Physical checkups: If you have a more serious mental health issue, your mental health provider may require seeing you in person, especially if they prescribe you medication.
- Sessions away from home: If you don’t have a space where you can talk at home, having the option to use a therapist’s office might be required to have a safe and effective therapy session.
Step Three: Choose a Mental Health Professional
There are many designations for mental health professionals. The main difference between designations is whether they have a doctorate-level education or not. If the mental health professional has a medical degree or a doctorate degree they’re able to formally diagnose mental health issues. Those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree can’t formally diagnose but use many similar assessment tools and techniques to support you and manage your mental health.
If You Need a Formal Diagnosis
These mental health professionals can provide a formal diagnosis for mental health conditions. This may be necessary if you need a diagnosis for insurance purposes or disability claims, need medication, or have a severe mental health issue that requires more involved care. They also provide general mental health support and similar techniques to non-doctorate mental health professionals.
Psychiatrists: Psychiatrists are doctors with medical degrees, who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions and can formally diagnose clients and provide prescriptions for medication. However, you typically can’t visit a psychiatrist in Canada without getting a referral from a doctor or being enrolled in a mental health treatment program.
Psychologists: Psychologists hold a doctoral degree in psychology and can formally diagnose mental health issues, but aren’t able to prescribe medication in Canada.
Focus Mental Wellness does not offer formal diagnoses for clients, crisis counselling, or emergency services. If you are experiencing thoughts of death or suicide, or experiencing a medical or mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room immediately. If you need a formal diagnosis for a mental health issue to go to your family doctor or local medical clinic, or you can see the list of registered psychologists of Canada here.
If You Need Mental Health Support
Though they can’t formally diagnose clients, these mental health professionals use a variety of assessment tools and have extensive education in psychology and mental health. Regardless of whether you’ve had a formal diagnosis, they have effective techniques and treatments for many mental health issues, and often will often specific issues that they specialize in.
Licensed Professional Counsellors (LPCs): LPCs hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in counseling.
Registered Psychotherapist (RP): RPCs hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a program central to the practice of psychotherapy.
Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs): LCSWs hold a master’s degree in social work.
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs): MFTs hold a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and specialize in working with families and couples.
One of the most common questions is what is the difference between social workers and psychologists, which can typically support many of the same conditions, but have different specialties in each area. There can also be variations of their designations depending on where they are licensed in Canada. For a full list of designations, see Canada’s Profession & Regulation page.
Other considerations for choosing a therapist:
What experience do they have?
Consider therapists who have experience working with the issues you want to address. For example, if you are struggling with ADHD or addiction, you may want to look for a therapist who specializes in those areas.
Are they licensed?
It is important to choose a therapist who is licensed and has the appropriate credentials to practice in your area. Look for therapists who have a degree in psychology, counseling, social work, or a related field, and who are licensed by a recognized professional organization in your area. All of the therapists and counsellors at Focus are licensed and vetted before joining our network.
Is their designation covered by your insurance plan?
Most licensed therapists are covered under extended benefits, but you should always check first to make sure. Check to see if the therapist’s title and licensing are covered under your specific plan before proceeding with therapy.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask about their training and experience, the type of therapy they specialize in, and how they typically approach treatment. A client-therapist relationship is exactly that, a relationship. This means building trust between both parties so that you can feel comfortable being honest and achieving meaningful results.
Step Four: Learn About Popular Types of Therapy & What They’re Used For
Once you start therapy, your therapist will help create a treatment plan based on your unique needs. If you’ve already had therapy and know what type of therapy works well for you, it might help to find a therapist who practices the specific therapy you’re looking for. If you’re new to therapy and aren’t sure what type of therapy works for you, your therapist will recommend and use the one they believe to be the most effective.
Learning about popular types of therapy is a great idea to keep yourself aware of the options out there, but it’s also important to trust your therapist and their recommendations. Sometimes the treatment we think will help isn’t always the right fit, and our therapists have extensive training and experiences that we might not have in supporting these types of situations. However, don’t be afraid to ask questions and make sure you’re comfortable with the treatment plan being recommended to you. The goal of the therapist-client relationship is always to be healthy, supportive, and trusting.
Common Therapy Types
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of talk therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It can be helpful in treating anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is a type of therapy that emphasizes mindfulness and skills training to manage difficult emotions. It’s commonly used to treat borderline personality disorder, but can also be helpful in managing anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): MBSR is an eight-week program that aims to help individuals manage stress, pain, and illness through mindfulness meditation practices and body awareness techniques.
Psychodynamic Therapy: Psychodynamic therapy focuses on exploring unconscious thoughts and emotions that may impact behavior. It’s often used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): IPT is a type of therapy that focuses on improving communication and relationships with others. It’s often used to treat depression, but can also be helpful in managing anxiety and other mood disorders.
Family Therapy: Family therapy is a type of therapy that involves working with a family unit to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and address family dynamics. It can be helpful in treating a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.
Group Therapy: Group therapy involves working with a therapist and a group of peers to address mental health concerns. It can be helpful in treating a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.
Step Five: Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes
In addition to therapy and medication, lifestyle changes like exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep can also improve mental health and well-being. It’s essential to take care of yourself and to be patient with the treatment process. Here are five ways you can make healthy lifestyle changes to help improve your mental health:
- Exercise regularly: Exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health by releasing endorphins, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving mood. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week, such as walking, cycling, or swimming.
- Eat a healthy diet: A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats can provide the nutrients your brain needs to function properly and support good mental health. Avoid highly processed and sugary foods, which can negatively impact mood.
- Get enough sleep: Sleep is crucial for mental health and well-being. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and establish a consistent sleep schedule to improve the quality of your sleep.
- Practice stress-reducing techniques: Stress can have a negative impact on mental health, so it’s important to find ways to manage it. Techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
- Connect with others: Social connections are important for mental health and well-being. Make time to connect with friends and family, join social groups or clubs, or seek out support from a mental health professional if needed.
Making these healthy lifestyle changes may take time and effort, but they can have a positive impact on your mental health and overall well-being. Start with small steps and build on your successes over time.
Therapy can be challenging at times, but it can also be incredibly rewarding in improving your overall quality of life. By exploring the different types of therapy available, finding a therapist who you feel comfortable talking to and who has experience treating your specific mental health issue, and being patient with the treatment process, you can improve your overall quality of life. Remember that therapy is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and it may take some time to find the right therapist and approach for your individual needs. But with the right guidance and support, you can take control of your mental health and lead a happier, more fulfilling life.