A lot of us are scared to go to a mental health professionals, such as a therapist or a psychiatrist, for the first time. Don't wait to get help. Don't wait like I did. I waited 5 months after I initially got the symptoms of major depression, self-harmed myself and had continuous specific thoughts of suicide. If I didn't wait that long, I probably would've not had come to a breaking point on May 21st, 2013 when I almost committed suicide.
In this section, my hope for you is to learn a little bit more of therapists through their own viewpoints. Hope you enjoy.
What would you recommend to a person who is going to a therapist for a first time?
“Searching for a therapist can be an overwhelming task. I would recommend starting to looking at your in-network providers through your insurance provider network so that you will be covered at the highest level of coverage. Next, I would find providers that have the experience in which you are searching for help (such as anxiety, trauma, or bipolar). You can request this specific information before setting up an appointment. Once you have found a provider and have a scheduled appointment, attend with an open mind. It is often awkward talking to a complete stranger with very personal
“Clients will benefit by doing their own research as it relates to their present need. The treatment modalities are vast and help is available to all. The key is to hone in on your unique story. As a client, ask for what you need, being transparent helps both the client and the therapist. EMDR is appropriate for those in need of replacing traumatic events. EFT is helpful as is VCD for displacing and recoding memory.”
“Tell the therapist why you are there, what your goals are, and what your current understanding of your "issue" is (cause, symptoms, possibility of change). This will give the therapist a chance to get a sense of you, what language you speak, and what you are wanting from him/her. Then ask the therapist to explain his/her understanding of the "issue" you are wanting help with, what his/her methodology is, and what to expect regarding change.”
“Always be assessing your therapist to determine if they are a good fit for you. Therapeutic relationships are similar to other relationships, in that not all of them are always a good fit. The therapeutic relationship can be used as a tool to transform our patterns of communication, and is perhaps the most important factor in cultivating successful therapy.”
“I would want to start off and say congratulations for reaching out to enhance your mental health and well-being. I would also say, like most things in life, you definitely get out what you put into your therapy so it’s important to have a sense of what you are hoping to receive from engaging in therapy and being willing to share that openly with your therapist. Finally and perhaps most importantly, it is important to find a good fit as the therapeutic relationship is so important to successful outcomes and quality experience. I recommend doing some “quality” online research, and asking trusted others for recommendations to help connect you with someone who you would work well with.”
What kinds of therapies are available? Which types do you therapy are you trained in?
“I am a licensed clinical social worker with a Masters degree in social work. The social work field is often misunderstood. The best way to describe social work training is that problems are viewed in a whole person perspective. These perspectives involve a client’s child development, education, job situations, family dynamics and the environment they live in because each are dependent on one another. I am trained in crisis mental health. I have worked on all levels of care (in-home, in school, ER, Mental Health Hospital units, and as an outpatient therapist providing therapy. I generally like to practice from the strengths perspective with clients because we can build on the strong qualities they posses currently. I tend to practice cognitive behavioral therapy mostly because I feel it is important to change the negative thought process individuals use to cope while surviving a difficult situation needs to be relearned in a more appropriate healthier coping style. Essentially the Narrative Therapy is useful in re-writing one’s life story to be more positive, accepting, and rewarding in one’s current circumstance. Therapies are used together and are conformed by individual needs.”
“The types of therapies available is wide and frankly too many to mention. A few I mentioned above. I practice CBT and DBT both aid in retraining faulty core beliefs from individual family systems.”
“There seem to be infinite kinds of therapies available. I have a Masters degree in Adlerian Psychotherapy and am a Certified Rolfer. I am trained in mindful awareness meditation, shamanic work, energy medicine, and craniosacral therapy.”
“Therapy can be approached in a multitude of ways. My approach is an integrated one. I take ideas, concepts and practices from a variety of therapeutic models as well as philosophies and other scientific approaches. The most important aspect of determining what approach works is in the collaboration with each client. Therapists must learn to speak clients’ languages and to provide interventions that fit with the individual’s perspective and belief system”
“There are numerous therapies available in the community including psychodynamic psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and humanistic approaches. Here is a link to American Psychological Association (APA) describing these approaches in a little greater depth. http://www.apa.org/topics/therapy/psychotherapy-approaches.aspx. In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) has an online database of evidence based mental health interventions http://www.samhsa.gov/nrepp. You can click on “find an intervention” and type in keywords and/or specific criteria and it will list therapeutic interventions that have yielded positive outcomes in multiple research studies. This may be a good resource to determine research supported approaches to problems you may be dealing with. I am primarily trained in CBT, however, I have some background and training in psychodynamic psychotherapy and attachment based therapy approaches. I tend to integrate approaches based on the client and their needs rather than strictly follow a specific therapeutic philosophy.”
What do you like to accomplish during the first meeting with a new client?
“During the first meeting it is important to obtain basic information of your living situation, work or school, family structures and current stressors. This information sets a foundation of a working baseline to move forward in addressing the issues concerning you. Also during this meeting, it is a time when you can assess whether or not you are comfortable working with one another in order to accomplish your goals. I recommended that an individual see a provider more than once before they make the decision to continue or end the therapeutic relationship. It is my belief that the first session is gathering information and understanding a client’s situation fully so that progress can be made in the future sessions. I also believe that it is important that individuals do not stay with a therapist because they are afraid of hurting the therapist’s feelings. It is most important that a client feels respected, goals are being reviewed and achieved, and that they feel comfortable talking to a provider.”
“I like to establish a comfortable rapport. I am a people helper on a level playing field. Yes I am credentialed and educated and called but I am a human being first and a therapeutic relationship is founded on respect and integrity for the client/therapist relationship to be fully effective.”
“My intention during the first meeting with a new client is to establish a relational dynamic in which the client feels seen and heard.”
“When working with insurance companies, diagnostic evaluations are the focus of the first session. Beyond collecting information for a diagnostic impression, first sessions can be a good opportunity for client and therapist to meet each other and begin working on the relationship.”
My hope for the first meeting is developing a good start to the therapeutic relationship by getting to know my client, making them feel comfortable, and outlining how I typically approach providing therapy. The first few sessions are also a time for a more intensive assessment to formulate a solid plan for care so I would be asking for more thorough background information to best understand what is going on and how I can be of help, answering questions the client comes in with and also knowing what they are expecting from therapy and the 1st appointment.
What things do you do to maintain your personal mental health?
“Serving other people is rewarding in and of itself, however self care is the utmost important tool in working in the health field. I personally enjoy the outdoors and love the quiet silence that allow me to reflect on my experiences. I have taken up the hobby of photography; I like to capture the special moments in life that are meaningful. The most important part of my self care and maintenance of my own mental health is spending time with my loved ones including friends and family.”
“I work out, I eat well. I spend time with my family. I have support from other like minded therapists. I take time to be intentional about prayer and ministering to my own soul, that I may continue to fill others.”
“meditation, psychotherapy, consultation, family, friends”
“Various mindfulness, meditation and other “present moment” orienting practices. Music! I read a lot on philosophy, history and world religion.”
“I like to spend time with family and exercise. I’m more introverted so I also value time by myself, time to reflect and refresh (many times a longer run accomplishes the exercise and reflection pieces). I also like to ground myself in priorities and what I am passionate about and take time reflecting on and expressing gratitude”
What makes up a good fit between a client and a therapist? What are “red flags” to look for when a client meets with a therapist for the first time?
“The qualities of a good fit for a client and a therapist is based on trust and honesty while being comfortable in a therapeutic relationship. In order for therapy to work, clients must be able to talk truthfully about life issues that occur (even if you are not proud of certain moments). This is essential for a therapist to hear and be able to point out or provide a new perspective of looking at a current concern without judgments while maintaining strong boundaries. This can only be done when a client trusts and respects their therapist enough to be open and honest while the therapist is unconditionally accepting the topic being discussed. The red flags to look for when seeing a therapist for the first time is “trust you gut feeling.” I am a firm believe that if something does not feel right… then there is something wrong. This could mean a variety of things – but most importantly trusting your reaction and attending to this is important. I would also add that therapists are to help clients help themselves. This means they do not give out advice or tell a client what to do, but rather offer different lenses to view their situation in order to find a solution that works best for the client.”
“A good fit is sensing what the client is searching for and knowing if I am equipped to help, or do I realize that this person’s needs are outside of my competency and I refer this client to a colleague better suited to minister to this person. A red flag is the clients lack of engagement in the process. Lack of establishing a meaningful connection/rapport with the client.”
“They have to resonate on a level that is deeper than the issue being worked with.”
“There is no single factor in determining a good fit. Client’s should consider their “gut feeling” as well as ask themselves, “did I feel understood? Validated? Appreciated?””
“Good fit happens when a therapist is able to address the therapeutic needs of the client. This, of course, looks different for each person seeking services. In some ways fit is really a feeling versus anything else. The feeling that I would be looking for is someone you are comfortable openly sharing your experiences, feelings, and thoughts with without fear of judgment. Finding someone who is invested in you, your mental health and well-being. For me having been a client, a good fit is not necessary someone who has all the answers but someone who helps me find my own answers and/or is willing to put the time in between sessions to explore resources. The “red flags” for me would be a therapist who doesn’t seem invested, whose values seem to conflict with my own, and who I don’t feel comfortable with. Especially if I don’t feel like my therapist is invested or there is a value conflict then I have a good sense it isn’t a fit. For myself, it may take me a while to fully feel comfortable but that can be a normal part of developing a therapeutic relationship.”