Finding the right therapist can seem like an overwhelming process. Credentials, location, and cost are just a few of the things to consider during a search for the ‘one’.
The American Psychological Association discusses the importance of factors such as credentials and work experience, and also emphasizes the value of comfort and rapport with a therapist.
Credentials are an essential first step to consider in your search. It is important to think about what your needs are, and what kind of therapist you require in order to meet those needs. Take note of the differences between professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, counsellors, and psychotherapists because this can impact whom you choose to see.
Psychologists hold Master’s and/or Doctoral degrees in psychology, apply evidence-based and integrative approaches to help people change their thoughts, emotions and behaviors, and improve individuals’ mental wellness and resiliency. Psychiatrists have gone to medical school, and are able to prescribe medication for mental health related issues.
Social workers link people to resources, and enhance coping and problem solving. The terms psychologist, psychiatrist, and social worker are protected terms, can only be used by registered professionals, and have strict oversight by their governing bodies.
For example, the College of Alberta Psychologists is the provincial governing body for Psychologists in Alberta. The terms counsellor and therapists are not yet protected terms, so it is important to ensure the person you see is a certified professional such as a Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC), Registered Marriage and Family Therapist (RMFT), Certified Addiction Counsellor, etc. This ensures that they have the minimum training to provide effective services, and also protects you as the client. Counsellors and therapists work in a variety of fields that can offer specialized services for specific needs such as addictions, couple’s counselling, or a variety of other presenting concerns. Connect with a College or Association if you are unsure which type of registered professional can best serve your needs.
After you have researched different individuals, call the therapist to learn a little more about them. Some therapists offer free phone consults as an opportunity to learn about your presenting concerns, and for you to learn a little about them. Ask questions regarding their education and training, years of experience, areas of specialization, types of theoretical interventions that may be used, hours of service, and fees and billing options.
For example, you may consider seeing a professional such as a psychologist who specializes in anxiety and depression, or a registered marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with couple’s for communication and/or conflict related concerns. These consults provide a chance for you to gain an initial impression of the person you wish to work with. You may need to try a few different therapists to find the individual and approach that is best for you.
The process of therapy can be very impactful, and finding the right therapist to share your journey with is a deeply personal one. Your judgment is your best ally. Do the research and seek a therapist whose credentials, education, experience, specialization, and approach to therapy best suits your needs and concerns.
Written in collaboration with Dr. Angela Grace, Ph.D., Registered Psychologist”