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Here at Firm Foundations Counseling Inc. we believe in  "Walking alongside you on your "Road of Self-Discovery".  Often, finding a therapist that is right for you can be a daunting and even intimidating first step to take on that road. Finding the right therapist is a crucial step in taking charge of your mental health. It's an investment in your well-being, and a little careful consideration can make a big difference. This post is intended to equip you with the knowledge and basic steps to navigate the process and find a therapist who feels like the perfect fit.

1. Know Yourself, Know Your Needs

The first step is to identify what you want to gain from therapy. Are you struggling with specific concerns like anxiety, depression, or trauma? Do you want to address relationship issues or navigate a difficult life transition?  Knowing your goals, whether it's short-term problem-solving or long-term personal growth, will help you target the right type of therapy.

2. Therapists: A Diverse Field of Expertise

There are various mental health professionals available, each with their qualifications and specialties. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can diagnose mental health conditions and prescribe medication. Psychologists have doctoral degrees and can provide therapy and psychological assessments. Licensed therapists and counselors hold master's degrees and offer psychotherapy using different approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, or mindfulness-based techniques.

3. Research and Find Your Match

The search begins with reputable online directories like Psychology Today or GoodTherapy. Here, you can filter therapists by location, insurance, and areas of expertise. Look into the preferred psychotherapy techniques used by therapists.  Additionally, consider asking for referrals from trusted friends, family, or your healthcare provider. Reading therapist profiles and reviews can sometimes offer valuable insights into their experience and approach(es). Remember to check their licenses and credentials to ensure professionalism.

4. Practical Considerations for Seamless Sessions

Imagine therapy sessions that fit seamlessly into your life! Consider a therapist conveniently located near your home or workplace, with appointment times that align with your schedule. Teletherapy, commonly referred to as on-line therapy or e-therapy, may be another option to fit better with your work life balance situation. If insurance coverage is a concern, explore therapists who offer self-pay options or sliding-scale fees.

5. The Initial Consultation: Exploring Possibilities

Many therapists offer initial consultations, often free or at a reduced cost. Other therapists connect and respond back and forth with potential clients through email. Either way, early communication with a therapist can help establish understanding, answer questions, and manage expectations. This is your chance to interview the therapist!  Prepare questions to understand their approach to therapy, their experience with your specific concerns, and their overall therapeutic style.

6. Building Trust: The Heart of Therapy

Therapy thrives on a strong therapeutic relationship. During your initial sessions, pay attention to how you feel with the therapist. Do you feel comfortable, understood, and respected?  Trust and empathy are key ingredients for successful therapy.  Every therapist reads and responds differently which may or may not align with your needs or preferences.. How do you feel about your therapist’s style and approach? Your therapist can’t read your mind, so being open and honest in your feedback is important. 

7.  Listen to Your Gut

The client - therapist relationship is very personal and actually very individualized. Tastes and preferences vary so don't underestimate your intuition! It's absolutely okay if you don't click with a therapist. Thank them for their time and continue your search. Remember, therapy is a journey, and your needs may evolve over time. Don't hesitate to switch therapists if your initial choice doesn't feel like the right fit anymore.

Conclusion:  Taking Charge of Your Mental Health

Finding the right therapist is an empowering step towards prioritizing your mental health. I hope this guide has equipped you with helpful  knowledge and basic tools to navigate the process. Now, take action! Start your search, schedule consultations, email therapists you’re considering, and embark on your self discovery road and journey towards a healthier, happier you. ~ Angela

WHO DOES WHAT... in the world of mental/behavioral health and addictions? The role of your professional counselor.
I have been asked several times whether I have appointments available to see a client because he or she is out of medications or no longer has a doctor who prescribes him or her medications.  I am always patient and try to take the time to explain to the individual exactly who I am and what I can or cannot do because it is confusing.
I decided I would take some time now and answer the mysteries of who does what in the world of mental/behavioral health and addictions.
I start by explaining that the only providers who can prescribe medications are medical doctors and some nurse practitioners; this includes, but is not limited to Primary Care Physicians (family doctors), Psychiatrists, Nurse Practitioners etc.
Social Workers, Clinical Social Workers, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors, and Licensed Professional Counselors are Master's level providers/clinicians who provide individual, couples, family, and group therapy.  Some of these licensed providers also conduct substance abuse and other addictions evaluations to identify the appropriate level of care for an individual ie. residential treatment, outpatient, or intensive outpatient treatment.  These providers use talk therapy; processing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; incorporate psychoeducational materials; as well as incorporate homework assignments into the individual's treatment to increase participation, insight, and growth.
Psychologists have obtained their Doctorate degree; this does not make them a physician, it means that this person has went to school pass the Master's level and received a doctoral degree.  Psychologists generally provide many of the services that Master's level clinicians do, but also have specialized training in performing psychological testing for clients.
The most important thing to know and look for is a provider, clinician, or physician that meets your needs and places your care as their priority.  Some people NEED medication to help manage symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder, ADHD, Bipolar, or Schizophrenia, however, the client/patient can reach higher levels of success and stability by participating in therapy/counseling services.
I hope this is helpful to you.  Just please remember that by working together, amazing change CAN happen!
Angela D. McClain