How to choose the right Therapist
There are many different forms of therapy offered in Cape Town, let alone in South Africa… Talk-based therapies such as Psychology, Psychiatry and Counselling Methodologies; Hypnotherapy; Dance Therapy; Art Therapy; Drama Therapy; Transformational Seminars and Workshops, etc. And there are many wonderful, skilled and knowledgeable Therapists who offer them. So, how do you go about choosing the right form of therapy and Therapist for you?
Well, they are kind of like a good pair of jeans… you have to try them on for size. They have to feel just right. A Therapist is not just someone you vent to for an hour before continuing with your life outside of their office, in much the same way as you did before. A Therapist is so much more than that. Which is why it is so important to find the right one for you. This includes, but is not limited to, their methodology and personality, all the way to the layout and decoration of their office space. You need to find a person and place which offers you the safety in which to self-reflect and grow.
“Growth and comfort do not coexist.”
Now, that might sound scary. BUT, and it’s a big BUT… Growth doesn’t happen by staying in our comfort zone. AND, if you are searching for a Therapist, my guess is that you have reached a point of not feeling so comfortable in that comfort zone you call your reality. However, rest assured, therapy is not a scary place to be. The fear should be one of living the rest of your life dissatisfied and feeling stuck there. A good Therapist will help you to shift and grow in a safe environment… guiding you and encouraging you to become the person you have always wanted to be and to have the life you have always wanted to live.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “therapy” means “treatment intended to RELIEVE or HEAL a disorder.” Although that is more of a traditional or clinical definition, as seen from the use of the word “disorder”, the focus for me is on the words “relieve” and “heal”. This sums up my reasons for ever going into any form of therapeutic process. “Relieve”, to me, means to feel more at ease or comfortable with whatever it is that we choose to focus on in each session. It means to rid myself of the emotional charge which is keeping me locked into thinking and feeling about a certain situation in a certain way.
To “heal” suggests that I should come away with new and healthy ways in which to approach my life and the issues that have influenced how I live my life. Obviously, the definitions would look different to someone who has been diagnosed with a psychological disorder, however, they would still be looking for new approaches to their own lives, whether that includes medication or other more traditional interventions. For the majority of people, with stressors in their every day lives (such as work, relationship, financial or social issues, for example), the therapeutic process would be there to help them overcome previous and current emotional concerns… to RELIEVE and HEAL their emotional wounds, and to help them live a happier life.
“No man is an island”
One of the big problems with the therapeutic industry is the way in which it is still stigmatised in society. You may notice people begin to whisper when they mention that they are seeing a Therapist. They become a little twitchy and you will see their eyes darting around the room every few seconds, as if the Bogeyman is going to come for them when they least expect it, purely because they dared to ask for help from someone qualified to actually do just that.
The saying “No man is an island” couldn’t be more appropriate here. We all need help from time to time. And who better to get help from than someone who has actually studied to best ways in which to do it? So, the big question is not whether being in therapy can benefit you, because it can, without a doubt. We can all use a little help from a “paid friend” every once in a while to get ourselves and our lives back on track. The big question is, what type of Therapist and therapy will work best for you in this situation at this time? This is an extremely personal question with an even more personal answer.
Research, Research, Research
My advice: You have to do your research. Scroll through websites of Therapists who have been recommended by friends, family and colleagues. Personal experience is the best form of recommendation. Find out how the Therapist works, what kind of issues they focus on, and if they match what you are looking for. The Therapists website alone will give you a feel for who they are, over and above actually telling you what they do.
Remember, your therapeutic process is all about YOU! It is important to feel a connection with your Therapist in the very first session. Give it a few sessions and see how you feel. If you just don’t feel that it’s the right fit for you, move on. Go try another form of therapy or Therapist. Don’t give up or become despondent! There will be a good match for you if you just keep looking. You do not have to accept that you will need to face your challenges alone. The key lies in being totally open and honest with your Therapist about what it is you are wanting to achieve. The more you hide, the less they can help. That is why it is crucial to find a Therapist you feel safe with.
Also, do not hesitate to ask as many questions as you need to before booking a session. When someone books a session with me, I would like to know that I have met their criteria and they have a good idea of what to expect in the session as well as from me as their Therapist. That makes for a smoother and more focused first session, and helps us to find the flow in each subsequent session far quicker and easier. It also means that they will, hopefully, feel more comfortable telling me when something isn’t working for them. Therapists are not mind readers, which many people might feel relieved about, but that means that we need you to guide us on what is and isn’t working for you in each session. We need to be on the same page, always, in order to continue to navigate the process effectively!
“And I let it all out to find that I’m not the only person with these things in mind”
Linkin Park, ‘Somewhere I Belong’
When I began writing this article, I had no idea how relevant the topic would become just a few days later when the world became aware of the suicide of Chester Bennington (Linkin Park lead singer). I have had quite a personal journey with the music of Linkin Park. No matter what struggle I was facing, I could always find a song of theirs which beautifully explained how I felt at the time. Which is why it hit quite hard when I found out that the person who had written most of those haunting lyrics had taken his own life.
Whenever I hear of someone who has reached the end of their rope and have not found something or someone to help them hold on just a little bit longer, I feel incredible sadness. I suppose working in the industry I am in makes me prone to thinking that there is always a way out, a way through that which is tormenting us.
Help is always available
Now, I might be called naive, but I do believe their will always be someone who can help you see a better life for yourself. As a Therapist, it is my mission and purpose to help as many people as possible to achieve their dreams. And it all starts with feeling connected. The person who feels most disconnected from something or someone (everyone) in this world, in their world, will no doubt be the loneliest.
It can take nanoseconds to make eye contact with someone (anyone) and to feel a connection, if both parties are willing to be seen. A smile and a nod is all it takes to make someone’s day just a little bit brighter… no matter where they are on their emotional spectrum. The more they shut down, the less they will be seen, and the more lonely and disconnected they will feel. It’s like a simple mathematics equation:
Emotion – eye contact = DISCONNECTION from everything and everyone around you
Emotion + eye contact = CONNECTION to everything and everyone around you
And the beauty is that you get to choose. Granted, It’s not always an easy choice. Sometimes it’s the most difficult decision to make, but, ultimately, the decision lies with you.. within you! And that cannot ever be taken away from you as long as you live. We all just need a little reminder of our power every now and then.
So, if this article leaves you with any emotion or feeling, I would like that feeling to be one of hope. I believe that there is always hope.
And hope is what will help you find the right support in your time of need.
My wish for you is to…
Always feel HOPE!