How To Find the Right Mental Health Professional for You?

Abstract  Seeking therapy to deal with daily life stressors is a practice that many individuals are engaging in currently. Approaching the right therapist is essential as it determines the entire course of the relationship between the therapist and the client and progress towards the client’s wellbeing. The article states a few pointers a person can […]
10 Min Read
June 5,2021
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Few factors to keep in mind

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Abstract 

Seeking therapy to deal with daily life stressors is a practice that many individuals are engaging in currently. Approaching the right therapist is essential as it determines the entire course of the relationship between the therapist and the client and progress towards the client’s wellbeing. The article states a few pointers a person can remember while looking for the right therapist. It also highlights the benefits of therapy and mentions a few signs a client can look out to while determining whether the therapist is right for them or not.  

“The right people will always bring out the best parts of you. They will bring out the sun and watch you bloom.”  

- R. M. Drake 

Therapy can be understood as a collaborative relationship between a therapist and a client. This relationship is initiated with the intent to work on any issues/concerns/problems, the client may be experiencing. It is an extremely personal journey where an individual may experience a plethora of emotions like despair, awkwardness, happiness, nervousness, confusion, anger, anxiety or positiveness. It is a non-judgmental, supportive and safe space where anyone can talk and share anything they wish to.  

It is great that you have decided to seek professional help to deal with your issues/concerns/problems/conflicts. Still, you must be careful about who you are approaching for aid because that has a great impact on whether you will deal with your issues effectively or not. The process of choosing a mental health professional that is suitable to cater to your needs might be challenging. It requires a lot of research and legwork, and this process is quite similar to one, an individual engaged in finding the right doctor to cure his/her physical ailment. 

Mentioned below are a few factors to keep in mind while selecting the right mental health professional: - 

  1. Educate yourself about the types of mental health professionals and their areas of specialisation to better understand the available services and give you some direction in finding the right therapist that will fit your needs. Here is a general outline of the various types of mental health professionals. 
  Training they receive Kind of therapy they provide Professional Association 
Psychiatrist They require a medical doctor degree along with at least 4 years of training in the mental health field. - Diagnose and treat mental health disorders - Provide psychological counselling, also called Psychotherapy - Prescribe medication   M.B.B.S. and M.D. in Psychiatry from a reputed and recognised university. 
Clinical Psychologist B.A. or B.Sc. in Psychology followed by M.A. or M.Sc. in Clinical psychology and M.Phil. in Clinical psychology. -  Diagnose and treat mental health disorders - Provide psychological counselling, also called Psychotherapy - Administer and analyse psychological tests.   In India, the license from the American Psychological Association (A.P.A.) is recognised by the Indian Psychological Association (I.P.A) and the Rehabilitation Council of India (R.C.I.) 
Counsellor/ Psychotherapist B.A. or B.Sc. in Psychology followed by M.A. or M.Sc. in Counselling psychology and M.Phil. in Counselling psychology. Provide one-to-one sessions or group sessions to facilitate clients in coping effectively with daily life stressors.  In India, the license from the American Psychological Association (A.P.A.) is recognised by the Indian Psychological Association (I.P.A.) and the Rehabilitation Council of India (R.C.I.) 
Social worker  Master’s degree in social work (M.S.W.) followed by 2 years of experience in a Mental health setting to earn a license. They play a crucial role in helping people access mental health aid where certified professionals are unavailable. They may be trained to provide psychotherapy. M.S.W. from a reputed and recognised university. 
Marriage and Family therapist Master’s or doctoral degree in psychology, social work or counselling, specialising in family and interpersonal dynamics. Provide therapy to families/ couples or individuals with family or relationship issues. In India, the licence from the American Psychological Association (A.P.A.) is recognised by the Indian Psychological Association (I.P.A.) and the Rehabilitation Council of India (R.C.I.) 
  1. Once you have gained the required knowledge about the types of therapists and their specialisations related to your requirements: 
  1. You can search the following online platforms like Practo, Linked In, the Live Love Laugh Foundation for therapists that fits your need. 
  2. You can consult the psychology department of reputed universities or family physician or mental health organisations like Heart it out, Mind Foundation, White Swan Foundation or Fortis mental health foundation. 
  3. You could also contact helpline numbers like ICALL (contact no. - 9152987821) or Kiran (1800-599-0019) to ask for potential therapists you can contact for scheduling your first appointment.

Disclaimer: - The names of the online platforms, mental health organisations and helpline numbers provided above are operational only in India and helps provide details of reliable, trustworthy, experienced, competent and credible therapists and other aspects of therapy and mental health and does not determine or ensure the outcomes of your therapy experience as that is subjective and varies from person to person. 

  1. Once you have prepared a list of potential therapists, contact the respective organisation they are affiliated with or send them an email personally about scheduling an interview with them. During the initial phone consultation, you ask the therapist the following questions to make an informed decision: - 
  2. Ask them about their education qualifications, licensure, training, and years in practice. Licensing requirements vary widely across different countries. Ensure that the practitioner has received training from a reputed and recognised university and not through some random non-accredited online course. 
  3.  Make sure your therapist has at least a Masters or M.Phil. degree either in counselling or clinical psychology. Also, note that years of experience or education qualification does not signify how good a therapist is, it just adds to their credibility. Such details of the therapist are available either on the mental health organisation’s website they are affiliated with, or you might get to know it from the receptionist of that respective organisation. 

You can ask about the areas they specialise in and the approach/theoretical orientation they use during therapy like for example: -  

  • You can consult a psychoanalyst who specialises in the psychodynamic school of thought if you want to address concerns that do not seem to have any conscious/ tangible cause.  
  • You can consult a cognitive behavioural therapist if you want to tackle problems that are rooted in unproductive/ harmful thought processes like feelings of hopelessness or addiction. 
  • You can consult a counsellor specialised in narrative and solution-oriented counselling if you want to approach your problems in the ‘here and now’ without diving deep into your childhood developmental patterns—for example, stage fright.

Please note knowing about the theoretical backgrounds is not a necessity for anyone approaching therapy but can help in seeking the correct treatment for your presenting problems. Also, if you still have no idea about what orientation you might need, you could discuss it with your therapist about the way you want to solve your problems and ask them to explain to you, which orientation would fit right for you. 

Disclaimer: - There are many theoretical orientations in psychology that are very carefully curated in therapeutic settings by the therapists. The examples provided above are just an over-simplified version of a few theoretical orientations used by therapists, and everyone is requested to read more about them and not completely rely on the examples provided above. 

  1. You can also enquire about what the structure of the session would be like? Whether they have experience in the area that you are looking for? What is the fee structure? How do they accommodate patients from low-income backgrounds? And what are their availability and working hours? 
  2. You can also ask questions about their perspective on various values and beliefs that are important you like whether their practice is queer affirmative, feminist, anti-caste and so on.  

Don’t hesitate to ask questions. The initial consultation with the potential therapist should be done either face to face or over a phone call, as factors like the tone, body language and the manner in the way the therapist speaks can matter. Don’t feel guilty or bad about ruling out therapists based on gender, age, religion, language or cultural background. Your comfort level is extremely important for the establishment of a healthy and beneficial relationship between the therapist and you.  

After you are done with finalising the therapist from the shortlisted list, you schedule your first session. It is natural to feel hesitant when approaching therapy for the first time. Try approaching the first session with an open mind without any preconceived thoughts or feelings. Ensure that the therapist briefs you about confidentiality and other essentials about therapy. It is also encouraged that you read up on the A.P.A. code of ethics before the session to avoid any violations. Remember that therapy is a process and relationship that is constructed is in the best interest of the client, so, if at any point of the session you feel uncomfortable or did not agree with something the therapist said or for some reason you are feeling unfulfilled with the session, it is suggested that you address these concerns with the therapist so that they can effectively address it and both of you can work through it or refer you to some other therapist with your permission.

To make sure that you have selected the right therapist for yourself here are a few signs you can look out for: - 

Healthy signs Unhealthy signs 
1.They feel like a mentor.
2. They make you feel acknowledged and worthy, treat you like an equal and encourage autonomy.
3. You are appropriately challenged and continuously learning.
4. They are happy to discuss your progress.
5. They have good self-awareness. They are willing to learn. They can admit when they go wrong and can make referrals when they cannot assist you adequately.
6. They ask you and don’t assume things about you.
7. They encourage full use of your support network.
8. The therapy has a clear sense of direction which is necessary for the client’s progress.
9. They can set and maintain boundaries.
10. You feel comfortable and safe around them. 
1.Act as an authority figure, instead of guiding, they might instruct you to follow certain steps to cope with your problems. They might not consider whether you are fine or not with the instructions given to you.
2. They make you feel inferior. Do not take your opinion into account and just prefer to give direct orders.
3. Never apologize, especially when you share something that has hurt you.
4. They are not receptive to feedback. It is difficult to admit that they are wrong.
5. They don’t know how to set and maintain boundaries. For example, using abusive language or discussing their personal life with you when it is not appropriate or asking you to meet them outside sessions or continuously send constant informal text messages. 
6.They encourage dependency and want you to rely on them.
7. They are chronically late, cancel sessions often, or don’t communicate when needed. 
8.Shames or belittle you.
9. Asks for advance payment for more than 1 session. 

Overall, it is amazing that you have decided to consider therapy or approaching someone for help, takes a great deal of strength, effort and courage in accepting that ‘I am facing some difficulties in dealing with my concerns and I need help.’ Confronting your feelings and thoughts is the first step towards healing. Therapy is a great step you have considered as it has been proven to be beneficial in: - 

  • In providing the clients fresh, unique and unbiased perspective towards the issue. 
  • Helps one in working through complex emotions by providing them with a safe and non-judgmental space to process their thoughts and feelings and helps in making decisions. 
  • It also helps in challenging one’s negative thinking patterns by asking them open-ended questions that prompt them to think, analyse and question their own thinking patterns. 
  • It helps one to identify their self-destructive habits and empowers them to develop healthy coping styles to deal with them effectively. 
  • Helps an individual to become more self-reliant and self-aware. 
  • It also helps one to realise their self-worth. 

For any further queries or questions about the process of therapy, or to book a session with our therapist, you can reach  Heart It Out here.

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