I get it – getting help can be scary, especially if it’s your first time seeing a therapist. You could be asking yourself if it’s even worth your time trying to find a good one. I’ve got news for you: it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I titled this “Therapy for Beginners” because this is the guide you need if you don’t know where to begin!
Use this article as an encyclopedia to therapy. In this one piece, I’ll cover the signs you should get therapy, how to spot a good therapist, and the difference between a therapist, psychologist and psychiatrist. All of your burning questions are being answered right here! Buckle up y’all, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!
Therapy for Beginners Lesson #1: The Differences Between Certain Therapists
Let’s start with the basics. Before you start hitting people up, you need to know exactly what they do and how they do it.
You’ve probably heard these terms being used interchangeably, but therapists do things differently than their counterparts.
Psychologists have a degree in psychology and can diagnose any mental disorder you may have. They also help you talk through anything and provide you with the tools necessary to overcome any issues. They determine if you need medication or counselling sessions.
Psychologists are buddies with psychiatrists. Psychiatrists are medical doctors, meaning that they can prescribe any medication you might need. While psychologists focus on behavioural therapy, psychiatrists will mostly talk to you about your medications and managing them.
The word “therapist” is like an umbrella. It has many professions under it, including psychologists, counsellors, life coaches and marriage therapists. That’s just the tip of the iceberg – so many other kinds of professions are kinds of therapy.
Keep in mind that psychologists and psychiatrists typically have to do more schooling than counsellors, so you’ll often see them working in schools and doing research.
Bottom line: these professionals WILL all talk to you and can help you. While they have different ways of doing it, choose which one that you think you’d prefer.
Therapy for Beginners Lesson #2: Signs You Need Therapy
Chances are that if you’re asking yourself if you need therapy, you need it. Still, it’s good to know exactly why you should go and talk to someone. Here’s a little quiz/checklist of things to look for that indicate you should go see a therapist.
1. You can’t seem to function properly.
You need therapy if your anxiety is preventing you from living your day to day life. If going to school or making friends are little things that you have a hard time doing, a therapist will give you the tools to manage your anxiety.
If your depression is getting out of hand, you need therapy. You may be depressed if you stay in bed all day or feel numb about your life. Either way, a therapist can be by your side as you navigate these feelings.
2. Something major happened in your life.
It could be a breakup, a drastic change in your eating habits or having someone close to you pass away. Any kind of major life change can be hard to process by yourself.
The therapist you talk to will not only validate your feelings on the matter, but support you on your way to recovery.
3. You feel like something needs to change.
Do you feel like you’re at a standstill? Have you hit a wall in terms of your personal growth? It’s normal to know that you need to do some personal growth, but aren’t sure how to go about it.
It could be that you’re painfully shy and want to know how to be more outgoing. Or, you could be super outgoing but want to learn how to take it easy and listen more. Either way, these are attainable goals that a therapist could help you with.
When something big is about to happen in your life, you tend to have this feeling that you need to change. It’s okay to get a therapist to help you out with your journey!
4. You notice that you’re becoming distant from your friends and family. You’re isolating yourself.
“Mom, I just want to be alone!” you scream as you slam your bedroom door shut. If you’re dealing with a lot, you might feel like you’re the outcast, so you start doing things alone and avoiding people.
Like I mentioned in number one, you need therapy if you start feeling social anxiety. When you feel this way, you’re going to start ignoring your friends and family.
Why do you isolate yourself when you’re depressed? Because dealing with other people feels like a lot when your brain is in overdrive. A therapist helps with calming your brain down and giving you tools to stay calm.
5. You have no one to talk to.
It could be that no one listens, or that no one will understand if you tell them what you’re going through. Therapy sessions are a place without judgement, and your therapist will have seen it all, so you don’t have to worry about him or her not getting it.
Sometimes, you might just need someone to validate your feelings when your friends and family can’t.
Therapy for Beginners Lesson #3: How to Find the Right Therapist
Sadly, not all therapists will be a good fit for you. It’s important that you know that so that you don’t just give up on getting help. Therapy is not pointless! Get the right therapist, and your personal growth will go through the roof.
Here’s a checklist of things to look for during your therapy sessions:
They do not interrupt you or talk over you.
They do not make you feel bad for your actions or your feelings.
Their personality meshes well with yours.
You learn a lot in every session with your therapist.
They look engaged when you speak, and doesn’t look uninterested or like they’d rather be anywhere else.
They DO NOT talk to anyone else about what you say during your sessions (for example, your parents or your boyfriend).
This is just the minimum you should expect in your therapist. With all of these bases covered, your personal growth journey can begin.
Just a note about that last point, your therapist is required to keep whatever you say a secret. This means that even if your mom or boyfriend calls him or her up, your therapist’s mouth needs to stay shut. The only exceptions of this rule are if you’re planning on hurting yourself or anyone else.
Don’t get down on yourself if your first therapist is a dud. I’ve had some bad ones (that I’ve fired lol) and some really good ones! My last one helped me get through healing after an abusive relationship. Just know that even in situations where you feel helpless, a therapist will make the toughest of situations feel simple to fix.
Share this article if it has helped you in any way, or leave a comment so I can know your thoughts. Do you feel like this therapy for beginners guide helped you?