Mental health is health — and just as you would go to a physician to check on something concerning, talking to someone about your thoughts and feelings can help make you better too. The stigma around mental health has never been fair and shouldn’t hinder those struggling with anxiety or depression to actually seek the help they need.
Seeing a therapist for the first time can be both terrifying and liberating. You can freely express your feelings, be vulnerable, and challenge yourself with a qualified mental health professional, in a completely different way than family and friends would be.
Sounds promising, right? But you still need to find the nerve and get up and go. And you need to be ready and open, otherwise you’re not going to get what you need out of it. We spoke with psychologist Michelle Lucci of Cambridge Psychology Centre and she carefully explains everything you need to know about seeing a therapist, whether or not it’s right for you and how it all works.
“There are different types of mental health services, from social workers and family counsellors, psychologists or psychological associates, to occupational therapists and psychotherapists. And while “most people equate therapy with a psychologist,” Lucci explains, “each type of profession offers different work.” It just depends on what your needs require, access to services and what a person hopes to achieve.
How do I find the right therapist for me?
Once an initial consult appointment is set up, "the client can get a sense of the clinician and see if they're comfortable with them," details Lucci. "They would generally discuss limits of confidentiality followed by going through the client's history and then the current complaints."
By the end of that first session, the client will have a general idea if this is someone they click with. "That's a very important piece of therapy. The client will generally know what to expect in the next few sessions and what type of therapy is going to happen."
Lucci adds, "Therapeutic rapport is a really strong indicator of positive treatment outcome. For this reason, potential clients can sometimes meet with different clinicians for an initial meeting to determine who they would work with best. Of course, this requires a bit of money but if you're into therapy for the long-haul, to find a good fit would be money well spent."
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How much does therapy cost?
"We advise people to check coverage before beginning their process as therapy can become quite expensive," suggests Lucci. "In Ontario, services can range from a small monetary amount (for example, if a clinician is a student in training) to more than $300 an hour in places like Toronto. In Hamilton and the Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge area, most psychological clinics charge $180-$200 an hour."
How long is a therapy session?
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How do I prepare for a session?
Oh, and in case you're wondering, even when there is a couch, Lucci reveals no one ever lies on it. "People almost always sit, on the couch or the chair, opposite the clinician."
What are the different types of therapy?
She adds that psychoeducation is "almost always woven into treatment" as it's always "a good thing when people understand themselves and their function. Essentially, a proper diagnosis informs treatment planning." Which is obviously the ultimate goal.
What questions should I ask my therapist?
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What are open-ended questions in counselling?
"For example, 'Who was boss while you were growing up?' versus 'Was your dad the boss while growing up?'"
What is a psychological question?
She adds, "If you ever wonder why a psychologist is asking a specific question, ask them! There generally is not some sinister reason."
Can therapy be harmful?
"There can be a risk that some symptoms can increase in intensity and frequency before they improve while doing trauma treatment," explains Lucci. "Generally the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. When you choose a well-trained and registered psychologist, any treatment issue can generally be resolved within the treatment session."
What are the benefits of therapy?
She concludes: "Having a neutral person to use as a sounding board and offer expertise in itself can be quite helpful."
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