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Finding the Right Therapist

PostedOctober 26, 2017

Are you at a loss regarding how to choose a good therapist? Who can be trusted with that breath-stealing, panic-inducing anxiety that affects your ability to function? Or, maybe you’ve been brave enough and have already looked at a list of names or profiles with basic information full of lingo that you’re unfamiliar with – and then decided that it’s just too much work?!

Did you know that according to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), as many as one in six South Africans suffer from anxiety, depression or substance abuse (and this does not include serious conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia)? Fact is, if you’re going through one or more challenges in your life, you’re not alone.

People seek therapy for depression, anxiety, relationship problems, dealing with trauma, or even for the daily maintenance of a hectic life. You deserve to be happy and counselling can be helpful in providing support and skills to better address these life challenges. And although many South Africans are aware of the profound benefits of psychotherapy, the thought of going, is often a scary one.

Thing is, finding a good therapist is a lot like shopping for a good pair of jeans. You’re going to have to try a few on (and maybe even make a few alterations) before they can make you feel good about yourself. Research has shown that the client-therapist fit is the most important factor in a successful therapy experience.

Here’s what you do: First of all, to boost your odds of success, chat to a few prospective therapists on the phone before making an appointment. Call them, leave a message that you’re looking for a therapist and have some questions, then let them take it from there. When they call back; do they sound kind and interested in you? Ask them what they specialize in and how they approach therapy. Trained and licenced professionals are happy to answer these questions and this information is important for you to know.

So, what could you expect from the first session? The therapist will probably do more talking in the first session then they will in subsequent sessions. The goal of the first session is simple: to put a face to the name, find out what you’d like to address, gather facts and relevant history, and building a good rapport with you.

Remember, you’re in the driver’s seat – they only know what you share with them. If you’re holding back, you’re stunting the process. If you worry about confidentiality, ask about it. You should always feel safe; it may not necessarily feel comfortable, but it should always, always feel safe.

Your therapist is not your friend. Friends and family cannot help being emotionally involved but your therapist cares for you and remains objective in helping you address concerns, without emotional involvement. You may not always like your therapist, and that’s OK. A good therapist will choose to see you healthy and peaceful over being “liked” –  and that’s different to feeling unsafe or unheard.

Therapists should provide hope without promises and guarantees. If you and your therapist have discussed goals, you can use them to gauge your progress. However, if you feel that your therapy isn’t progressing, speak up. Communication is key. In turn your therapist should be able to provide solutions, if not, it’s likely time to move on.

Remember, there’s no smooth, fast road to recovery. It’s often a road full of twists, turns and the occasional backtrack. Be patient and don’t be discouraged by temporary setbacks. Ultimately therapy is an investment in your emotional, physical and mental health; an act of courage, not weakness.

Don’t be discouraged if your first experience wasn’t ideal. It’s all about finding the right “fit.” Good luck on your journey!


DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.