If you live in a metropolitan city like Toronto, finding the right psychotherapist may be a bit of a challenge at first. There are many types of therapies available and, within each type, you'll come across different approaches and philosophies. Things can get a bit confusing. The search doesn't have to be endless. In fact, with a bit of time and effort, you can find the right therapist for you. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Try the following (listed in no particular order):
- the people around you, especially those with professional standing like your family doctor, lawyer, school counsellor, or spiritual advisor; most likely, they've helped others find a psychotherapist;
- the psychoanalysis and psychotherapy training institutes and the teaching hospitals in the city; most will have referral services that can match you up with a clinician who you'll know has the appropriate credentials;
- the internet as more and more clinicians are becomming web-savvy and advertising their services in cyberspace.
Ask about training, supervision, and experience. This goes for all categories of psychotherapists, whether they hold an MD, a PhD, or an altogether different degree, and regardless of the therapy they practice.
Choose a clinician who is qualified and well-trained. The practice of psychotherapy is now regulated in Ontario and restricted to medical doctors, clinical psychologists, social workers, and registered psychotherapists (through the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario--link). Check the public register of whichever college your practitioner should belong.
Find out if a particular clinician has been in therapy or analysis. Responsible training programs require this of their trainees. The reasoning here is that clinicians should have a good sense of their own dynamics, of their strengths and limitations before they can be of use to their patients or clients.
Much as training and qualifications are essential, choosing a psychotherapist involves a certain fit that is very personal. This is a hard one to gage from the initial meetings so do give yourself some time to figure it out.
Obviously, you need to feel comfortable with the person sitting across from you as you tell your story; but there'll be times when things will get tough as you deal with difficult emotions and relationships. Ask yourself the following:
- can you trust this person to help you through these times?
- do you get the sense that she/he will try and understand things with you instead of judge you?
- is this person realistic or are you getting the "eternal bliss in ten easy lessons" sales pitch?