Making the decision to enter therapy is never easy. But finding a professional that addresses your emotional needs is vital. Hélène Smit, author of Beneath – Exploring the Unconscious in Individuals (Moonshine Media) answers questions and provides tips on deciding whether therapy is right for you and selecting the right therapist for your unique needs.
How do you determine whether you need therapy?
Therapy is like medicine for the mind. Different people will go to doctors at different times, and therapy is like this too. It depends on whether you wish to actively develop yourself and your level of emotional discomfort. Therapy is useful if you want:
• Emotional support
• Greater insight into why you do what you do
• To change a destructive pattern in your life
• To develop more of your potential
• To learn more about healthy relationships
Why is your choice of therapist so important?
Your relationship with your therapist may become one of the most important relationships you have. You have to feel that you can trust the therapist, because it is important that you can be emotionally vulnerable with them. You need to feel that your therapist has integrity and is working with your best interests in mind. Also, a therapist can only take you as far as they have personally developed, so it is important to choose someone who has worked on him or herself.
What are the top five things to consider when selecting a therapist?
1. Make sure you have a referral from someone you trust.
2. Make sure that you can ask all the questions you would like to ask and that the therapist answers them in a way that makes sense to you.
3. Shop around if needed. If you are not comfortable with the first person you meet, keep looking.
4. Check whether you feel safe with the person; in other words, do you feel that he or she is concerned for your wellbeing?
5. Make sure that the professional customises how he or she works to your specific needs. In other words, make sure that the therapist gets to know you.
What are some signs that you need to change therapists?
A deep therapy process may mean that you sometimes do not like your therapist, however, you should feel basically safe in his or her hands. If you start feeling emotionally unsafe and the therapist does not address it, it may be time to consider changing.
If a relationship develops outside of the therapeutic setting, it may be time to change therapists. A professional therapist should not get involved with their clients personally. If the therapist becomes frustrated with you and starts telling you what to do, rather than working with you to find solutions, then it is not psychologically healthy. Beware of any therapy that requires you to buy into a faith, belief system, value set or philosophy that is different from the ones you are comfortable with.
Hélène Smit has been a visiting senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business in the areas of psychological literacy, group dynamics, change management, diversity management and facilitation for 13 years. She is also Programme Director for the National Diploma in Facilitation offered by the South African College of Applied Psychology. Her company, Feather Associates, has been working with many of SA’s leading corporations, educational institutions, non-governmental organisations and local and national government offices since 1992. Read her blog here.