A Guide For Finding A Therapist

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A rising awareness of mental health issues and the need for therapy has led to an increased demand for therapists in the country. We reached out to Sophia Anjum – a certified meditation teacher, Reiki Master and energy healer, currently training from CPCAB (UK) as an integrative counsellor – to discuss the process of finding a therapist. Here is all the advice you need:

Difference Between Counselling And Therapy

Counselling is all about finding solutions to individual mental health problems, including anxiety, relationship issues, self-esteem, among many others. It guides you through accepting and locating the solutions for your struggles, under the advice of a certified professional. This is a relatively shorter process.

Therapy, according to WebMD, takes a broader approach and aims to identify patterns in behaviour rather than focusing on a single problem. Since this is a long-term process, it helps you find solutions that could help regulate lifestyle choices and relations.

What Is The Difference Between A Counsellor, Therapist, Psychotherapist, Psychologist And Psychiatrist?

According to The Counseling Directory and WebMD, while all of them aim to prevent and treat mental and psychical health issues, the main difference is their level of training. For example, a psychiatrist will classify as a medical doctor and will therefore be able to write prescriptions for medicines related to your issues. However, other categories like psychologists or therapists will have a Doctoral or Master’s degree and will not be able to prescribe you medicines. Therefore, who you choose to consult regarding issues depends on your need for medication or prescriptions.

When Do You Need To See A Professional?

Suppose you’ve been struggling with a mental health issue for a long time, but all other alternatives, such as talking to a friend, disconnecting from media, or reading self-help books, have failed to relieve you of your problems. In that case, you should seek professional help. As a rule, if feelings and emotions are bottled up for too long, they can overflow and show up in other forms like sleep deprivation or chronic anxiety. Therefore, to avoid facing medical issues which can impact your relations or mood, it is highly recommended that you find the right therapist who can help you through what you’re feeling. Some experts claim that everyone should go for therapy regardless of whether there is an immediate need or not – it helps you recognise patterns within your behaviour and improve not only yourself, but your relationships with other people. 

The Factors To Consider When Finding A Therapist

According to Sophia, there are some essential things you might want to look for in a therapist.

Specialisation

As with any other health professional, specialisation is important. For example, you cannot expect an ENT specialist to give you a cure for gastritis. The same extends to seeking a therapist; it is important to look at the credentials of the professional to make sure they’re certified. Sophia mentions that a common mistake people in Pakistan make is that they group psychology majors and therapists in the same category. ‘People need to realise that a psychology major is to a therapist/counsellor what a biology major is to a doctor. Merely knowing the anatomy does not give you the tools to diagnose or treat a disorder.’ This issue was even brought to the government’s notice in May 2021 when the National Assembly passed a bill to regulate licensed practitioners, ensuring that a layman cannot pass as a therapist without certification. 

So the next time you’re looking for a therapist, make sure you know what their credentials are.

Nature Of Issues

According to Sophia, this plays a vital role in determining which therapist to consult. Some professionals deal solely with families and relationships, while others may hold expertise in anxiety or eating disorders. She mentions that it is imperative to check which issues the therapists engage with before consulting with them. Most therapists discuss these things before therapy begins

Other Important Factors

Many therapists deal with specific age groups, for example, adolescents or married adults. This should factor into your decision of who to consult, given the age group you belong to. In addition, most therapists now hold both virtual and in-person consultations, so the city or location you live in, as well as your mode of communication, can help you decide who to consult.

Cost also plays a vital role, especially since the price of a session can range from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 6000, or possibly even more. Therefore, you should evaluate all options carefully before choosing the right therapist. Finally, Sophia mentions that the most critical thing that ties all these together is your level of comfort and privacy; you should always go to a safe space where you feel comfortable. 

Things To Keep In Mind Before You Start Therapy:

There are a few important things to be mindful of while starting the process of therapy. 

  1. Be Patient – Therapy is hard, and there’s no quick fix. Building a therapeutic relationship with your therapist can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months, so come into therapy keeping that in mind. Don’t discontinue if you don’t feel like you’re “making improvement” after the first couple of sessions. It’s a long and tedious process.
  2. Remember To Persevere – In therapy, progress is not always linear. Depending on the nature of the issue, therapy might mean reliving past events and working through trauma, negative emotions, or distressing thoughts. It may get difficult for people to go through all that again, causing them to regress. The trick here is to persist for as long as one can, and things will get better.
  3. Your Comfort Comes First – Mental health professionals use different therapeutic approaches or a combination of various techniques in therapy, and regardless of their approach, all of them are trained to help you without any judgment. But if you don’t feel comfortable with your therapist or feel their particular approach isn’t working for you, you should seek another therapist. Don’t be afraid to push back if something doesn’t feel right to you, and if something really doesn’t feel right, you’re under no obligation to continue seeing someone. It’s okay to switch therapists or therapy types if one isn’t working for you.

Helpful Resources

These are a few resources that might help you during your process of finding the right therapist.

  1. The Counseling Directory  This is a great website to look up if you’re questioning your decision to seek help. Their extensive therapist directory can make your search for a therapist much more manageable, especially given the city-based information and details regarding each therapist’s expertise.
  2. Zaaviyah – Zaaviyah is a female-led initiative of Sana Wasiq, Amna Waqar Chaudhry, and Sarah Riaz. It focuses on advocating for better mental health awareness through its counselling programs and awareness workshops. In addition, Zaaviyah focuses on researching therapy in the context of Pakistan’s cultural framework and aims to make it more accessible for all age groups. 
  3. My Restful Mind – This is a brilliant initiative by Hassan Moeen catered primarily to students. It enables them to take a stress test and survey to get matched with the right therapist based on their needs. Most students today face intense academic pressure, and this can prove to be the perfect outlet for all that stress.
  4. Taskeen – Taskeen has an accommodating user interface that enables people who can’t read English to easily navigate in Urdu. Its phone-in mental health helpline and public awareness campaigns will make it an invaluable resource for all those looking for professional help. 
  5. Relive Now – Relive Now specialises in virtual therapy, which is affordable and accessible for everyone. It lists all the experience and qualifications of its therapists and makes it easier for you to choose a therapist who you think is best suited to your needs.
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