Updated: Nov 28, 2022
We covered this topic in an episode of our Podcast, Talk Therapy To Me. If you prefer to listen rather than read, you can do that here:
Today, I wanted to address something a friend of mine asked me about. How do you know if you need therapy? And also how do you know when a therapist is working for you - or not?
Let’s dig into that. There are many things to keep in mind when we address whether or not we would find therapy helpful. It’s important to look at yourself as parts of a whole. Those parts are broken into four sections: physiological, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Taking each of these parts into account can direct you to therapy because it helps you consider the mind-body connection - which is the link between a person's thoughts, feelings, behavior, and physical symptoms.
Let's break down those four sections...
Physiological means having to do with your physical body. Do you have any aches and pains? Do you have tension in your shoulders or back? Perhaps you even have ulcers or other health issues that physically affect you. The body stores trauma and stress, resulting in various physical ailments wreaking havoc on your body. If there’s no way to release it, your body holds onto it.
The mental part of you deals with how you think and behave. It determines your thought process, your problem-solving, your coping skills, and your ability or interest to engage in intellectual pursuits and activities. Are you interested in learning new things? Do you still actively pursue hobbies that fill you up and bring you joy? Are there hobbies you used to enjoy that you no longer do? Are you engaging meaningfully with others - or the community and the world at large?
The emotional part of you deals with how you feel. Think about how well you do or do not understand yourself. Do you need help sorting through your experiences and the emotions that correlate to them? Perhaps there are relationships that have deeply affected you that cause a multitude of emotions to churn like a tornado inside of you. How well are you able to recognize and embody your emotions? Can you acknowledge and accept them for what they are without dismissing or minimizing them? Understanding your emotions and why you respond a certain way to a given situation or person can help you develop coping skills to handle them more effectively.
Then, we have spiritual wellness. This doesn't necessarily mean religion or faith. It’s about the ability to establish peace and harmony in your life. Are you able to reconcile your values and belief system that correlates and connects with your actions? Would it be helpful to explore that with someone if you are wrestling with what you believe and the follow-through?
Is therapy right for you?
After considering the answers to the questions above, use this checklist to determine whether or not therapy may be helpful for you:
Do you feel overwhelmed?
Has your quality of life decreased?
Have your relationships, job, or school been negatively impacted?
Do your emotions feel all over the place?
Do you feel hopeless?
Do you feel anxious to the point where those thoughts and feelings take up a large part of your day?
Are you withdrawn or isolated from others?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, therapy may be helpful for you to explore.
Let’s unpack that. Have you had fights with family that left you reeling? Do you have intrusive thoughts where you constantly check to see if you turned the stove off? Maybe you feel like you have no one to turn to or speak with and you feel like you're on an island by yourself. Therapy can help you explore and expound on those feelings and experiences to help you process them.
So, what kind of therapist should you look for?
Start with a quick google search. If you're dealing with a relationship issue - google “therapists and couples counseling/family counseling”. If you're feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, try “therapist anxiety”.
Look for therapists that are within a reasonable distance. You may want to look at the next town over if you feel like your town is too small.
Check out practices and their websites - see if someone’s photo meets your vibes. You may prefer someone who is older/younger, has certain experience, or fits in a certain category of specialization. If it feels like you wouldn’t vibe, then don’t feel bad about scrolling to look at others. There are a lot of options out there and you want to find what works for you.
Once you've found a therapist...
Now that you’ve got a foot in the door, how do you know if you and your therapist vibe? As I’ve mentioned before, it’s essential to consider how this person makes you feel. You should feel seen, heard, and validated by your therapist.
After having your first session or two, it’s important to think about the following questions:
Did you feel confident that your therapist understood and cared about what you were saying?
Did their insight or guidance resonate with you?
Did you feel like you were being judged?
Did you feel like you were able to relate to them?
Did it feel too clinical?
It’s important to consider all of these elements when you’re looking into therapy or deciding which therapist works for you. Think of it like a job interview - you’re learning about their qualifications and if they are a good fit for you and your needs. If you feel like they aren't a good fit, you can give the front desk a quick call and ask if anyone else has availability. Anxiety can keep you from doing this, but it’s important for you to feel seen and heard, and validated by a therapist. Connection and compassion are what will really help you on this journey to healing and growth.
Caitlin Bloom, LPCA
Caitlin is a Behavioral Health Clinician who enjoys reading, writing, as well as spending time with her husband and cat, Coffeebean, when she’s not counseling others. Caitlin likes helping clients guide themselves into deeper meaning, purpose, and connection for their lives. She focuses on finding resources, techniques, and coping skills on their journey for further fulfillment.
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