Therapy Tips

Providence Psychology’s goal is for you to have a satisfying, productive counseling experience with a qualified professional who can help. Get the most out of therapy with these tips. Also, learn how to choose the right therapist for you.

Enhancing Your Therapy Experience

1. Know that it’s OK and natural to be nervous.

Most people feel vulnerable when they start therapy. It can be difficult to talk about your most intimate thoughts and feelings. Don’t be hard on yourself for feeling uneasy. All of the Providence Psychology therapists understand, and we will do everything we can to make your experience worthwhile.

2. Commit to being honest and forthright.

While it can be difficult to share everything with your therapist, holding back information will only compromise your therapy and inhibit your goals. All of the mental health providers at Providence Psychology operate from a conceptual framework, taking every piece of information into consideration when formulating a diagnosis and treatment. When we don’t have important information, it is impossible for us to provide proper treatment. As hard as it is, be honest about everything. Psychologists are bound by strict rules of confidentiality, and therapy is a safe place to discuss even the most difficult topics.

Please Note: There are exceptions to the rule of confidentiality. Your psychologist will discuss these exceptions before therapy begins.

3. Collaborate with your therapist.

Your therapist will help you understand your situation, make recommendations, and support your own conclusions about the best course of action. It’s up to you to follow through. Typically, we will meet for 45-50 minutes per week, but therapy does not end in session. The work must be carried out by you.

4. Keep a therapy notebook.

One of the best things you can do when you start therapy is to buy a notebook and bring it to every session. This can be used to take notes for future reference, store materials your psychologist gives you, and record your thoughts, feelings, and insights. You will discuss a lot of important things in the course of a session, and remembering all of it can be difficult, especially after an emotionally charged session. Also, many psychologists give homework assignments, worksheets, or other reading materials. Keeping all of this organized will facilitate the therapy process.

5. Have specific goals.

Knowing what you want out of therapy will help you and your clinician develop a treatment plan that meets your needs.

6. Be prepared to do the work.

Therapy requires a major investment of time, emotion, intellectual energy, and finances. There is virtually nothing about it that’s easy. If you’re not at a point in your life where you’re motivated to do this work, your psychologist will have to spend considerable time and effort helping you find that motivation. This is often a necessary part of the process, but being ready for change will greatly reduce the amount of time you need to spend in treatment.

7. Take action.

Good therapy is more than just talking about your problems and recounting the week’s events. It’s about stimulating provocative thought that facilitates change and provides you with guidance and skills to achieve and maintain that change. If you feel as though your therapy is stagnant, it probably is, and you should raise that issue with your clinician.

8. Pay attention to the science.

Psychology is a science, and the practice of psychology should adhere to scientific principles and rigor. In a nutshell, this means that no psychologist should administer any treatment that does not have some sort of scientific evidence for its effectiveness. There are many psychologists who would argue with this statement for a variety of reasons, but this principle is at the heart of the philosophy of what we do at Providence Psychology.

Unfortunately, the practice of psychology is still subject to fad treatments which at best are harmless and ineffective, but at worst do more harm than good. The public needs to be protected from such sham treatments. There is an art and a science to good psychotherapy. The science often gets lost in the art, but at Providence Psychology, we strive to achieve an effective balance to provide the highest quality service possible.

 

Finding the Right Therapist

1. Shop around.

Finding good mental health treatment is hard. There are many choices, all with varying degrees of education and experience, including: clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, clinical nurse practitioners, and licensed therapists. You can start by asking for a referral from:

  • Medical professionals you trust such as your primary care doctor or psychiatrist
  • Friends and family, especially ones in your situation
  • Insurance providers

Or just call around and ask questions to see who might be a good fit. Some therapists are very good at what they do, but many are not. It may take several meetings with various providers to find someone who is suited to meet your needs. Many therapists are very good at what they do, but that doesn’t mean they are a good fit for you.

2. Look for the signs of a good practitioner.

  • Credentials. Do they have a doctoral degree, master’s degree, medical degree? What field, what profession?
  • Experience. How long has the person been in practice? If someone has been successfully doing this work for a long time, it’s generally a good sign. There are very good people who are just starting out, as well as some not so good ones who may have survived over time, so be cautious with this guideline.
  • Referrals. Where does the person get most of their clients? Good referral sources include word-of-mouth, other mental health practitioners, medical doctors, and school systems. Practitioners who rely heavily on advertisement, solicitations, or frequently changing referral sources may not be as reputable.
  • Ask questions. Does the practitioner allow you to ask professional questions about them? Their credentials, background, areas of expertise, theoretical framework? Do they give you specific answers? Are they defensive or vague? Do they openly admit their limitations or indicate specific disorders or populations with whom they will not work? Good clinicians know what they are good at and recognize those limitations.
  • Availability. Good, reputable providers who take insurance are generally busy and have waiting lists. You may want to be cautious of clinicians who take insurance and are “very available.”
  • Approach. Does the clinician operate from a specific theoretical framework? While there are certainly good, broadly trained clinicians, most gravitate to a specific therapy that works well for them or the disorders they typically treat. However, many professionals identify themselves as “eclectic,” which means they will use whatever school of thought will work best in that particular situation. Generally, this is something to be avoided. If you have an anxiety disorder that will respond to cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, you should see someone who specializes in that work and has successfully treated individuals in your similar situation.
  • Clientele. What kind of clients make up the majority of the clinicians practice? If you are suffering from major depression, see someone who treats a lot of those cases.
  • Research. Do your homework. You can conduct online searches of clinicians to verify their license status, look up any complaints made against them, or see if they were ever sanctioned by their professional board for ethical violations. A complaint in itself may not be sufficient reason to avoid a clinician. Unfortunately, mental health practitioners are often the subject of frivolous complaints or lawsuits. However, if there is a sanction by a professional board, this should be treated as a red flag.

3. Find the right fit.

You may be working with the greatest psychologist on the planet, and you may be the most motivated person who ever stepped foot in therapy, but if you are not comfortable with the person sitting across from you, it will be hard to get any really good work done. Personality conflicts happen, and good psychologists will recognize them when they happen and address them in session. You should feel free to do the same. Seek treatment elsewhere If your psychologist:

  • Becomes defensive
  • Ignores or dismisses your discomfort
  • Does not engage you in the problem solving process

Even if you both do all the right things, it still may not work out, and that’s OK. It’s not necessarily a reflection on the psychologist or you, just recognition of the limits of the circumstances. If you decide to part ways, you should ask for help in finding another competent treatment provider.

4. Don’t give up.

Above all, if you feel you’re ready for change, persevere and find someone to support your efforts. It’s your life and you deserve to live it to the fullest.

Other resources also available on our Resources page.