What Type of Therapy Is Right for Me & What Kind of Therapist Do I Need?
Often, the biggest step in seeking out therapy is deciding you need it—acknowledging that your mental health could benefit from talking to a professional can take courage. Once you’ve made that decision, the next question becomes, “What type of therapist do I need?” Therapy is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, so finding both the right kind of therapy and the right therapist to address your individual needs is essential for getting the most out of your experience. Understanding some basics about your options can help you find a therapist appropriate for your situation.
Misconceptions about Therapy
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the percentage of adults of all ages who received treatment for their mental health increased from 19.2% in 2019 to 21.6% in 2021. This growth may mostly be a sign of the stressful times we’ve all been through in the past few years, but it also shows that seeking therapy is not a rare phenomenon. The truth is, almost everyone will encounter a time in their life when they could benefit from therapy. Some, however, might be discouraged from pursuing it by common misconceptions.
The first misconception is that therapy is only for those with diagnosed (or suspected) mental health conditions. While therapy is beneficial for people who know they’re struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems, it’s also a powerful tool for dealing with issues that may seem more “ordinary,” such as constantly feeling overwhelmed or stressed out.
Another mistaken view is that going to therapy means you’re weak or unable to solve your own problems. In fact, it takes both strength and wisdom to acknowledge that you could use help and to take action to tackle issues head-on. Finally, therapy is not just talk—it’s a way to help you build self-awareness, cultivate healthier patterns of thought and behavior, and develop coping skills to navigate life’s challenges.
Different Types of Therapy
There are many different types of therapy, and the right one for you depends both on your personality and your reasons for seeking treatment. Again, there’s no one “correct” way to approach therapy, and what might be effective for one person may not work as well for another. Some common types of therapy include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a kind of psychotherapy (talk therapy) based on the idea that patterns of negative thoughts and behaviors are a factor behind psychological conditions, and that learning to change those patterns can help you view and respond to challenging situations more effectively. CBT is structured and goal-oriented, taking place over a limited number of therapy sessions.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is another type of psychotherapy based on the principles of CBT that focuses on how thoughts affect emotions and behaviors. DBT is considered especially effective for those who have trouble managing intense negative emotions. Features of this approach include teaching mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation.
Psychodynamic Therapy: Psychodynamic therapy is in-depth talk therapy based on the principles of psychoanalysis. This therapy is focused on the “why” behind thoughts and actions, helping patients gain insight into how past experiences shape their current behavior and relationships. With this knowledge, patients can work on changing patterns that no longer serve them.
Mindfulness Based Therapy: This type of therapy uses mindfulness strategies to develop the ability to experience thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them. This can help break spiraling patterns of negative thoughts that can lead to anxiety or depression and which interfere with the ability to be fully present in the moment. Therapeutic approaches include Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.
Couples Therapy: Couples therapy is a means for partners to gain a better understanding of their relationship dynamics and work toward interacting and communicating in a healthier way. While couples might go for counseling to address a specific problem or ongoing frustration in their relationship, couples therapy can also be used proactively to preserve healthy bonds when partners are experiencing a period of transition. For instance, counseling before marriage, when becoming parents, or when one partner is going through a significant career change can help keep a relationship strong in the face of increased stress.
How Does Therapy Work?
Therapy is a very individual process, so each person’s experience will vary depending on their treatment goals and circumstances. However, there are some common features you can expect. In your initial appointment, your potential therapist will ask about what brings you to therapy and what you’re hoping to get out of it. They’ll also explain their approach so you can determine if it sounds like the right fit for you. If you have any questions, be sure to ask them. Your therapist will want you to understand how treatment works so you can feel comfortable with the process.
The amount of time you will spend in therapy or the number of sessions you may have will be different depending on the therapeutic approach, your mental health concerns, and other individual factors. Your therapist may also assign “homework”—for example, journaling or exercises to do outside of the office—to support the work you do during your sessions.
How Do I Find a Therapist?
When looking for a therapist, many people rely on word of mouth or the recommendations of friends and family. Sometimes this works, but it may not be successful unless your mental health needs and goals are similar to those of the person making the referral. Online directories of providers can also be difficult to navigate, as they often provide limited information about services and may not give you a good sense of what to expect.
At the SF Stress and Anxiety Center, we know it can be hard to find a therapist to meet your specific needs. That’s why our process starts with a free question-and-answer call with one of our compassionate Care Coordinators to help match you to one of our more than 40 licensed psychologists and counselors. We offer in-person therapy at our various California locations or online sessions via a secure, HIPAA-compliant platform.
Don’t wait to make a positive change. To find the right therapist to help you meet your mental health goals, schedule your free introductory phone consultation with SF Stress today.