Only you can decide if therapy is something you should try. Many people seek therapy after being encouraged to do so by friends or family or feeling like there are things in their life they want to improve. Therapy can help you with many things including coping through a crisis, clarifying complicated personal issues or working through a traumatic event.
Overall, therapy provides you with a space to explore and discuss your feelings. Therapy can help you connect the dots between how you feel now and something you might have experienced in the past.
A therapist can help you work through your emotions or problems and help you develop skills and healthy coping mechanisms that allow you to thrive.
This is intended to be a high-level guide. In practice these terms can overlap. For example, a psychiatrist can be a trained psychotherapist as well. We encourage you to research how these terms are defined and used in your own country as well.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health. Psychiatrists complete full medical training in medical school to become medical doctors before specialising in psychiatry.
They have ‘Dr’ in their title because they are medical doctors so can prescribe medication and assist with management of medications.
A psychologist is someone who has spent many years studying the way people feel, think and behave. Psychologists can use their extensive knowledge to help people understand and manage their feelings, thoughts and behaviours.
They have ‘Dr’ in their name because they have done an PhD in an area of psychology. They are not medical doctors and cannot prescribe or assist with the management of medications.
In some countries there is a clear difference between counsellors and psychotherapists, like in the US and in others the boundaries between the two are less clear.
A psychotherapist is someone who is trained in helping people overcome a range of emotional, social and mental health issues through talk therapies. Like counselling, it is a form of talk therapy, but psychotherapy tends to also go a bit deeper, and can help you develop an understanding of your emotions by looking at your past. For example, psychotherapists might explore your childhood and adolescence with you to see if anything you experienced in those years might be causing you issues now.
Psychotherapists can help you get to the cause and root of your struggles. For this reason psychotherapy tends to be more long term than counselling.
A counsellor uses talk therapy to help clients understand their behaviours/feelings. They may refer to the past but the general goal is to help client’s through what they are experiencing right now.
Counselling is more likely to be ‘short-term’ in comparison to psychotherapy and more likely to focus on your current issues rather than delving too deeply into your past.
Spend some time thinking about what’s brought you to therapy at this stage in your life and what you expect to get out of therapy – this will help you find a therapist that is right for you.
What to expect:
…in your first session:
First sessions can vary with therapists but generally the time is devoted to helping you understand the therapist and their approach, and helping the therapist understand you and what you want to achieve in therapy.
You might find it helpful to ask the therapist questions about their qualifications and experience so you can get a sense of how they respond and whether they’re the right therapist for you.
Remember, it’s important not to feel disheartened if you don’t gel with the first therapist you speak to. Some people find the perfect therapist immediately, and others have to talk to a few before they find the right one.
Successful therapy depends on a strong client therapist fit – this might take a bit of time at first, but it’s worth it in the end.