The Journey of Therapy 1 (Choosing a Therapist)
Making the decision to start a therapeutic process can be daunting. Usually, when one realizes or decides that you need to get help, things have already become overwhelming and this makes it even more difficult to proceed. The first challenge you may face, is how to choose a therapist. While there is still a great need for psychological services across the country, most practitioners are concentrated around the major city centres. A simple search for “Psychologist Cape Town” yields over 480,000 results – how does one choose a psychologist from so many?
Your first consideration might be location and ease of access. More than likely, there a several psychologists operating private practices in your area. An internet search will quickly reveal a number of these practices. Many psychologists also operate private practices from hospitals and clinics which are easier to access via public transport.
Therapy can be an expensive undertaking, check with a psychologist if they accept Medical Aid payments (most do). Do not forget to check with your medical aid provider what your allowance for mental health services is. This amount is sometimes included with psychiatry consults. You can discuss with your therapist what your resources will allow you to do in terms of length of therapy.
Most private practices will also charge a reduced fee for cash payments. Check with your psychologist if they do so.
Oftentimes clients searching for a therapist, want assurances from others that the person they are going to is capable and will be able to assist them. If you have a family doctor, consider asking them for a referral to a trusted psychologist. Doctors frequently have built up relationships with psychologists that they know their patients have connected well with. If you feel comfortable doing so, ask friends and family if they know of psychologists that they have found helpful in the past. This also brings us to perhaps the most important factor in choosing a therapist…
Having a good rapport between client and therapist can make all the difference in a therapeutic process. Psychologists will usually use the assessment period (the first 1 or 2 sessions) to get a feel for what has brought you to therapy but also to let you get a feel for what they are like. This is also the most difficult factor to define as 3 different clients could all feel very differently about the same therapist! Some may prefer to see a male therapist while others would prefer to see a female. You may want to speak with someone much older than yourself or someone closer to your age. These preferences may help someone feel more comfortable in therapy, but may not be strictly needed.
There may be many other factors to take into account as well, but these points should help with beginning the process of therapy.
Look after yourselves and be kind to yourselves.