If you’re thinking about starting therapy, you may feel excited about the opportunity to work on yourself … but also a bit stressed. The choices can feel overwhelming — deciding what type of therapy you need or who’s going to be the perfect therapist for you. You may not be sure where to start.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
So, let’s take the first step together and navigate the various information that can help make the decision to start therapy simpler.
Know that it’s not a sign of weakness
Sometimes, even admitting you need to start therapy can be the hardest step. This may be because you’re letting certain stigmas against therapy hold you back. For example, maybe you’ve been taught that seeking any sort of counseling is a sign of weakness. Or maybe your instinct is to bottle up difficult emotions instead of letting them out.
If you’re still on the fence about whether or not you need to start therapy, know that each session (no matter how many you need) will be focused on any anxieties, conflicts or mental stressors you’re dealing with. For example, if you’re having a specific fear that’s affecting your day-to-day life, a therapist can help find the root cause of that issue and then gradually give you the tools to work at it.
Find the right type of therapy for you
Therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. From psychotherapy to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychologist Dawn Potter, PsyD, explains how each type uses different approaches and strategies. If you’re just starting out, take time to understand the types that are out there to help you decide which one is right for you.
How to know if you need trauma-informed care
A big topic that gets tackled in therapy sessions is trauma. It’s often the leading cause of a lot of issues, including depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Another aspect of trauma is that it’s a part of you, so it needs to be handled in a delicate way. If you’ve experienced trauma, a trauma-informed therapist can offer you the best care.
How to know if you need to switch
You’ve probably heard of the saying, “breaking up with your therapist.” Well, it doesn’t need to be as daunting as that sounds. In fact, finding a therapist that fits your needs may take some trial and error, and that’s totally normal. If you feel like you might need to make the switch, there are ways to know when it’s time to have “the talk” and find a better option for you.
Couples counseling is also an option
Sometimes, the issues we’re facing can become intertwined with our relationships. According to clinical psychologist Adam Borland, PsyD, marriage counseling and couples counseling are good ways to figure out any emotional issues you and your partner may be facing together. Not only can it make your relationship stronger and healthier, but it can also help with any issues each of you may be having individually.
What if my child needs therapy?
Even parents who seem to have all the answers need some extra advice at times. Pediatric psychologist, Kristen Eastman, PsyD, points out that it’s normal for your child to go through a certain amount of ups and downs as they grow up. But there are also signs that might indicate they may need some counseling as well. This doesn’t mean there’s anything “wrong” or that you’ve done a bad job as a parent. It just means there might be additional tools out there to help them (and you) navigate their world and their emotions.
So, where do I start?
Luckily, there are many ways you can start your search for a therapist. Psychologist Dawn Potter, PsyD, suggests going through a healthcare provider, a referral from a friend or just start by looking around online. Even before you set up your first appointment, you can ask any questions about the therapist beforehand — like whether they’re specialized in the type of care you’re looking for or if they fit your schedule.
Taking steps to start therapy can be intimidating, but allow yourself patience and grace — after all, you’ve made the brave decision to take the first step — and with these tips and a little diligence, you can find the therapist who’s right for you.