OK, you've decided you want to try therapy.
Where do you start?
What kind of therapy is best for you?
Where do you find a therapist?
Keep reading to learn more …
- When should I see a therapist?
- Types of mental health therapies
- What kind of therapy do I need?
- How to choose an online therapist
- How to find a therapist
- How to find a psychiatrist
- Seeking free mental health services?
When should I see a therapist?
There is rarely a wrong reason to see a counselor, but some reasons a mental health therapist is recommended include:
- You want to make changes in your life, wellbeing and relationships, but are stuck.
- You are in unhealthy or dangerous patterns, including substance abuse and other addictions including overspending, gambling, hoarding, sex, extreme eating or exercise patterns, or being the victim or perpetrator of abuse.
- There is a pattern of negative activity in your relationships, career or school work, including repeated job loss and toxic relationships. A good therapist relationship can help you identify negative behaviors, and build skills to create new, and better experiences.
This is what Jennifer Tomko, LCSW, a therapist in Jupiter, Fla., advises:
“The easiest way to determine if you need help is when you are unable to function in at least one area of your life. These include, social, occupational (including school), or day-to-day functioning.
Symptoms of depression include deep sadness, lethargy, changes in sleep, poor concentration, feeling of failure, and loneliness.
Professional therapy can also help if you are suffering from anxiety, stress, PTSD, trauma, grief, interpersonal and relationship struggles with family, friends, peers, and co-workers. It runs the gamut.
Substance abuse such as using drugs and/or drinking heavily is a sign that you are exhibiting a negative coping mechanism and therapy can help you quit and lead you down a healthier path. Returning to bad habits such as smoking or nail biting could mean you are trying to cover up underlying emotions that talk therapy can help you navigate.”Therapist Jennifer Tomko, licensed clinical social worker
What is individual therapy?
Individual therapy is when a person works with one or more counselors in an attempt to improve their mental health, relationships, quality of life, or other measures of wellbeing.
What are the benefits of individual therapy?
Working one-on-one with a professional allows you to receive their undivided attention throughout each session and personalized care and focused treatment for the duration of your relationship. You also get to set the pace for your conversations and your overall progress. Plus, you have some flexibility with scheduling appointments, based on just your therapist’s and your calendar. And you may be able to develop a stronger connection with your therapist, given the privacy of individual therapy.
Is group or individual therapy better?
Many studies have been done to try and clarify which approach to mental therapy is better, and the results are hotly debated by experts in the field. Some are pro-individual, others are pro-group, and still others say they are equally effective.
You must also consider the more logistical aspects of group vs. individual. Costs for therapy can vary greatly based on the type of therapy, counselor, and your geographic location. But in general, you can expect group therapy to be far less costly.
While individual therapy can cost anywhere from $50 to $250 per session, according to BetterHelp, group therapy is likely to cost about half that, according to American Group Psychotherapy Association. Health insurance plans are required by law to include coverage for mental health, whether for individual or group therapy, though coverage varies by plan. Many community mental health services offer group counseling sessions for free, or affordable prices.
When comparing individual vs group therapy, group therapy can be more challenging since times are fixed, and sessions are typically conducted in-person. Individual therapy, on the other hand, gives you more flexibility with scheduling appointments since it only depends on your counselor’s and your calendar — and can be done more easily via phone, Zoom or other video platforms.
6 types of mental health therapies
There are many theories and approaches to mental health counseling. Here are some of the most commonly used.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a popular approach to treating depression, sleeplessness, family drama, substance abuse, stress, anxiety, relationship problems. Instead of delving deep into your past, CBT focuses on your current life, and works to change your perceptions and behaviors now.
A Boston University study found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in treating mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders, among others.
The basis of Adlerian therapy is that each of us have a strong desire to be part of and connect deeply with a larger community — innate feelings that can be used to propel each of us to greater success. This therapy examines birth order, social factors and your parents’ influence on you. Ultimately, you’ll be encouraged to develop new thoughts on your personal situation.
Adlerian therapy research
Research has supported the use of Adlerian therapy to facilitate positive changes, a University of Boise study showed.
Benefits of Adlerian therapy
Adlerian therapy can help you gain a sense of belonging, and can include play therapy for adults as well as children, a University of Northern Iowa study found.
In art therapy, you’ll create and review pieces of art to explore your emotions, boost self-esteem and become more self-aware. It is ideal for those who want to improve their overall level of function.
Benefits of art therapy
Art therapy can include playing or listening to music, evaluating or viewing visual arts, participating or watching movement-based creative expression, and reading or writing.A Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine study says playing or listening to music, viewing artwork, creating visual art, participating or watching movement-based creative expression, and reading and writing are effective forms of art therapy.
Art therapy research
Art therapy is useful for stress reduction in various age groups as well as alleviating mental health issues, and can help professionals avoid and respond to burnout, according to research from the University of Haifa.
Not all therapy involves looking back to evaluate your childhood. Gestalt therapists believe that people want to find solutions to their own problems. A Gestalt therapist will guide you to understand what's happening in your present life — opposed to what you perceive to be happening based on past experiences.
Gestalt therapy research an benefits
A study out of the University of Florence found that research on the effectiveness of Gestalt therapy is lacking. However, practitioners argue that Gestalt therapy can help you recognize negative thought patterns. What you know, you can change.
Jungian therapy involves exploring your mind using activities such as word association, journaling or dream interpretation. Founder Carl Jung believed that repressed memories and experiences, along with our collective unconscious, impact our emotional health.
Jungian therapy research and benefits
A report out of the Catholic University of Applied Sciences found that Jungian therapy can enable patients to ease clinical symptoms of mental health disorders (and overall mental health challenges) enough to be able to discuss their psychological health objectively.
Benefits of Jungian therapy include relief from everything from depression to addiction.
Also known as Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), this therapy uses mind mapping or art therapy to guide you in coming up with solutions to mental health conditions as well as overall challenges.
Solution-focused therapy research and benefits
A report out of Case Western Reserve University found solution-focusedt herapy requires fewer sessions than other forms of therapy.
What kind of therapy do I need?
In a Vox article, psychologist Juli Fraga makes these recommendations for types of mental health therapy:
If you’re dealing with break-up grief consider meaning-centered therapy.
If you’re dealing with depression, consider accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP), or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.
If you’re dealing with childhood trauma, consider expressive arts therapy or EMDR.
If you’re dealing with anxiety, consider cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychoanalysis.
Psychoeducation is the practice of educating a person with a mental health condition on their challenges, so they can better manage their diagnosis and prognoses. Psychoeducation typically applies to people with diagnosable mental health illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, psychoeducation is can be applied to all kinds of behavioral health. For example, my therapist helped me understand why I could feel so anxious in a romantic relationship by explaining the brain's reaction to real and perceived threats (in my case: fear of being hurt and being abandoned, based on my own past experiences).
Studies have found that psychoeducation is effective in getting patients to be compliant with taking medication, including one study in Germany that found that schizophrenia patients who received education about their condition were more compliant with their medication, and spent fewer days in in-patient care.
Psychoeducation can include a therapist educating a client on their condition, a psychiatrist explaining how medication interacts with the body and brain, education for family members of those afflicted with mental health or behavioral health challenges, as well as classroom information for children with behavioral issues.
Psychoeducation can also include formal classes, psychoeducational groups, online support groups and self-help groups.
How to choose an online therapist
If you’re looking into online therapy, grappling with your personal preferences is the first step. Being confident in your choice is crucial to establish trust and build a positive relationship with a professional counselor.
How do you know what questions to ask?
Finding an online mental health therapist can seem like a daunting task. There are several leading online therapy websites, and literally tens thousands of counselors. Plus, it is a big investment in terms of time, emotion, money and even spirit in terms of sharing your personal history and very intimate feelings and experiences — only to realize that the therapist is not the right fit, and you must start your search all over.
However, in this guide, we will help you ask the right questions before you commit to a therapist, to increase the likelihood of a quality match with someone who can be an important part of your journey for as long as you need them.
First step: Online search.
Think of finding a therapist like dating: You wouldn’t dream of going on a first date without Googling the person’s name or looking them up on Facebook. This same approach can help you pick a therapist.
All the major online therapy sites have a directory of online profiles. Spend some time reviewing those first.
BetterHelp is one of the top online therapy apps, and they have a dynamic directory of all of their counselors.
Note their credentials, style, communication method, pricing, and whether your insurance will help pay for costs. Do you have a preference in terms of age, gender, race when it comes to a therapist? There is no shame in that. A directory is a great way to sort by these and other preferences.
For the best online therapist match, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends you talk to more than one potential therapist. Interviewing potential candidates makes sense, considering the vast array of personalities and varying approaches to treatment options.
While you’re reviewing the practitioner’s website, spend time on reviews left by previous patients. Online therapy reviews can be food for thought, and can provide further insight into your prospective counselor.
Keep in mind that dissatisfied clients are more likely to leave negative comments. Don't judge the therapist solely by the opinion of someone else since each patient has unique needs.
In the case of online therapy, you will also be the client of the platform itself, so make sure the site has solid online reviews.
Also, take time to ask about licensing and look them up to uncover potential infractions or disciplinary actions. A state licensing board like this one in Indiana will have this information readily available.
How to find a therapist
To find a therapist near you, you can ask your physician, friends, or Yelp for a referral. If you health insurance has behavioral health benefits, check your policy for a list of providers covered — including online therapy.
You can also call a local counseling center or mental health clinic for a recommendation. Online therapy sites will also match you with a therapist. BetterHelp allows you to browse their therapist directory, or fill out criteria like gender, religion, sexual orientation, race and specialty focus areas, such as depression, trauma, divorce, family relationships, sexual abuse or eating disorders.
How to find a psychiatrist
Depending on your health insurance, your primary care physician may have to refer you to a specialist like a psychiatrist. Amwell is one online care provider that allows you to connect directly with a psychiatrist.
Otherwise you can find a psychiatrist through a local recommendation, Yelp or other online review site.
Seeking free mental health services?
If you need mental health services and truly cannot afford therapy bills, here are some resources:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's helpline: 800-662-4357.
- Find local free resources via the National Alliance on Mental Health 24/7. Text to 741741.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255 or Live Online Chat
- If you are in crisis, you can call 911 or visit your local emergency room
- Veterans are entitled to free mental health services for a year after separation.
- Call or walk into any VA medical center.
- Call the VA at 877-222-8387
- Learn more about accessing VA mental health services
Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist and author. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker,” her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Emma's Top Single Mom Resources.