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Inside Therapy: What help am I looking for and how do I find a therapist?

If you have never been to therapy before, it can be so difficult to navigate the process of finding one and starting that journey. Not only are you reaching out for help, something that is both a strength and a vulnerability, you were also never really *taught* what therapy really is. In my time as a therapist, I’ve had more than a minority of clients ask me about prescribing medication for them or wonder if one appointment is all it would take. If you thought your therapist might be able to help you get a prescription for your ADHD, that’s totally okay! Lots of people do, and there are not a lot of resources out there that tell you exactly what to expect when you’re looking.

First, what is the difference between psychiatrists, therapists, counselors and social workers?

This is a GREAT question, and a super important one. You don’t want to spend this time waiting for a psychiatrist when what you really wanted was talk therapy. So, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor that specializes in mental health issues and psychotropic medication. This means that they focus on medical ways to help the brain cope such as anxiety medication or genetic testing. Typically a psychiatrist does not have extensive therapeutic training as they did not go to school for therapy, but for medicine.

A therapist, a counselor, and a social worker, when looking for mental health help, are one and the same. I am a clinical social worker, which means that I have a master’s in Social Work and have spent thousands of hours and years of my life post-grad learning about and practicing individual, couples and group therapy. In this career path you may come across some confusing initials: LCSW, LMSW, LPC, and LMFT, etc. What this means is essentially that all of us are trained in therapeutic healing, and all of us have extensive training in *talking* to people. And, just like medical doctors, we all have this knowledge along with our own specialties.

This leads to another question:

What should I be looking for when trying to find a therapist?

This answer is much more nuanced and based on your own needs. If you have extensive trauma, it’s helpful to find a therapist who specializes in trauma work. Some, like myself, do EMDR therapy, and others do Brainspotting, or Internal Family Systems. If you are looking for a couple’s counselor, there are many approaches that a therapist can take. If there’s cheating involved, make sure to name that in your search. If you’re looking for help with communication or boundaries, a Gottman trained therapist may be helpful.

The most important thing to note is that your therapist should be communicative, open, and trustworthy. When you reach out, they should get back to you within 24-48 hours and be willing to walk you through your concerns and your confusions until you feel like you are making the best decision for you. If you reach out to us at The Mending Space, our intake coordinator will get back to you within 24 hours and provide a free 15-minute consultation that helps you to get what you need to feel okay moving forward. Feel free to reach out to us via phone, email, or through our website.

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