How to Find the Right Therapist

Psychologist, Psychological Associate, Psychotherapist,  Psychological Counselor, Psychosocial Therapist, Marital Therapist, Couples Counselor, Social Worker, Psychological Healer, Psychiatrist, Spiritual Counselor, Holistic Energy Therapist…

…understanding the vast differences in training and the regulations that protect you from unethical and/or  ineffective psychological treatments is the first step after deciding to seek help when you experience emotional distress.

Regulated versus Unregulated Psychotherapists

Members of the College of Psychologists are regulated professionals and are the only persons authorized to practice psychology in the province. Psychologists and Psychological Associates are members of the College of Psychologists.

The College of Psychologists of Ontario is the governing body for Psychologists and Psychological Associates in Ontario. The College is not a university, school or community college; its mandate is to protect your interests by monitoring and regulating the practice of psychology.

When you access the services of a registered psychologist, you can rest assured that he or she has been trained according to universal standards of clinical and ethical practice. Regulated professionals are required by law to deliver professional services competently and ethically. They are accountable to the public, through their professional regulatory body, for their professional behaviour and activities.  As members of the College of Psychologists of Ontario, Psychologists and Psychological Associates must meet rigorous professional entry requirements, adhere to prescribed standards, guidelines and ethical principles and participate in quality assurance activities to continually update and improve their knowledge and skill.

In contrast, the College has no authority over unregulated service providers.  A college is a regulatory body with the legal authority to set minimum levels of education, training and competence or to establish and monitor professional and ethical standards of conduct.  There is no professional regulatory body responsible to protect your interests and hold unregulated providers accountable for the services you receive.

The Nature of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is not easily described in general statements. It varies depending on the personalities of the psychologist and patient, and the particular problems you bring forward. There are many different methods and approaches to problems that you hope to address.

Therapy involves a large commitment of time, money, and energy, so you should be very careful about the therapist you select.  Of course, you need to be comfortable with the practitioner;  your personality must be compatible with that of the therapist.  You also have to be comfortable with the approach and the clinical skills of the clinician. These skills are derived from his or her training and theoretical orientation.

Theoretical orientation

There are many theoretical orientations.  At the risk of oversimplification, here are some guidelines from the psychology today website:

If you believe there is an unconscious motivation for your behavior, you might want to go to a psychodynamic therapist.

If you want to change your thoughts and you think doing that will change your life and you don’t want to focus on your unconscious—then you might want a cognitive therapist.

If you don’t ever want to talk about mom and dad and you only want the here and now then maybe narrative, behavioral, or solution-oriented therapies are something to consider.

If you want to work on your family and not on just you then maybe family-oriented system therapists. Let me say again that was an enormous oversimplification.

If you still have no idea at all about what orientation you might want, you can contact the therapist  that you are considering and ask them to tell you about their orientation. If they say “I am an existentialist” and leave it at that, then have them explain what that means and how you would experience that orientation in the work. Keep calling until you find someone whose style of working resonates with you.

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