As mental health professionals, we are often asked, “How do I go about choosing the right therapist?” This is an important question as a therapist’s effectiveness significantly impacts the quality of one’s therapy journey.
We have put together some tips to guide you through this important milestone in your recovery journey. Here are 5 steps to choosing the right therapist:
Step 1: Type of Therapy Modality
First, decide the type of therapy you wish to go for. Psychodynamic therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are two popular therapy approaches. Art psychotherapy is a form of psychodynamic therapy.
Some key differences between them are:
- Psychodynamic therapy is insight-oriented. The focus is on early life experiences to identify and address the root causes of current difficulties. CBT focuses on the present and identifying practical solutions to current difficulties. Gratitude journaling is an example of a practical solution.
- Psychodynamic therapy centres on the subconscious to effect transformation. CBT focuses on the conscious mind to change how you perceive and structure your experiences.
Step 2: Qualifications and Experience
Once you’ve decided on your preferred modality, list down prospective practitioners and seek out their credentials. At the moment, mental health services are not regulated in Singapore. Hence, it may be difficult to identify legitimate and qualified mental health practitioners.
Nonetheless, here are some guidelines to make your task easier:
- Counsellors should be clinical members of the Singapore Association for Counselling (SAC). This ensures that they have completed a SAC Recognised Programme and have fulfilled at least 600 hours of face-to-face counselling.
- Psychologists should be registered in the Singapore Register of Psychologists. A registered psychologist would have at least a Masters’ degree in applied psychology and completed stringent practicum requirements.
- Art therapists must have at least a Masters’ qualification in Art Therapy. The art therapist should also be a registered member of an art therapy professional body. Such bodies include ANZACATA, BAAT, AATA and ATAS.
Our art therapists at Solace have a MA in Art Therapy from LASALLE College of the Arts and have completed at least 800 hours of supervised clinical hours. They are also registered with either ANZACATA or ATAS.
Step 3: Specialisation
Mental health practitioners tackle a variety of issues, from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia and eating disorders. Each of these requires different approaches. As such, you should ensure that the therapist you are considering has experience with your specific concerns. For example, the Singapore General Hospital Eating Disorders Programme is structured to help people with eating disorders.
If you would like to process trauma you have experienced, our art therapists at Solace Art Psychotherapy may be a good fit. We have extensive experience and are specialised in trauma-informed work.
Some forms of trauma include bullying in school, childhood physical abuse and death of a loved one. We also help improve the quality of life for our clients who have frequent anger outbursts; poor relationships with family members; or struggling with self-esteem issues that may stem from past traumatic experiences. If you are curious to learn more, check out our post on how art therapy can heal trauma.
Step 4: Try it Out!
Once you have shortlisted your therapists, try out 1 or 2 sessions with them.
Attending an actual session allows you to assess the therapy space and see if you feel safe and comfortable enough to share. You should also use these sessions to evaluate a therapist’s soft skills (e.g., demeanour, pace etc) and determine if the therapist is a good fit for you.
Mental health practitioners are also bound by a duty of confidentiality to the client and are required to comply with their respective ethical guidelines and codes of conduct. You should assess the therapist’s practices regarding these as well.
To fully benefit from the therapy sessions, it is important to feel comfortable with the therapy modality and the therapist themselves.
At Solace, we strongly encourage new clients to attend 1 or 2 single sessions with our art psychotherapists before signing a package. We want our clients to commit to a package with us only when they are certain there is a good client-therapy and client-therapist fit.
Step 5: Repeat (if necessary)
We cannot emphasise enough how a good client-therapy and client-therapist fit is essential to the effectiveness of therapy. Hence, if you are not comfortable with the therapist or therapy modality after 1-2 sessions, consider a different type of therapy and repeat steps 2 to 4.
The process of finding a suitable therapist may be daunting and discouraging, but a good client-therapy and client-therapist fit is essential to the effectiveness of therapy.
Lastly, commit to healing and recovery
If you have found a suitable therapy modality and a therapist that’s a good fit, congratulations! All you need to do now is to commit wholeheartedly to the therapy process. This is simple to do yet hard to keep doing! Prevention is better than cure and this applies to your mental health. It is better to deal with issues earlier, instead of letting them fester and grow.
Remember, there are no shortcuts to healing
In our fast-changing world, we want convenience and speed. But that is not how therapy, especially transformative therapy, works. Therapy can help you heal and recover but this process will take time. There are no shortcuts to the process, no magic pills that you can swallow.
Jonathan Shedler, an acclaimed researcher and clinician, states that “psychotherapy is about slowing things down—so we can begin to see and understand the patterns that otherwise happen quickly, automatically, without reflection or awareness.” Therefore, it is important to commit and give the process the time it needs to heal you.
If you would like to know more about what to expect during your first Art Therapy session with us, check out the video below:
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