Need Therapy? Here Are 5 Things To Consider When Looking For A Mental Health Therapist

It is important to look for a therapist who you think will be able to understand you.

Cover image via Freepik

Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, and Telegram for the latest stories and breaking news.

If you are considering therapy — whether to get over a relationship, deal with a traumatic event, adjust to a new phase in life, or improve your overall mental health — finding the right mental health therapist will help you on your journey

But where do you begin? What should you consider when you are looking for a therapist to communicate your life worries to?

We spoke to mental health therapist Lee Kah Seng of Telos Mental Wellness for some answers.

Image via Freepik

Here are five factors to consider when looking for a mental health therapist to help you reach your therapeutic goals:

1. Personality fit

According to Lee, it is important to look for a therapist who you think will be able to understand you in the first place.

"It is vital to have a sense of rapport with the therapist, to feel that you can get along with them, while also feeling as if he/she is honest and genuine towards you," he said.

He said clients who are able to click well and communicate openly with their therapist tend to report more successful therapy outcomes.

"The therapeutic alliance (the quality of the relationship between therapist and client) accounts for about 30% of difference in therapy outcomes!"

"A major red flag is when you find your therapist reacting in ways that make you feel broken, shameful, or that your feelings are invalid."

Image via Freepik

2. Licensing and credentials

There are different types of mental health therapists, namely counsellors, psychologists, and psychiatrists. It is important to distinguish their scope of work and how they may help you differently.

In Malaysia, the terms 'therapists' and 'counsellors' are used interchangeably. But basically, counsellors are trained specifically in talk therapy, and have skills and expertise in supporting and helping clients work through emotional, cognitive, and behavioural difficulties.

Meanwhile, clinical psychologists are specifically trained in giving neurological assessments and to give patients a diagnosis. They are also trained in providing talk therapy. However, they are unable to prescribe medication.

Lastly, psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialise in psychiatry. As such, they are able to diagnose mental health disorders and prescribe medication. Some psychiatrists might offer therapy consultations but as they are trained in the medical model, most typically work with their patients through the use of medication.

3. Specialty and interests

According to Lee, it is also important to look at a therapist's specialty and key interests, such as in their work in dealing with depression, anxiety, grief, self-esteem, or even family therapy, couple's therapy, or career counselling.

There are also therapists who work with only a particular age group, such as children, adolescents, adults, and geriatric.

It would be beneficial to find a therapist who has experience working with the specific issues you are facing.

4. Cost

It goes without saying that therapy can get expensive, so cost is definitely a factor you should consider when looking for a therapist.

Lee suggests considering the cost of at least 10 sessions, as therapy is not a one-off exercise. The American Psychological Association actually recommends 15 to 20 sessions for a client to experience significant change.

Look for centres or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that offer rates that you are comfortable with. Some centres even offer sliding scale rates based on your income.

5. Background

Consider whether it's important for you to work with someone who is similar to you in terms of your age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or even cultural background.

Therapists are trained to be open, supportive, and non-judgemental.

However, it's also helpful to think about whether you'll be comfortable talking to someone with a different background, especially if the issue you'd like to discuss has any roots in it.

When choosing a counsellor, also make sure to check if they're legit

Be sure to check that the therapist is in the registry of:
– The Malaysian Board of Counsellors if they are a counsellor,
– The Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychologists if they are a psychologist,
– The National Specialist Registry if they are a psychiatrist.

Also, if you do not feel like your therapy is "working", or if you are finding it difficult to be comfortable with your therapist, then it would be worth considering switching therapists.

However, Lee suggested seeing a therapist for about two to three sessions first to build some rapport. 

The main message is to always communicate your goals with your therapist so that they are aware of the type of support you're looking for.

Lastly, while you may be rushing for a solution, it's important to know that effective therapy and change takes time!

Seeking professional help is not a form of weakness. If you or anyone you know needs help, here are other resources:

Read more #mentalhealth stories on SAYS:

You may be interested in: