The thing about talk therapists, whether they call themselves counsellors, psychotherapists, coaches or psychologists, is that they're just as unique as you and so each practitioner will offer their own style and approach - which is both fantastic that there are so many options available for you to find your perfect match but it can also feel a bit overwhelming, during a time where you're probably already feeling overwhelmed - who to pick and why, right?
So, first thing first: All talk therapists offer a confidential and safe space to explore your inner world, thoughts, feelings and behaviours and whatever 'problem in living' you're currently dealing with.
Secondly, one of the most important things, for you to get the most out of therapy, isn't necessarily the therapist's techniques and experience but rather how you feel in their company.
Is it easy for you to open up?
Do you feel you can trust the person?
Do you feel comfortable enough to open up despite the discomfort?
If not, that therapist isn't for you.
Third, each therapist will be trained in a specific model and depending on your preferred style of working (which you may not know until you've tried it) it might be worth looking into the specific therapist's style to make sure it works for you. You're also allowed to ask questions about how they work when you meet them for the first time.
Personally, I work within something called the 'pluralistic framework' which is part philosophy, part method.
The philosophy part is a belief that 'no one size fits all' when it comes to talking therapy. You're a unique person and it's my job to try and tailor the session to your needs and wants, as much as I can. You can find more about this method here.
My approach and training mean I can work with a large array of people and issues, but specialise in helping people who feel a bit lost in life and who're unsure what direction to take, those who're struggling with their self-worth, procrastination, perfectionism, imposter syndrome, those dealing with a harsh and negative inner dialogue or those who feel that they've lost a sense of who they are and what their authentic voice sounds like in a world that's busy telling them who to be and how to live, and I love working with creative types who want to make a change to their future, direction and self-beliefs. I also specialise working with neurodivergent people, mainly autistic people (if that applies to you, you might find this programme I’ve created interesting – click here).
**If you're wanting to explore complex trauma or are dealing with a complicated diagnosis like BPD or an eating disorder, you should seek a therapist with specialist trauma training. If you're aware that your issue perhaps falls into this category but feel a bit lost in what to do next, please do get in touch and ask for recommendations/advice.**
Sometimes talk therapy is simply a place to off-load and talk things through while feeling understood and validated. It can be an incredibly cathartic feeling.
Some ask what the difference is between talking to a therapist and a friend. After all, you have an established relationship with a friend. Wouldn't it be easier to open up to them instead of a stranger (as well as cheaper!)?
I cannot recommend highly enough talking to friends about your problems if you have some good friends to do that with. However, friends will have a unique set of skills a talk therapist lack (I've written an article about that here).
Other people go to a therapist to ensure change.
They want to move away from a problem or situation.
It's important to stress, in that scenario, that you cannot overcome a problem simply by talking about it, nor can a therapist fix you or your life for you. You have to do the work yourself, much like when you want to get stronger muscles. You can hire a personal trainer to guide and support you but the trainer cannot give you the muscle gain on your behalf.
You have to be ready to do the work, willing to do the work and able to do the work (I’ve written a longer piece about that here). And by 'work', I mean actively engaging with your challenges, dedicating time to it, committing to the tasks needed for change and prioritise yourself, whether that's carving out more self-care time, saying no to working late, setting better boundaries with your family, making sure you try and change a bad habit and install new better ones and so on.
However, you cannot start changing a thought, feeling or behaviour if you do not understand why you're doing it in the first place. So, part of talk therapy is to help you gain awareness of why you think, feel and behave the way you do to be able to change it.
That's why my motto is: "If you don't change anything, nothing will change".
If you want to change your life, you have to start by changing your habits and creating new and healthier ones for the life you want to make for yourself.
In my many years of working within this field, I've often pondered the answer to the question 'how do you define talk therapy?'.
The problem is, that it means different things to different people, depending on what they're needing at any given time, what 'problem in living' they're dealing with at that moment and what they're wanting moving forward.
Talk therapy is about meeting you where you're at, and not where I think you ought to be.
Now, the first thing I want to address before breaking down the different terms of talk therapy, is that you don't have to have something 'wrong' with you to go talk to a therapist. It's not something reserved for those who are a bit 'crazy'.
This is to be understood in two ways:
Talk therapy can be for anyone interested in personal development and growth. So, even if you just want to take your amazing life and make it even better, talk therapy might help you become clearer on what steps you need to talk to achieve that.
If you're procrastinating on a big project or a lifelong dream, like writing a book, talk therapy can help you find motivation and inspiration while addressing thoughts and feelings that are holding you back (what the coaching world would call 'limiting beliefs').
The other way to understand this, which I talk much more about here, is that even if you feel broken or 'crazy', I am fairly certain you're not! And talking to a therapist might just make you see that you're not.
The hardship of defining talk therapy is also that different talk therapists will answer this differently depending on their training, their personal preferences and their offerings. A psychotherapist will do things a bit differently than a psychologist and a psychiatrist will again offer something completely different and a coach will offer something entirely different. So, it’s important that you know for yourself what you’re seeking and wanting. This might be hard if you haven’t had help before, so you might want to do some online searches to help yourself get that clarity. I might also be able to help via my article about the differences between talk therapists and mental health practitioners (available here), or my article about the different methods offered by talk therapists (you can read that here), what’s needed from you to get the most out of talk therapy (see here) and more about how I, uniquely, work and the kind of people I usually talk to (that’s here), or, indeed, why you’ll thank yourself for booking an appointment at all (see here).
Looking at the Manual of You, what do you know to already work for you? One-to-one support, reading books, attending courses or workshops? Have you had therapy before – what did you like and what didn’t you like? Have you changed something about yourself or your life before? If so, what did you do that worked for you? Why are you even thinking about seeing a talk therapist? What’s going on in your life that you’re wanting support for? Are you ready, willing and able to start this journey?
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, or didn't, or want to add something or have a question, feel free to comment below (but try and be kind about it - I'm a terribly sensitive soul).
Don't forget that this is just my opinion. You don't have to agree. These pieces of writing are just here to make you think and take from it what you like and find helpful and ignore the rest. At the end of the day, it's your life and, therefore, what you consume, what you believe, and what you think and feel is your choice.
Also, this article has been brought to you by a perfectly imperfect, flawsome dyslexic. I hope any potential spelling or grammar mistakes didn't take away from your enjoyment.
Meandering thoughts about life and the meaning of everything, from a know-it-not-all!