5 Things You Should Know About Therapy to Find the Right Therapist

Posted by: Paula Gonzalez on October 12, 2022 3:55 pm

By: Paula Gonzalez, MCP, CCC, RP

Finding the right therapist is one of the most important factors correlated with “success” in therapy. After all, finding a therapist that makes you feel safe enough to be honest with them and yourself about how you’re doing is exactly what would need to happen if you’d like to make the most of your time and money spent in therapy.

With that said, finding the right therapist can sometimes feel as if you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, which is something that can become incredibly frustrating and defeating. The good news is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. After years of hearing discouraging stories from some of my clients’ previous counselling experiences, it became clear that there is a need for information about therapy so that folks can manage their expectations and learn about their own therapeutic preferences so that they may know what kind of therapist would be the right fit for them.

So, here are 5 things you should know about therapy to find the right therapist:

  1. Therapy is a collaborative process.
    In therapy, it’s important to be clear about your role and your therapist’s role. For instance, your therapist’s job is not to tell you what to do (if they do, this could be a red flag). Instead, their job is to use their education, training, and experience, to help you get there. They may do this by asking questions that may elicit clarity and insight, creating a safe and non-judgmental space for you to express yourself authentically, or by providing you with coping strategies. Your job, on the other hand, is to show up to and to show up in your sessions. This means that you are accountable for not only showing up to your sessions, but to also work up the courage and allow yourself to be honest about how you’re doing, including how you’re feeling about therapy. Your therapist would want to know these things to ensure that you’re actually benefiting from therapy. More on this below.
  2. Honesty is the best policy.
    As mentioned above, ongoing communication in therapy is crucial. A good therapist would want to know how you’re feeling in general, but also about how you’re feeling about therapy itself. They would want to know how the pacing of therapy is feeling for you, and if there is anything about their approach that is or isn’t working for you. Is therapy feeling too overwhelming at the moment? Are we needing to slow it down? Or is therapy feeling too slow-paced? Is the homework feeling too difficult? Are you still feeling motivated to pursue therapy? A therapist will want to know all of the things! They’re not trying to be nosy, but rather want to make sure that you’re actually benefiting from therapy and are getting the most out of it.
  3. You don’t need to be in crisis to seek therapy.
    One of the bigger misconceptions about therapy is that you need to be in crisis to seek help. While that could certainly be a reason to go to therapy, there isn’t a set of eligibility criteria to seek therapy. Many people choose to seek therapy to simply have a space where they can talk to someone who doesn’t know them, so that they can express themselves honestly and without fear of judgment. Others may choose to go to therapy when they’ve encountered a challenging situation and would like additional support, others may go to therapy as a proactive measure to avoid going into crisis, others go to therapy because they’re feeling stable enough to process painful events from the past, and others go simply as a form of mental health maintenance. Everyone can benefit from therapy, and it will always be here for anyone whenever they would like to access it.
  4. Trust the process.
    “Trusting in the process” in therapy means to trust that every single time that you attend a session and do the work, progress is being made. It also means that progress may not be something that one can see or feel in the moment, but that with consistency, patience, and trust in yourself and your therapist, it will become clearer. If you’re someone who is results-driven, it could be beneficial to think about what progress would look like for you and to communicate this with your therapist.
  5. In-person or online therapy.
    This is very important to think about. Since the pandemic, many therapists have moved to online therapy either exclusively or in addition to providing in-person sessions. A reason for this is the accessibility that online therapy can provide, considering that you have access to a device, stable internet connection, and privacy, that is. If you are someone who has access to these, perhaps something else to think about would be whether you would have the time and means to commute to your therapist’s office. Either way, you’ve got options. You can choose whatever would feel best for you.

Bonus tip: You’ve got this!
Exploring and processing uncomfortable feelings doesn’t mean that these feelings will never leave. I often encourage my clients to think of therapy as “growing pains”, in that while it may feel uncomfortable and scary to allow yourself to feel your feelings while in session, this is what will ultimately help you understand them (and therefore yourself and your needs) better. This is where healing and growth begins. Growth can be painful, but it is growth, nonetheless.

Stay tuned for more tips on finding the right therapist for you.

Paula Gonzalez, MCP, CCC, RP, is the founder of Infinite Horizons Psychotherapy (www.infinitehorizonspsychotherapy.com). She specializes in empowering young adults experiencing high levels of anxiety through psycho-education and trauma-informed CBT.

*The views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Playing the “Long” Game

Posted by: Derek Collins on July 26, 2019 3:29 pm

At Vermilion Outreach School, we become invested in our work. The result is that we want to see immediate change and growth in our students. The reality is that teaching and counselling are what I call a “long game”. I have a dedicated staff trained to assist students returning to high school; students attending our alternative school often face personal issues and past trauma. We have found that because students have not experienced success at school, there tends to be a reluctance to talk and work with us.

One particular student spent most of her first year virtually silent. Fortunately, she connected with one of the school coaches. During their conversations, the young woman revealed her anxious thoughts. It was clear to the coach that this student needed to connect with a community counsellor with proper resources and training to help her move forward. The coach offered the young girl the opportunity for that connection, however, the student remained uncertain and provided no definite answer.

It was not until nine months later that this individual approached the school coach and said she was ready to see a counsellor. It is no surprise that the staff member was full of excitement and energy at a staff-planning meeting. We needed to connect her right away, and we needed to talk to her mother as soon as possible in order to gain for permission for a referral to our mental health professional. The excitement was infectious and soon everyone on the team took on a task.

Days passed quickly. Mom said she was willing to sign papers but they were routinely forgotten or misplaced. My staff grew more concerned that the student herself was falling into a “silent mode” again. Staff excitement turned to concern and then worry.

This was a time for us to come to a realization we knew, but often forget. Change is not something that comes quickly. Often change is a long process; this is why we have come to label counselling as the “long game”. It is unfortunate that many of our students are not with us for long. A significant number enroll in school and withdraw during the year for many reasons. Sometimes, we are fortunate and honored to see them grow and graduate. For others, change takes many more years and they leave school and the community. We rarely find out what happens with those students. As for our young student, she eventually met with our community counsellor and made plans for more meetings over the summer. We all look forward to hearing more from her when school reopens in September.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

School Counsellor in an Outreach School

Posted by: Derek Collins on March 4, 2019 10:57 am

My impression of school counselling has certainly evolved. It did not have a great first impression. For the first half of my career I worked in a rural K to 12 school. School counsellors were mythical creatures similar to teacher librarians and lab technicians. I saw “school counselling” as something that was done by the vice-principal in addition to his other tasks. He “counselled” the students on which courses to put in their schedules in order to graduate. Meeting the entrance requirements of a post-secondary program was a wonderful bonus.

My understanding grew when I became the vice-principal. I found a copy of the Alberta Education publication of “Building a Comprehensive School Guidance and Counselling Program” released in 1995. On page 35, it lists the three key issues facing school counsellors: promoting academic growth skills, encouraging positive student transitions, and developing positive interpersonal relationships. As a new school administrator, I tried to help students plan their academic course loads. I worked to help students develop better interpersonal skills when they were sent to me for disciplinary actions.

A side effect of disciplining students that I began to realize is that every one of them had a back-story. I began to hear the terms such as “anxiety,” “depression,” “anger issues” and “stress.” While I was initially overwhelmed, I was intrigued about this vast field of counselling. I realized I was allowed into a privileged place to help guide these students to find their strengths. At that point came the wonderful opportunity I still get to work in today. I became the principal at Vermilion Outreach School. Outreach schools are alternative schools set up to “meet the needs of students who either cannot or will not pursue their education in traditional high schools” (from the Outreach Program Handbook, 2009, Alberta Education, pg. 1). Many people describe it as a school for “those” kids with addictions, criminal records or violent pasts.

Certainly, every school has a tremendous variety of individuals each needing different types and amounts of support. Working in an alternative school setting has provided a wonderful place to learn more about mental health and supporting youth. I hope to explore various aspects of school counselling and the field itself from this viewpoint. There is a strong need to advocate for trained school counsellors. Hopefully, I can hear from others about their experiences.

Derek Collins




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Selective Mutism

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on January 12, 2016 1:25 pm

I have a new student that I am working with who has selective mutism (SM). She is a very bright girl, lots of talent but does not speak in school. I have only just started to get mutismto know her a little and I sense this is going to be a long journey for her. At present, her sister and her friend both speak for her at school. This dependency started long ago and was not discouraged in any way. As a result she is now in grade 8 and says absolutely nothing in school.

The Anxiety BC website suggests that SM is maintained through a process of negative reinforcement. It is a cycle which looks like this: I am asked a question > I am too afraid to answer > the person with me gets anxious and answers for me > we both feel better and anxiety decreases. This interaction continues each time and the person with SM no longer needs to speak for themselves.

So how do you help someone overcome an obstacle such as SM when a dependency has been allowed to grow for so long? Do I suggest that we let her be since she is actually doing very well in school? She has friends, she does her work, she has great marks, she just does not speak. Teachers do not push her to speak and in fact most don’t try to get her to talk at all. Is this good or should I be requesting that they begin with one word answers, or speaking to a classmate first? I have not had this issue before and frankly I am a bit uncertain of what it is I can do to support her. All those supports and ideas that could have helped at a young age seem to be too late now. How do you start speaking in school when you have not done so for 9 years and how do I as the guidance counsellor proceed with this? My plan at this point is to do more research on the topic and possibly use pictures as cues for her. I look forward to learning more about SM and I am sure another student will come along, and when they do, I will be ready, or at least more prepared.

Anxiety BC has a great video on how to work with students with SM. The website is http://www.anxietybc.com/parenting/selective-mutism.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

The Medium Is The Message

Posted by: Sherry Law on January 6, 2016 3:02 pm

Marshall_McLuhanYou may be familiar with the title of this blog post as it comes from the works of Marshall McLuhan, a prominent Canadian philosopher. He specialized in the area of communications theory at the University of Toronto and spoke at length about media and its effect on society, locally and globally. His claim that the medium is the message describes how the medium by which information is transmitted ultimately reorganizes human behaviour. The idea emerged during the transition of mass media transmission from radio to television, but applies to all other mediums such as printed words, telephones, texting, movies, and the internet. Indeed, there are more mediums from which to transmit information and communications than McLuhan could have imagined as he died in 1980. His ideas hold more weight today than ever.

To expand on the concept, the advent of the printing press allowed for literacy to emerge as a normative experience. Literacy changed the way the individual received information about the world. Before the printing press, individuals derived their understanding of events and life experiences through others by oral tradition, or sermon. The printing press provided a choice to disband from the community into individual contemplation. As literacy became standardized, individuals were able to question the information received through oral tradition and extend their relationship with history and the imagined future. Instead of relying on institution and the wealthy to be the sole inspiration of our human experience, thoughts, creativity, historical perspective, and in essence the human narrative was becoming democratized. Individuals were able to construct their own plays, journals, poetry, fictions, research, and with each published work, develop new industry and physical structures as testaments of the effects of the new medium: the printed word. In the same way, the internet has shifted humans in how we communicate with one another. A global culture has begun to emerge through the medium of the internet, and a collective consciousness extends our relationship to “the other”. Our social lives are now intimately connected to screened devices, giving humans the choice to connect to others through electronics rather than having to share physical space, therefore retribalizing by democratizing the social experience in a global arena.

In my blogging history, I have written about the phenomenon of presence, a state generated through virtual reality (VR) whereby the audience’s sensory experience has been transported to a virtual space. This new medium, VR, in conjunction with the internet, will and has already begun changing how humans organize. Social media has become a vessel of unprecedented influence in many aspects of life, from changing our eating habits, our day to day routines, to providing a global stage for outrage and political mobilization. Once these elements merge with a more globalized physiological experience through the medium of VR, the change in our social fabric will be dramatic.

As psychotherapists, it is critical to consider our clients and ourselves within the context of the larger scheme. After all, what is empathy without the recognition of the individual within their lived experience?




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Counselling in Private Practice and Using Social Media

Posted by: Shelley Skelton on November 3, 2015 12:17 pm

socialmediablogpostAre you thinking about opening a private practice sometime down the road? Are you wondering about what you can be doing in advance? If so, I have a great suggestion for you. Let me back up and tell you about how I arrived at this great idea.

I had a timeline to open my private practice and there were many things that I put on hold until everything was in place, such as designing a website and getting business cards. Those two choices served me well, but I missed out on some preparatory work that would have sped up my process. Once I had everything in place and opened my practice, I began catching on to ways in which I can bring more people to my website. Now let me say that many of you may already know about what I am talking about, but for those of you like me who are not as online savvy, this information may sound new.

One way to draw people to your website is by having a strong online presence in social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. On Twitter, you can build a following of people by posting ideas, reposting other people’s tweets, and responding to others’ ideas. This following can become very useful for two reasons. The first is that from time to time, you can post about a blog that you have written on your website and you can direct people to read more. The second reason is that the more you connect your website to other links online, the more people visit your site and then your ranking in a search engine will increase. By that I mean when people search for counselling in your city, your website is closer to the top of the list. This is referred to as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and this takes TIME.

No doubt you see where I am going with this … before you even get your private practice opened, if you invest some time in building your online presence in social media, you will be better equipped to direct people to your website when you are open for business.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

You can’t understand me because you don’t know where I am coming from

Posted by: Priya Senroy on September 29, 2015 9:54 am

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As part of annual refresher training courses, I had the opportunity to attend a cultural competency based workshop and the main takeaway was that you don’t need to understand every cultural and ethnic background; you need an open mind and understanding of the impacts of social determinants of health and cultural/ethnic/religious aspects that influence clients’ access to services. This attitude encourages clients to self-identify issues and concerns and determine what types of supports are needed. Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Insights and Take-Aways From The Polyvagal Theory for Trauma Clients

Posted by: Andrea Cashman on September 25, 2015 8:49 am

Polyvagal-Anatomy-Diagram

I recently attended Stephen Porgues workshop in Ottawa called Social Connectedness as a Biological Imperative: Understanding Trauma through the eyes of Polyvagal Theory. If anyone is interested in pursuing a specialization in trauma or expanding their trauma learning repertoire, I highly recommend attending a workshop with Stephen Porgues. He is a great speaker that can break down the science of Polyvagal Theory so that you can apply this knowledge to helping your trauma clients. It was a very informative and even inspiring workshop to attend. I cannot say all workshops in the past have given me more fuel for the passionate work that I feel I am doing. I thought I would share some insights and learning points that I took away from this workshop. By all means, it would be wise to look into Polyvagal Theory in its entirety to full understand its scope and application for treatment. I will not be going into it in full as that would take up a lot of blog space and it is not the purpose I intend on in my blog. I recommend either attending a workshop or purchasing Stephen Porgues book on Polyvagal Theory.

First of all, Polyvagal Theory specifies two functionally distinct brances of the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve, that serve different evolutionary stress in mammals, including us humans. The less evolved vagus nerve branch serves as a more primitive branch that illicits immobilization behaviors (ie feigning death) whereas the more evolved vagus branch is linked to social communication and self soothing behaviors (wikipedia). You can check out YouTube for more explanations on Polyvagal Theory – here’s another brief definition in relation to trauma https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RKC3Ga6shs Polyvagal Theory claims that the nervous system employs a hierarchy of strategies to both regulate itself and to keep us safe in the face of danger. In fact, it’s all about staying safe. Our highest Strategy involves social engagement which is regulated by the myelinated vagus nerve. Our next strategy is fight or flight, regulated by the sympathetic nervous system when social engagement is not an option. Our last option is to freeze, to immobilize when fight/flight is not an option in the face of trauma(Garland, 2013). Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Helping Clients See Past Their Diagnosis:

Posted by: Andrea Cashman on September 8, 2015 9:01 am

As psychotherapists, we use diagnoses to categorize mental illness to assist us in developing and implementing treatment plans based on current up-to-date research. A diagnosis serves as a guiding tool for treatment purposes. It is imperative for us psychotherapists to see our clients for who they are – genuine and unique human beings struggling to stay afloat in the midst of their personal storms. Clients come in struggling with issues pertaining to their mental illness with impacted relationships and consequently the burden of stigma that many endure with their diagnosis. It is helpful to unpack stigma to help you and your client understand it fully. The World Health Organization in 2001 also recognized that it is the largest barrier to treatment engagement.

Jones and colleagues outlined stigma, in it’s full scope, to have 6 dimensions that include:

  1. Peril – Otherwise known as dangerousness. Clients can be perceived as frightening, unpredictable and strange.
  2. Conceal-ability – The visibility of a mental illness which parallels with controllability. Mental illnesses that are harder to conceal are more stigmatized.
  3. Course – How likely the person is to recover and/or benefit from treatment
  4. Disruptiveness – Measures how much a mental illness effects relationships or success in society. If the mental illness is seen as less disruptive, more stable,       it is less stigmatized.
  5. Origin – Mental illness can be either biological or genetic in origin.
  6. Aesthetics – Or the displeasing nature of mental illness in its social cues and perceived behaviours that fall out of the norm.

Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Starting Anew

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on September 4, 2015 12:15 pm

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I have very recently began a new position as a guidance counsellor in three schools, all of which have never had a guidance counsellor before. Although all schools are extremely grateful to have me, there are still some challenges surrounding the creation of a brand new position. Where are they going to locate me, will there be a private space, private phone line, filing cabinet to store confidential files, a space that is suitable for counselling? How will staff, parents and students react to this new role? Some of this is out of my control and I must live with that. However, there is still a lot I can do to make this an easier transition for everyone.

At this point in the game I am simply trying to allow students and staff to see me in the school. I am walking around before school, talking to students, going into the staff room to meet teachers. Overall, I want them to know that I am here. Now is not the time to come into their classrooms and start pulling out students. They have only been back to class for two days and I am unfamiliar to everyone. I feel that staff must first get to know me and what it is I do, before they will be willing to send their students to see me. I think that is reasonable. I feel it will be a while before they are comfortable enough to send students my way, and that is OK. Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA