Taking care of your mental health and finding a skilled and approachable therapist in your home town, (such as here in Kingston, Ontario, our own local community), can be a super key strategy for your wellness and self-care. We've been hearing and seeing more and more people seeking out mental health services lately. Goodness knows, with everything that has been going on in the world, and how challenging achieving work-life balance can be, even in the BEST of times, this is a smart move.
As a psychologist, I have to admit that I'm quite biased on this topic. I think having a therapist in your life is one of the best things you can do for yourself. I value the gains I regularly make in my own personal therapy efforts, and I have both personally and professionally witnessed the transformative power of psychotherapy when working on my FOOBS (Family-Of-Origin-Bull-Sh*t); however, if you have not yet had a great counsellor in your life, how to get started finding one can feel unclear and confusing.
I want to help you find great therapy in Kingston, Ontario!
These days there are a lot of options to choose from when window shopping for a counsellor. You want support with how you're dealing with your life, stresses, and goals.
It can feel especially difficult for a first-timer to determine just what kind of help you may need, and get clear on which people are the right people for the job. I'm here to help. I've compiled a list of things to consider when you're exploring your own treatment needs for emotional well-being, help with anxiety, and recovery from depression or trauma.
Consider these points when looking for your psychotherapist, counsellor, or psychologist:
Get clear about what goals you have for therapy;
Enter into the process with realistic expectations;
Determine your budget and get clear about your financials; and,
Explore local resources that match your goals and budget.
I'll go through each item one by one and give you some additional ideas so that you can find the best therapist for you in our community of Kingston and the Thousand Islands.
What IS it that you want to get out of psychotherapy?
When people call our office for an appointment we ask them questions to help determine if we are a good fit for them. It is helpful for you to think about what you are looking for, or what goals you might want to achieve when talking to a counsellor. Try to get specific, if you can. For example, stating, "I just want to feel better" is a decent start, but it can be hard to determine what type of therapist you want from that particular goal, alone. See if you can get more specific. Examples include:
I would like to reduce my anxiety.
I want more motivation for self-care activities.
I want to stop losing my cool when I am parenting.
I want to be able to relax and have fun at the end of the day.
I want to feel happiness again, and stop crying all the time.
Having an idea of what to expect
It is also worth considering what is a realistic goal, and what usual timelines for results can be. Therapy works very well, and, it takes some time. You and your therapist will review relevant key points in your personal and emotional history, develop a working relationship that feels comfortable for you to put your trust in, and work to replace unhelpful ideas and strategies with more helpful ones. Our brains aren't just computers that need software upgrades (unfortunately - wouldn't that be nice?). It is more of a discovery process that takes time for the changes in ideas and approach to really result in lasting changes to your mood and behaviours. Research has consistently suggested that on average, people begin to notice a change in their moods within 6 to 8 sessions. This is pretty typical of what we see at Limestone Clinic, too - it takes a while before old patterns change enough that you can say, "Hey, this is working - I am really starting to feel differently now!"
So then, just another common sense idea here - you need to keep in mind that the more longstanding or severe the emotional problem, the greater number of sessions will be required to get to a point of emotional balance. Psychotherapy has what we call a "dose-response" effect, that is just as true in Kingston Ontario, as it is in Hong Kong, as it is in Antarctica. Generally, the more "doses" of therapy you receive, the better you will feel. Similar to if you have a vitamin deficiency, you'll be on the right track if you start to take the right vitamins, but you'll likely need several doses before you really feel differently and better again.
So in summary, if your problem has only been recent, and is more mild in nature, you can expect the therapy to take less time. For example, if you have a serious depression that has been bothering you for the last ten years, your treatment is likely to span several months. But, if you experienced a sexual assault a couple of weeks ago, and you have no history of other similarly meaningful types of experiences or events in your past, your treatment is likely to be briefer and more straight to the point.
What are the fees, and how much do you have to spend?
Most available therapists you'll find in Kingston and the Thousand Islands and surrounding regions are going to be private therapists who are not affiliated with a hospital or community-funded agency. While we have some health care services included in our OHIP benefits, most of these services are heavily booked out and they can be difficult to access. Mental health care is a bit of a tricky one in Kingston and in Ontario, overall, as there are not nearly enough medical resources to meet the needs of our communities' mental health care requirements. This is not to say that OHIP-funded treatment options do not exist, but, if you have the means to pay for therapy yourself, odds are that you will get to see that counsellor a lot sooner.
If you do not have the means to pay privately for therapy, or any health care benefits through your employer or another family member's extended health care benefits, your best bet is to connect with your Kingston-based family doctor for a referral to a funded program that does not charge a fee for mental health services. This may be a team member within your family doctor's Family Health Team, it may be a referral to a local psychiatrist for an initial diagnosis and recommended treatment plan, or it may be a referral to one of our local hospital-based clinics. There is also the option to connect with your student health services, if you are a Kingston college or university student, or to proceed to one of the local walk-in clinics that will help to facilitate referrals for psychotherapy services if you do not have a family doctor, or if you are not from Kingston and can't get to your doctor's office.
If you have health care benefits, do yourself a big favour and call the plan administrator to learn about the terms of the benefits' coverage before you get started. In this case, a little information goes a long way to help you in your planning. Some extended benefits plans cover psychologists, some cover psychologists and registered psychotherapists, and some cover all of psychologists, psychotherapists, and social workers. Others have no mental health-specific funding, but may have some discretionary funds you can use for your therapy. Also, some plans will require a prescription from your family doctor for you to be eligible for reimbursement, and others do not have this requirement. Some plans cover 80%, 90% or 100% of the fees, and others have different arrangements, such as a fixed dollar amount that is covered per session. It is important for you to know these details because this will help you determine which therapist is a good fit for you. The best fit for therapy is therapy that you can afford long enough to establish a good relationship, get to know your counsellor well, and so that you have the time you need to "dig in" and do the work that will be transformative in the end (otherwise, what's the point?). One or two sessions may not be sufficient, depending upon the scope of your problems and how close (or far) you may be from your therapy goals at the start. Knowing your budget will naturally narrow your therapist options into the right budgetary range.
Explore local resources that match your goals and budget
Now that you have your goals, your expectations, and your budget sorted, if you are still in the market for private psychotherapy, you'll be in a better position to refer to various listings and determine who would REALLY be a good match for you.
A free therapy consultation in Kingston
As you explore the options available through a Kingston-based Google search, or one of the many paid therapy resource websites that offer listings of psychologists, psychotherapists, and counsellors, you may want to ask for a free consultation to help you get a good "feel" for whether or not the therapist you are considering has the personality you are drawn to, the "trustworthiness" factor you need, and the skills and knowledge to help you reach your goals. Even a brief conversation can help you get a great sense about a therapist, and help you feel comfortable pressing "go" on the next chapter in your wellness plan
I really hope that these preliminary points help you find the right therapist for you in Kingston. If you are still feeling confused, lost, or stuck, feel free to my office at (613) 877-4148 and you can set up a free 15 minute phone consultation to help you get started. We’d be happy to hear about what is happening and help direct you to the right person.
If you are looking for more help with understanding why all therapists are not created equal, and to learn even more about how you can determine a therapist's skills and suitability for working with you, you can read more about how the therapists at Limestone Clinic help in our blog.