Psychologist Therapist Counselling Hamilton
If you are looking for a therapy in Hamilton Ontario, or online from anywhere in Ontario- please see our therapist bios.
On this page we cover some of the main general questions people have about therapy and finding a reputable therapist.
What is therapy?
The term therapy generally refers to professionally-assisted practices or interventions that improve well-being. There are both physical forms of therapy, and therapies that focus on emotional and psychological well-being.
Therapy that addresses emotional and psychological concerns is known as “counselling” or “psychotherapy”.
Both counselling and psychotherapy refer to the process of talking with a therapist. The talking is focused on resolving symptoms or concerns such as stress, low mood, anxiety and grief. The focus can also be on making decisions or improving relationships.
What is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?
Counselling generally refers to talk therapy focused on common everyday concerns.
Common concerns in counselling include stress, adjusting to change, dealing with loss, making decisions, resolving relationship conflict, improving mood, self-esteem and self-confidence.
Different professionals such as psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, MDs, nurses, occupational therapists and psychotherapists may provide counselling to others. The act of counselling is not in itself regulated.
Psychotherapy generally refers to talk therapy that focuses on more serious disorders of thought, cognition, mood, emotion regulation, perception or memory.
Psychotherapy may be required when these difficulties affect one’s ability to function in day-to-day life.
Because psychotherapy involves working with individuals with a more serious disorder, the act of psychotherapy is now regulated by the College of Psychotherapists of Ontario. Regulation by a college means greater protection for people who receive these services.
What is a therapist?
There are many different kinds of therapists. Some therapists assist with physical ailments, such as massage therapists and physical therapists. Other therapists (the ones we are focusing on here) assist with emotional or psychological concerns or ailments.
In our psychology practice, we can connect you with a therapist that can assist with everyday stress and concerns.
We can also connect you with a therapist that can address more serious emotional and psychological concerns.
When providing therapy to individuals who require psychotherapy, the clinician providing the service must be regulated by a recognized college (e.g., psychologists, psychotherapists or social workers), or be closely supervised while in the process of becoming regulated (e.g., therapists working towards registration as a psychological associate or psychotherapist).
What does a therapist do?
A therapist listens to you and assesses your concerns to identify the issues related to your concerns. A therapist then works with you to identify your goals, or what you most want to gain out of therapy.
Aside from listening to you and supporting you in counselling, a professional therapist uses a specific evidence-based therapy approach.
Evidence- based therapies include appraoches such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Emotion-focused Therapy, or Internal Family Systems Therapy.
The therapists in Dr. Barbera’s practice use a combination of these approaches. We can discuss each with you to help you determine what will best suit your needs. Usually a combination of approaches is suggested.
How long do you have to go to school to become a therapist?
Therapists usually complete a 3 or 4 year BA at a recognized university and then a Masters degree. This means that most therapists complete a total of 5-6 years of university. Some therapists, such as Psychologists, complete 10 years of university.
Are therapists regulated?
Many therapists are regulated, however, not all therapists are regulated.
By law, to provide therapy for more serious ailments the therapist must be a regulated health professional. The regulated health professional has to be permitted to provide psychotherapy.
If the therapist is not yet fully regulated, the therapist must be working under the supervision of a regulated health professional while they work towards completing their registration requirements.
Not all therapists are alike. Therapists can vary in terms of their personality, therapeutic style, therapy modality and the extent of their training.
So how do I find a therapist that is right for me?
First, it's important to ensure that you search for a therapist in a practice that is regulated in Ontario and has a high standard of professionalism.
Some keys ways to evaluate therapist quality are:
* Is the practice run and/or supervised by a registered psychologist or registered psychotherapist?
Since diagnostic clarity may be needed to help fully address your issue, we recommend working with a therapist that is closely supervised by a psychologist. Psychologists also usually have much more extensive education and clinical training.
We also recommend asking whether the supervising psychologist will personally review your intake information, assist with your therapy plan and provide ongoing supervision and feedback as is the case in Dr. Barbera’s practice.
*Ask how often the therapist receives direct supervision or consultation on their cases.
There are practices that have an affiliated psychologist, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the psychologist is directly involved in each case.
*Ask the therapist whether they work in the same physical office space as the supervising psychologist.
The therapy field is always evolving and a complete and comprehensive approaches should ideally be informed by more than one approach. A "one size fits all" approach may not be well-suited to everyone. We often find that the same person who responds really well and sees results with one approach, may not respond that well to another approach.
To know more than one approach well, therapists need to be continually taking new and more advanced clinical training.
*Ask how often the therapist engages in further clinical training.
When you are reviewing options for locating a therapist, consider visiting the actual office first to ensure the office is located in a professional area and in an area you are comfortable with. See if the office appears professional and comfortable.
*Ask where the therapist is located, whether you can see the office, and whether there is free or easily accessible parking or if the office is near transit.
*Is the therapist located in Hamilton, or a surrounding area or do they provide online counseling?
Check whether the therapist has any reviews, and do they have their own professional website that is specific to therapy and the concerns you are wanting to address?
*Ask the therapist what their main area of focus is and whether they have experience and training to assist with your specific concern.
Be cautious about a therapist that says they work with any issue and any population. They should be able to tell you what issues they do not work with.
Once you know that the therapist is reputable, how do you go about deciding whether the therapist is a good personal fit for you?
It can help to reflect on the type of counsellor you think you would feel most comfortable with.
For instance, do you have a strong preference for a male or female therapist? Do you believe you would prefer someone who is more likely to direct or challenge you or someone who is more neutral? Do you want someone to offer more structured sessions or allow you to determine the direction of each session?
*Ask the therapist about their counselling style in terms of the above considerations.
Some therapy approaches such as CBT or DBT are more structured and usually involve a higher amount of homework in order to be successful.
There are many different effective therapeutic modalities, and although it can help to be open to any approach and discuss options collaboratively with your therapist, sometimes you may want a specific modality based on your past experiences or what has been recommended to you.
*Ask the therapist what their main therapeutic modality is. A good therapist should be able to readily identify their main therapeutic orientation and explain about the approaches they use.
Regardless of what kind of therapist you look for, be sure to research your options. You can ask friends, family members, teachers and colleagues. You can also search online.
We recommend searching for "highly rated therapist or psychologist" or even "best therapist or psychologist" and then viewing some websites.
So, you’re considering seeing a therapist, or maybe, you’ve taken that important first step and booked your initial therapy appointment. Regardless, you may be experiencing different emotions, and potentially questioning if a therapist can really help.
Each person can have a different experience in therapy or counselling. Because we want to make sure you will get the absolute most you can out of your therapy experience, we are going to cover the fundamentals of how to make the most out of therapy.
Getting the most out of therapy will help you to achieve greater change and ensure you meet your goals.
If you are not sure what your goals are, don't worry, your therapist will help you. That is part of what therapists do in counselling to help people get the most out of their therapy experience.
Since therapy is an investment of both your time and money, here are some psychologist and therapist recommended tips to get you started- on how to get the most out of your therapy experience:
1) Have a clear focus for therapy
Prior to your initial appointment with your therapist, think of something specific you want to address and work on.
Consider problems, symptoms, behaviour(s), and interaction patterns.
Remember, if you are not sure, your therapist will certainly help you with this, and then you will have a clearer idea moving forward, which will help you maximize the benefit you receive from your therapy.
2) Show up 10 minutes early to your therapy appointment when possible
Giving yourself those extra few minutes before your therapy appointment gives you an opportunity to calmly collect and organize your thoughts. This allows you to mentally prepare yourself for the therapy session, which can make the time more productive.
This can look different for everybody, but even just a few, mindful, deep breaths before going into your therapy session can bring you back to your centre and put you in a more focused headspace prior to starting your session.
3) Write it all down
Regardless of the time between your next therapy session; thoughts, emotions, and ideas will come to you.
We encourage you to write down your thoughts, emotions, behaviours and things you notice between sessions. These notes can be a great therapy resource when brought into your next session, and can highlight to yourself and your therapist key concepts to work on or explore further.
4) Be honest with your therapist
When you meet with a therapist, the therapist is there to help you. You do not need to filter or hold back anything.
In fact, it will be harder to help you if you are not fully open and honest about what is going on inside yourself and what is going on outside of therapy.
If you find being open difficult- tell your therapist so that they can work with you on this and help you get even more out of your therapy.
5) Provide feedback to your therapist, even when they don't ask
If something in therapy isn’t working for you- push yourself to speak up. For instance, if you want more of something or less of something (e.g., more feedback, more structure, more homework, less...) make sure to tell your therapist.
Remember that it is your right to ask your therapist to consider your needs and preferences.
In Dr. Jennifer Barbera's practice- we promise you won't offend us, and we welcome any feedback! Your therapist wants you to be able to get the most out of your sessions, and feedback will help us tailor therapy to better fit your needs. Having your feedback could also help others.
6) Remember- A therapist can’t automatically 'fix' you
When we’re in a crisis, and feel like we have exhausted all other options, there may be a tendency to expect or hope that our therapist will step in and “fix” us. Instead, it's more helpful to approach therapy sessions from a collaborative viewpoint.
Be willing to own the fact that you have autonomy and ownership over the changes you want to make in your life. Remember that most of your life happens outside of therapy, and for the quickest change possible, its important to actively work on things you learn in therapy outside of the therapy office.
Making sure you are not a passive recipient to therapy will really help you progress and see the results you want.
7) Don't ask your therapist for advice, ask them to help you find the path that is right for you.
A good therapist doesn't just tell you what to do with your life.
Remember that you are the expert on your own life. Look to your therapist to help you explore options and arrive at a decision that feels right to you. Many people in your life will already give you advice. A therapist shouldn't be one of them.
At the same time, as mentioned above, if you really think you need more direct feedback from your therapist- make sure you discuss this. Either way though, the answer you are looking for really does lie within you.
A therapist can help you uncover a direction that is best for you. Not only is this empowering, but it will give way to more progress and sustainable change in yourself throughout therapy.
This article was written by our current graduate intern Samantha Taggart. To see more about Samantha and when she will be available in Hamilton, read her bio here.