No two therapists are exactly alike, so your choice of therapist can have a big impact on your overall experience with mental health treatment. Choosing a therapist can be especially difficult in Los Angeles because there are so many diverse practitioners. It’s great to have all of these options, but it can certainly be overwhelming, too. Most people see a few different therapists before finding one they have good rapport with. Remember that you don’t have to commit to a long-term relationship with the first therapist you speak with. It’s entirely normal to switch clinicians if you feel like you and your current therapist don’t work well together. It might also be a good idea to look at a group practice when searching for a therapist in Los Angeles, so that it could be easier to switch from one to another, if the first isn’t a perfect fit.
However, you also don’t want to waste your valuable time seeing dozens of counselors in an attempt to find the right one. You should start your search with a general idea of what you’re looking for. Understanding the various styles and approaches to therapy can help you narrow down your options so that you don’t feel completely lost in your search.
Styles of Therapy
The most common style of mental health counseling is individual, one-on-one sessions between the client and the therapist. This type of counseling can be very successful because the session is focused only on one person and their needs. The therapist dedicates the entire time to one client, so the client feels seen, heard, and validated.
Many people prefer individual counseling for privacy reasons, too. You’re only speaking with your therapist, not your partner, family, or others in a group. There may be topics you’d like to explore in therapy that you’re only comfortable speaking about when you’re alone with your therapist.
Family counseling is another popular option. During couples or family therapy, the family members and the therapist all meet to work through issues in the family relationships. Sometimes, people receive both individual and family counseling to address personal and relational challenges at the same time. If you think your emotional or mental health struggles may have something to do with your family relationships, you might benefit from looking for a therapist who specializes in family counseling.
Some counselors offer group therapy, too. Group counseling involves a therapist and several clients. In most cases, the clients in the group have a similar background or similar needs, which helps to guide the topics of conversation.
Group therapy can be a powerful opportunity to connect with people who understand what you’re going through. You can benefit from hearing from others who are in the process of overcoming similar struggles. If you like the idea of a built-in support network with your counseling sessions, consider narrowing down your search to therapists who offer groups.
Approaches to Therapy
Another important consideration when choosing a therapist is their philosophical approach. Not every therapist has the same opinion about the purpose of therapy and the role of the therapist. There are a few major therapeutic approaches that you should be aware of so that you know what to expect when you meet your therapist.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
The cognitive behavioral approach is one of the most popular styles of therapy today. In this approach, the client and the therapist explore the link between the client’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
During a cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, session, you and your therapist may identify errors or unhealthy habits in your thinking. Your therapist may give you homework to complete throughout the week, too. For example, they may ask you to fill out a worksheet whenever you feel anxious to record the situation, your thoughts, and your reactions.
CBT is usually a short-term form of therapy, often lasting only a few months. It’s especially popular for treating anxiety disorders, mood disorders, OCD, and substance use disorders.
Psychodynamic counseling focuses on the connection between your unconscious thoughts and your actions. It is the most effective when you’re interested in finding, understanding, and addressing your issue from its root cause. A therapist who uses the psychodynamic approach believes that your underlying beliefs or emotions influence your conscious actions, so getting to the root of your unconscious mind will help you gain clarity.
The psychodynamic approach also emphasizes the effect of early life experiences on your mental health. If there are events from your past that you want to process and explore with a therapist, you may benefit from working with a psychodynamic counselor. Compared to CBT, psychodynamic therapy tends to be a longer-term type of treatment.
The humanistic approach highlights the client as the expert on their own mental health. The main idea behind humanistic therapy is that each individual has a unique way of viewing the world, and you must accept and be true to yourself in order to improve your mental health.
A humanistic therapist believes that people are inherently good and will make good choices when given the opportunity. They tend to focus on the client as a whole instead of on a particular diagnosis or a specific goal. As often as possible, they allow you to come to your own conclusions and make your own choices. Their role in the therapy session is to support and listen.
Not all therapists subscribe completely to one approach. Many clinicians will use ideas or techniques from a variety of philosophies, but they may lean more toward one style than another. When you first reach out to a therapist, you can ask them to describe their approach to treatment.
What to Look for in a Therapist in Los Angeles
If any of these styles or approaches resonate with you, look for a therapist who is aligned with those beliefs. Most importantly, you should feel like you and your therapist are working together as a team. You should have similar opinions on the purpose of therapy, the nature of the relationship between the client and therapist, and your goals.
Your clinician should have experience with clients similar to you, too. There are so many different reasons people receive counseling, so many therapists specialize in certain areas. You can ask a prospective therapist about their educational background and experience before you schedule a session with them.
There are also some logistical factors to consider. Your therapist should be close enough to your home or work that getting to their office isn’t stressful or inconvenient. Consistency in therapy is very important, and missing sessions due to Los Angeles traffic, scheduling problems, or other issues can slow down your progress. With the social and health environment the way it is today, you might also inquire about virtual versus in-person sessions.
Think about your budget and your payment method, too. Some insurance companies cover therapy if you have a diagnosed mental health condition, but many people pay out-of-pocket for therapy. If you’re on a tight budget, look for a therapist who offers a sliding pay scale. If you’re using insurance, double-check that your therapist accepts your insurance plan.
Finding a therapist in Los Angeles can feel overwhelming, but the right counselor is out there. It helps to have at least a vague idea of what you’re looking for to narrow down your options. Remember to be patient and persistent as you research counselors in your area. It may take a few meetings to find someone you work well with, but the benefits of therapy are worth the search.
The Beverly Hills Therapy Group employs a diverse team of therapists who serve clients in the Los Angeles area. Our counselors are licensed, experienced professionals specializing in a wide range of mental health concerns. To connect with a therapist in Los Angeles, contact us today.