Therapy gets to the root of the problem and creates long-term change, where other methods are temporary patches. As one example, a recent study showed therapy having a much more lasting effect on insomnia than the more convenient and less expensive, but also less permanent solution of taking sleeping pills .
Therapists can be considered applied neuroscientists according to Louis Cozolino, whose book The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy lays out the research supporting this conclusion. Here the therapeutic relationship is considered to establish an emotional and biological context conducive to neural plasticity. Therapy focused on stress, anxiety, or depression can repair neurological deficits associated with these problems. This is perhaps most evident in studies of trauma, where therapy has been shown to have a profound effect on brain functioning .
Check your therapist's training background: Are they a qualified psychologist or clinical psychologist? What other training have they completed? Have they specialised in a particular area? This might indicate a passion for a particular therapeutic approach.
Can you identify their values: Do they match your own value set? What values in a therapist are important to you?
Be clear on what help you want: Do they specialise in your area of help-seeking? Have they provided help similar to what you need to others? For example, if you are seeking help with trauma versus couples therapy, you'll want the right therapist for each problem.
Do you know someone else who is getting therapy: Can you get a referral or recommendation from a friend or family member?
You can always give a therapist a call and have a chat with them. Ask lots of questions and get a feel for whether you think this person might be a good fit for you.
1. Trauer, J.M., Qian, M.Y., Doyle, J.S., Rajaratnam, S.M.W., & Cunningham, D. (2015). Cognitive behavioural therapy for chronic insomnia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine. Published in Saving Psychotherapy by Ben Caldwell.
2. Cozolino, L. (2010). The neuroscience of psychotherapy: Healing the social brain (2nd edition). New York: Norton.