Choosing The Right Therapist

 You have taken the first step to seek therapy in order to initiate the changes that you would like in your life. You are to be commended for taking this important first step.

The next step of choosing your therapist is an equally important one. The relationship you have with your therapist is critical in helping you to realize the changes that you would like to see in your life. You want a therapist who understands and can relate to you as well as has the expertise and skills to effect lasting and positive change. When we look at psychotherapy and the therapeutic relationship we are delving into the area of neuroplasticity or the ability of the brain to rewire or reorganize itself. Mundo (2006) noted that counselling initiates neuroplasticity and measurable changes are found in the brain as a result of counselling. What this means in that therapy itself and our therapeutic relationship can help in the reorganization of the structure, function and connections in your brain!  Further, from a neurobiological perspective one of the key areas of the brain that is associated with this relational experience – the prefrontal cortex, is also involved with emotional regulation, attunement to others, empathy, fear modulation, insight into oneself, behavioural and emotional response flexibility, and morality (Siegel, 2007). These are some of the very skills and changes that we often are looking for in counselling: the ability to self-regulate our emotions, to relate to others in a healthy and mutually satisfying manner, the capacity to regulate fear so that it doesn’t hinder us, insight into ourselves and behaviours and, finally, the ability to expand our behavioural and emotional responses in more flexible and adaptive ways so that we can live satisfying and meaningful lives. Further, as a secure attachment is formed in the counselling relationship and process,

“the brain is changed to increase integration between neural networks, greater responsiveness to stress, and coping. These changes, then, increase social and psychological functioning. Thus, the process of forming a secure attachment will assist the client’s progress in counselling.”

(Cozolino, 2006). 

The relationship you have with your therapist can actually help to rewire your brain, which in turn can increase your psychological functioning and improve your relationships. It is also a strong predictor of positive outcomes and meeting your goals for therapy. That’s why I put such an emphasis on our relationship and actively demonstrating the skills of empathy and attunement in the therapeutic alliance. As Kim (2018) reports: “These interrelationships in neurobiology means that the areas of the brain that function empathy, attachment, and therapeutic alliances may work together in the process of therapy.”

Dan Siegel has built on this understanding of the interplay between the brain and our relationships and pioneered an interdisciplinary field of science called interpersonal neurobiology (IPMB). Interpersonal neurobiology sees human development and functioning as being a function of the relationship between the body, mind, and relationships. At the core of interpersonal neurobiology is the concept of integration as being the source of well-being. Integration of the differentiated parts of the brain as well as differentiation and integration in one’s relationships. Thus, focused attention skills (skills you will learn in counselling with me) that rewire the brain can impact our relationships and in turn our relationships can impact the function and structure of the brain. By understanding this relationship and learning and practicing attentional skills within the context of counselling many of the issues and stressors that contribute to one seeking counselling can be addressed and resolved through therapy. Further, Siegel goes a step further to suggest that the source of well-being both within our mind and body as well as in our relationships at home, work and in our community are likely the product of this integration of mind, body and relationship. Thus, we are talking not only about alleviating problems or suffering but enhancing well-being, health and resiliency so that you can be your best self. Check out Dr. Dan Siegel’s Hand Model of the Brain video to learn more about this important topic.

I look forward to our jouney together. Take the next step and contact me for an initial appointment to see how counselling can enhance your well-being.

Yours in health.