Old Saybrook is an incredible town. We have gorgeous beaches, a small community where you see a familiar face everywhere you go, and wonderful events and recreation to enjoy. It’s true that our breathtaking views of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound are enough to fill you with peace and wonder; but it doesn’t mean that those who live on the shoreline are exempt from the normal challenges of life. The truth is that we are all in need of professional support at times to navigate life’s tough stuff. If you’re looking for a counselor, therapist, life coach, or psychologist, I’d like to help you find someone who can help.
Who Do I Need to See? The Difference Between Therapists, Life Coaches, and Psychologists
First of all, I applaud you for considering getting the help and support you need. Seeking professional help doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. On the contrary, it means that you are a strong and secure enough person to know when you’ve reached the limit of dealing with a problem on your own. No one’s life is perfect. Unfortunately, the recent suicides of famous icons Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain tell us that quite clearly. No matter what your image is on the outside, we ALL are navigating unexpected tough experiences and feelings at one time or another in our life. It takes real strength to reach out for help and support that you deserve and need. I hope you feel good about your choice to share your burden with someone who is professionally trained to help you carry the heavy load.
Truly EVERYONE can benefit from seeing a counselor or therapist. This type of neutral, professionally trained support can help you process and better handle your difficult experiences, thoughts, or feelings. Therapy tends to differ from Life Coaching in that there is a bit more focus on the past to put the puzzle pieces together, and more room for open processing, exploration, and interpretation of the subject matter you’re bringing. What I like to say about therapy and counseling is that it’s a three-part process:
1) First, you have symptom relief because you’re finally letting out what you’ve been holding in or struggling to find real support in dealing with. You’ve made it to a secure and confidential space to release the stuff that’s been bogging you down.
2) Second, with your therapist or counselor you begin to dig around in your life experiences to answer the question: Why? Why is this stuff happening? Why are you dealing with this? What’s behind it? You start to make real connections, identify patterns, and tackle the origin of your problems.
3) Third, and finally: You ideally become your own therapist. I don’t want my therapy clients in my chair forever. I want them to develop lasting skills and insight to go out and manage their world in a new and better way! The goal of therapy is ultimately to end therapy in a place that’s different from where you started. You are now able to navigate those challenges, feelings, relationships and thoughts on your own in a way you couldn’t before. Good therapy changes the way you understand yourself, your world, and ultimately changes the way what flows into you (thoughts, feelings, experiences) flows back out of you.
Ultimately, therapy and counseling should be goal oriented. Your therapist or counselor is ideally following a treatment plan they’ve developed after your first meeting to help serve as a guide to meet your goals.
Life Coaching also does some of this. There is often so much overlap between Life Coaching and Therapy, depending on the style of the provider. But where life coaching is a bit different is that it tends to be more directive (think Guidance Counselor), and more focused on solving one presenting problem. There’s also a bit less diving into the past or the deep psychological causes of your problems. While there is certainly some of this, it isn’t central to your work in Life Coaching. Life coaching is service that aims to move clients forward and resolve a presenting issue using concrete skills and solutions. Life Coaches don’t diagnose or treat mental health issues or disorders.
Psychologists usually offer a range of services depending on their particular niche or focus. Some provide testing for children, young adults, or adults to help diagnose disorders of learning or cognition. You’ll want to understand whether you’re seeking a psychologist to provide you with general therapy, or whether you need a psychologist who specializes in a certain type of testing or assessment.
Of course, the above descriptions are brief and general to help you understand the differences between types of providers. What’s most important is that you take a moment to reflect (guide provided next) and find the fit that works best for your needs and your goals. Ask yourself:
If I were to fast forward 3 months and therapy or life coaching achieved the purpose I wanted them to, what would my life be like and how I would I be feeling?
What do I need right now? Do I need to make more sense of something that keeps popping up over and over in my life? Do I need direct and structured solutions from someone who will tell me what to do?
What are my goals? That is, what is/are my presenting problem(s), and what type of professional would best meet the goals of helping me resolve those problems?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you may have a better idea of what mental health provider will best serve you.
Where to Begin Finding a Provider
There are a few ways to go about seeking a good fit for a therapist or counselor (for the purposes of this article I'm going to focus on therapy and counseling, but you can extend these tips to finding any provider you need).
Word of mouth recommendation: Ask someone you trust personally or in your community, here in Old Saybrook or along the shoreline, whom they would recommend in the area you’re looking for. You’d be surprised at how many people have worked with one or more professional to get help in an area of their life. Be as specific as you can about what you need and are looking for, as long as you stay in your comfort zone of what you want to share with a friend or acquaintance. As for as many referrals as you can, from as many places as you feel secure and comfortable requesting.
Google: Google a few different ways to find lists of recommended therapists, counselors, and other professionals. You can google, “therapist in Old Saybrook” or you can get specific and search “marriage counselor” or “couples therapy old saybrook”. Take a look at people’s websites and reviews. Make a short list of providers who give you an immediate sense of connection. Reviews can be extremely helpful, if they are available for the providers listed.
Psychology Today: When you Google "therapists in Old Saybrook" the therapist/counselor listing site on Psychology Today is likely to come up at the top of the search results. What's nice about Psychology Today is that it can help you scroll for a friendly face, read a bit about provider services, insurances accepted, and any specializations the therapist has. Keep in mind that not all providers list on Psychology Today (ie: I don't anymore), and that there will be more to choose from than just those listed.
Your local Chamber of Commerce: The Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce is an amazing source for information on providers! Believe it or not, but there are multiple mental health providers, coaches, psychologists, and other professionals who are members of the Chamber of Commerce. This includes myself! I regularly share my services, expertise, and support within the Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce, and am happy to help folks find the services they need when they reach out to me from The Chamber.
Now you’ve done the work of finding a few referrals or names of counselors and therapists in Old Saybrook! You can finally reach out to make a connection that will likely change your life for the better. It’s important not to find just ANY provider; you want to find a provider who has knowledge of the area in which you need help and most importantly, one who makes you feel comfortable and confident in trusting them to do the work with you.
In my next article I’ll be talking about the best questions you can ask your mental health or coaching provider in Old Saybrook when you call them to ask about starting your first session.
I hope this helps you find the right therapist, counselor, life coach, or psychologist in Old Saybrook. If you are still feeling stuck, please call me at (860) 339-6515. I’d be happy to hear about what is happening and help direct you to the right person. If you are looking for specialized, focused, and effective support in Old Saybrook, you can read more about how I can help here.
Lauren L. Drago, MSEd, LMHC, LPC is a women's therapist and counselor, providing individual counseling in Old Saybrook, CT and online in greater CT, NY & PA. She specializes in working with smart, insightful and capable women to overcome stress, anxiety, loss of identity, self-limiting beliefs, perfectionism, marriage strain, and the pressure of "trying to do it all." Lauren has a passion for helping others to achieve the happy, fulfilling, productive, and meaningful life they deserve. She believes that every woman can and should live out her personal definition of her own best life. Follow Lauren on Facebook, and call (860) 339-6515 to schedule your free initial consultation.