Therapy has been so instrumental in how I’ve come to understand who and why I am — in fact, I almost titled this blog “What I Learned In Therapy”, because that’s most of what’s here.
However, if you don’t know where to begin, starting therapy can be really daunting. How do you even find a therapist? Isn’t it expensive? What if you don’t connect well with the one you do find? How are you supposed to trust a stranger? If you’ve had a bad therapist in the past, it can make reaching out and finding a new one that much more challenging.
I can’t answer all of your questions, but hopefully I can point you in a useful direction.
How To Find A Therapist
This site is super useful for looking for a therapist. You can filter by specialty, gender, practice, insurance, even religion. This is one I recommend to everyone, because it does the heavy lifting of a Google search for you.
2. Asking Your Doctor
Many large clinics will have an out-patient behavioral clinic to which they can refer you, which will accept the same insurance as your primary care physician. If you live in a small town or see a private practice doctor, ask anyway, because your doctor should still know of a mental health specialist nearby.
Don’t have a primary care physician? Google is your friend. Try searching for “therapists near me” or “behavioral specialist in [town], [state]” and see what comes up. If you know what kind of treatment you want (e.g. cognitive behavior therapy) or what specialty you need (gender identity, PTSD, anxiety, marriage), try searching for that. You’ll have to wade through websites until you find a good fit, but the advantage is you’re more likely to find a therapist that is out of network, which can be a good thing if the ones in-network aren’t doing it for you.
How To Pay For Therapy
This is one of the main excuses I hear for people resisting therapy — it’s expensive. Yes, it can be. But there are often ways around it.
If you have insurance, it’s not a stretch to find a therapist in your network, and that solves the problem nicely. There might be a small copay, but you’re not shelling out the big bucks for an hour-long chat.
If you’ve found an out-of-network therapist that you really like, most of them try to be accommodating for their patients. If seeing them every week is too expensive, ask about seeing them every other week, or even once a month. I’ve also heard of therapists working on a sliding scale. Anything is possible, so explain your situation to them and see what they say.
Finding The Right Therapist
This is where you need to trust your intuition. Usually during the first couple of visits, you can get a good feel for what kind of person this therapist is. If they’re saying things that don’t sit well with you, or you don’t feel like they’re really hearing you, don’t bother scheduling another visit.
When I explained I had depression to a therapist I was trying, she assumed it had started when I was a teenager instead of letting me finish my story. Nope.
I had a therapist push hard for me to self-medicate with marijuana, despite my discomfort with it. Nope.
One therapist called me “eccentric” after I said I liked painting, then proceeded to tell me that I should make up with my abusive father because “family is everything”. Hell no.
One therapist asked me to paint a visual depiction of what my depression felt like. Yes.
The same therapist taught me a grounding meditation to quell the grocery-store-anxiety. Yes.
When I explained what I was feeling, a therapist simply said, “That’s the hallmark for PTSD,” and put the entire mystery of my emotions into place. Yes.
One therapist let me take the lead, and continually asked, “What do you want to focus on today? How do you want to overcome these challenges?” Yes.
Therapists are humans, and they have their own opinions, biases, and ways of dealing with life. They are fallible, and say the wrong things sometimes. It’s important to remember that they aren’t superheroes or witches who can cure you with a wave of their hand. The best they can do is give you tools and guide you to a better state of mind. Trust your gut, and if a new therapist does or doesn’t feel right, act accordingly.
But It’s Scary
Of course it is. You’re doing something new, meeting someone new, and placing yourself in their hands in the hopes they can help you. Of course it’s scary. If you’ve had a bad experience with therapy before, or grew up believing therapy is for the weak, it can be really hard to make the choice to go. But there’s the chance of getting better, and sometimes you just have to take that first step.
Going to therapy, especially for the first time, can be really nerve-wracking, but I wholeheartedly encourage you to pursue it. With how much it has helped me, I can’t not recommend it!