One year ago today, I made a leap that would alter my life. Before I began therapy, I was miserable. I didn’t always know it, but I had crippling anxiety and constant fear of pretty much everything. The day to day was debilitating, and I was clinging to the same, reused solutions that hadn’t been working for years, but – to be honest – I didn’t know any other way.
I made every excuse in the book: I don’t have the time. It’s too much money. I’ll wait a few more months. But after awhile, I ran out of reasons and realized it was time to make a decision for my mental health. I worked with my Mom’s medical insurance (I was still under 25, so I was able to use her insurance) and I got eight free sessions with a therapist. Thanks to a wonderful health plan, I had a way to save a little money while I shopped for the right therapist.
Finding that connection to a therapist is essential. While my current therapist is the first one I saw, that just means I was lucky in finding the right vibe. For some, it can take shopping around and picking a therapist you feel most comfortable with. Without therapy, I wouldn’t have the new tools to manage and control my anxiety. I wouldn’t be as self aware as I am. I wouldn’t have created this blog. I would still be that girl. Huddled in the corners of her own mind; afraid.
If you’re still in the searching phase, here are a few tips I’ve learned from my own journey.
Ask Friends And Family
Stuck in a rut with your search? Ask friends – or family – who are in therapy if they like their therapist. If they do, continue to ask questions. Find out what it is they like about them and maybe ask their therapists for referral lists. It never hurts to ask.
If none of your friends are in therapy or if they tell you that they don’t like their therapist, it’s time to look for a different referral. While it’s a good idea to potentially call institutes for therapists in your area, you don’t want a therapist who is convenient – you want one who is good for you. Personally, I drive up to a half hour from my house to see my therapist, but it’s worth it. Plus, the drive home is an important time to process the emotions from a potentially heavy session.
There are many different ways to get help. You can search on Therapy Finder, or maybe you would prefer to reach out purely online. If you aren’t feeling the one-on-one thing, there are plenty of great websites and apps like Talkspace, Breakthrough, and BetterHelp. Those are just a few – do your research and find the right fit.
The reason you made the decision to see a therapist, rather than confiding in a close friend, is experience. Look for a therapist who has the credentials in treating the issues you’re facing. Often, therapists have special areas of focus, such as depression, eating disorders, anxiety, etc. Skilled therapists have dealt with the problems you’re struggling with again and again, which broadens their view and gives them more insight.
Trust Your Gut
Even if your therapist looks amazing on paper, if the connection doesn’t feel right – if you don’t trust the person or feel like you can share with them – keep looking. Feeling guilty? A good therapist will respect your choice and should never pressure you to stay. This is part of their job, most of the time they are used to it.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing the right therapist:
- Does it seem like the therapist truly cares about you and your problems?
- Do you feel as if the therapist understands you?
- Does he/she accept you for who you are?
- Would you feel comfortable revealing personal information to this person?
- Do you feel as if you can be honest and open with this therapist? That you don’t have to hide or pretend you’re someone that you’re not?
- Is the therapist a good listener? Does he or she listen without interrupting, criticizing, or judging? Pick up on your feelings and what you’re really saying? Make you feel heard?
If the answers to any of these questions are no – trust your gut and walk away.
Making the choice to seek help for any mental health issue is a huge step. It takes courage to admit we can’t face our struggles alone. Although it can seem scary in the beginning, therapy should be a safe place – your sanctuary. With the necessary time and research put into the process, you can fight the daily struggle with one more person batting on your team. Stay open, honest, and vulnerable and the right match will come.
Have you found the right therapist for you? Share your journey to find your therapist in the comments!