Thinking About Therapy? Here's How To Start Seeing A Therapist
A year ago, I wrote an article for Spire & Co about why seeing a therapist of any kind was right for me. Now, I’m a year older. There’s stress from transitioning to a new job that I still worry I’m not qualified for. There’s the hectic-ness of moving three times in a year and the difficulty of finding the right balance between my career and my wellbeing. With so many emotions running through my brain, something finally occurred to me: I needed help.
I wasn’t sure where to start. Googling “mental health services near me” was overwhelming. I turned to two friends who know me best, both of whom have embraced therapy more than I have. They gratefully shared their experiences with me, which in turn led to reminders and tips that I tell myself in my search to become myself again.
Therapy is for everyone.
I always believed that the only people who needed counseling were people experiencing grief, anxiety or depression, or were seriously considering hurting themselves. Boy, was I wrong.
Everyone can benefit from talking to a professional, even in a good mental state. In fact, it can be preventative, so if you do start to fall into a dark place, you have someone there to help you out.
Start your search in this mindset and you’re off to a great start.
Ask your closest friends about their experiences with counseling.
If you’ve been hesitant to talk to a professional—or don’t know how to start looking—talk with your friends. Be open and honest about your feelings; if they’re your close friends, they will be honest in return. Ask them what they have found helpful from sessions or in psychologists. It might not be something that would work for you, but that’s the point of asking. Maybe action-oriented therapy works for them, but would stress you out more. Perhaps a more meditative approach calms you down. These conversations can help you start to understand what could work for you. Your friends may also have referrals for you.
Consider having an honest conversation with your parents.
One of my biggest challenges to admitting I needed help and actively seeking it was my parents. Like in many households, talking about mental and emotional health growing up was hard. We didn’t discuss it often, if at all, despite family emergencies and stressful, emotionally straining experiences. Moving back in with them made it more difficult for me. When I started my new job, though, my parents noticed how stressed I was. They expressed their concern, and it was as if a lightbulb went off in my head. Their blessing, understanding, and perception cleared the way for me. I’m no longer scared to talk to them about therapy once I start going.
Psychologists listen to treat patients. Psychiatrists diagnose and prescribe treatment.
My boyfriend asked me when I began my search if I wanted someone to talk to or someone to diagnose me and treat me with medicine. After spending over a year talking issues out to him and really only him, I realized that I not only needed someone to talk to, but someone who was trained to listen. Take some time to be honest with yourself and think about what you’re looking for in a therapist.
Keep—or look over—a journal to better understand your day-to-day emotions.
Writing can help you get complicated emotions off your chest while also spelling out those feelings. I discovered through looking back at the entries in my own journal that I only wrote when I was sad, angry, unhappy, or worried. When I reflected on myself, I did so negatively. When I wrote about the people in my life, I told myself I did not deserve them. Keeping your own journal will allow you to honestly recall your emotions and talk to your therapist.
Your first therapist won’t necessarily be the one you stick with.
When I went to therapy for the first time in college, I stayed with that counselor for almost three years, on and off. She put me on the defensive and tried to address emotions and situations that I wasn’t focused on. As awkward as it was, I switched. The next therapist helped a lot more. After talking to friends, I learned that having introductory phone calls or a get-to-know-you session was essential to figuring out what I needed and wanted. In fact, it might even be helpful to schedule calls with two or three therapists first to understand how each works with patients.
Finding someone is hard. Don’t give up.
Searching for a psychologist can be stressful. One might seem great, but after a few sessions, you may realize that form of therapy isn’t working for you. Sometimes, you can keep looking up practices and psychologists but not find someone who sticks out for you. If that happens, take a break for a week. Focus on your journal or talking to friends or family members. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Even if the right therapist is an hour away, the drive is worth it. Because you’re worth it.
Do you have any advice for seeking out a therapist? Share with us in the comments below!