More and more people feel comfortable going to therapy as the stigma of mental health has lessened over time. Talking to a professional about your life and issues can be very therapeutic, and people have started to realize that. However, it’s not always as easy as finding a therapist and jumping into your first session.
Starting therapy can be scary. You must allow yourself to be vulnerable not only to yourself, but to a stranger. It can be especially difficult when you feel your reason for going to therapy isn’t as pressing as other people’s needs. However, regardless of the reason, everyone deserves the opportunity to go to therapy. We all have our struggles, and although others’ struggles may seem larger than our own, it does not mean ours don’t matter.
Once you can accept that you deserve this, you need to decide what kind of therapy will work best for you. Do you want to go into individual, couples, family or group therapy? Do you work better with someone who will listen and give advice or someone who will have active conversations with you and assign homework to do between sessions? How often you do you want to meet with them and would you prefer in-person sessions or online? These are just a few questions you should ask yourself before searching for a therapist.
You should also know your “why” for starting therapy. Not only for your therapist, but for yourself. You could have gone through a traumatic experience, struggled with a mental illness all your life, or dealing with stress in your daily life. You could have multiple reasons, or your reasoning could change over time.
Knowing the reason as well as knowing yourself will be very helpful in finding the right therapist. Usually, websites with a database of therapists will have options to personalize your search based on your needs and preferences. For example, you might want someone who has experience with LGBTQ+ individuals or with individuals who have struggled with eating disorders. You might have gender or age preferences for your therapist, and you can request those preferences as well. You can find people who accept certain insurance plans as payment as well. Psychology Today is a great option for looking for a therapist. Simply enter your city or zip code and get started.
After you find a few people who fit your description and qualifications, reach out to them. Don’t limit yourself to just one person. It will be good to try a few specialists because you won’t always mesh well with the first person you find. When reaching out, let them know your interest in working with them and why, your reasoning for starting therapy and your availability to have an introductory phone call. Keep the first message brief as you can discuss more details over the phone. If you don’t see it listed on their profile, make sure to ask if they are accepting new clients.
It will be important to discuss practical as well as personal topics during this first call. This will allow you to get a feel for how they operate as a therapist and how well you will get along. Remember, you are interviewing them, not the other way around. Once you find that one person that really clicks for you, hopefully they’re able to add you to their schedule as soon as possible.
Therapy can have many benefits such as the improvement of communication skills and personal relationships. When we become aware of our own habits and ways of communicating, we can better tailor them for others, especially those we care about. Another benefit is the development of coping strategies. This can be especially helpful for people who struggle with issues such as stress, anxiety and depression. Many people have reported feelings of empowerment through new skills and breakthroughs, such as gaining confidence, achieving goals and overcoming trauma. Some have also learned how to make healthy choices for themselves, like getting rid of bad habits and knowing when to say no.
Remember, therapy is a process, and you have to be open to the journey ahead. Results certainly won’t happen overnight and they will only come if you put in the effort. You’ve got this!