Choosing a Therapist – SCARY!!
I know I’m not the only one out there who trembles at the thought of reaching out to a therapist. Spilling my secrets to a stranger? This is scary stuff to a lot of people! Before I started going to therapy, when I was still ignorant, I pictured myself sitting in a room with just a couch and a clock and a creepy old dude across from me saying “So, tell me how you feel about that”…scary right?? But I have since found that is so far from the truth it now makes me laugh. First of all therapists are not all men, they are not all creepy and I’ve sat in nice offices with much more than just a couch and a clock.
So, how did I get from that ignorant place of imagining creepy therapists to being able to actually find and see a therapist without a panic attack? Well, being a treatment facility surrounded by sweet, caring and totally normal women helped eliminate my misconceptions, but the biggest epiphany was realizing that not every therapist is right for every person and I have a right to choose! Once I left treatment I was in the same situation as anyone is who is thinking about therapy – at the other end of the phone waiting for the courage to dial. But after realizing that I had the right to choose who I wanted to share my innermost thoughts with, it became much easier to approach the whole thing. Here are a few tips that I picked up along the way:
- Before reaching out to a therapist, consciously decide what you think you need the most help with. Is it an eating disorder? Depression? Anxiety? Sexual Trauma? Knowing as much as you can about what you think would benefit you the most helps you narrow down your list of potential therapists. It also helps if you know ahead of time whether you prefer a female or a male therapist.
- Speak to the therapist on the phone before making an appointment. Many therapists now, especially those who work in centers, have a receptionist that schedules their appointments for them so you might not get the therapist on the phone when you call. However, if that happens simply ask to speak with the therapist for a few minutes before scheduling so that you can get a feel of how you connect. Of course I realize that some people come across as doofy or stuffy over the phone and that might not be exactly how they are in person. But in my experience, if I don’t feel a personality connection on the phone with someone then it probably won’t be much different in person.
- Schedule an initial “interview” session with the therapist. Some therapists are willing to schedule a 10-15 minute meeting for free, as a consultation (not many though…15 minutes can cost a lot of money!). But for the most part you have to be willing to pay for a session in order to sit with the therapist and determine how you feel at the end. I know for me, if a therapist looks at a piece of paper the whole session and never at me, we’re done. If they keep looking at the clock or just sit across from me staring while saying nothing, I get creeped out and we’re done. However, there are some people who prefer that the therapist says nothing and that prompts them to open up more. So you can see why this inital meeting is very important in your decision making.
- Last, but must important – don’t settle. If you go to a therapist, you don’t feel comfortable and you’re just suffering through while gaining nothing beneficial, then leave! You have no obligation to continue paying for therapy that is not helping you. Each person reacts to each therapist in a different way and that’s ok. It took me years to realize that I wasn’t a bad person because I didn’t like a therapist – that’s my prerogative!
Therapy is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of (I can empathize if you feel that way though, I had to work through it) and it can change your life. It doesn’t mean you’re loony or broken…it just means that you need a little help externalizing what’s inside and an objective viewpoint can totally alter how you see things. So, determine what you think you need, stand up straight with the confidence of knowing this is your choice and go out there and choose a therapist who is going to work for you!