The thought of starting therapy is very daunting for many of you. Most likely you’ve been dealing with your problem(s) for a long time. After exhausting all other thinkable options is when you finally decide to take the plunge into therapy. Unfortunately us therapists are the last resort for many of you. Often times stigma, insufficient finances, lack of time, and the sheer inconvenience of hunting for a therapist results in chronically putting it off. To make the process of seeking out a therapist a whole lot easier, I created a seven step cheat sheet. The initial part of your journey is prepping yourself psychologically. This needs to take place before starting these important steps. The latter steps are more behaviorally based. They teach you how to search for a therapist, and most importantly how to know if you’ve found the right one.
- Think About All That You’ve Lost Because Of Your Current Unresolved Problem(s). I know, this can be a painful and emotional process. Be patient with yourself, but let yourself go there. Make a list of these losses as well as all of the things you’ll most likely loose if you continue to do nothing.
- Browse Online For Therapists That Spark Your Interest. Psychology Today, Good Therapy, Zocdoc and or Google are the best places to start searching for one. Keep in mind that just looking at a directory listing will make it impossible to know for certain if you’d be a good match. However by doing this at least it’ll give you an idea of what the therapist may be like. Search for therapists in your area and price range. Make a list of about three to five therapists that you may consider. Do the therapists you find have a compelling perspective on your problem(s)? Do you think he/she has the experience and personality worth giving a shot?
- Start Making Phone Calls. Remember that most therapists offer a free 15 minute phone consultation. Set the expectation from the beginning, and let the therapist know you have a few others in mind. Tell the therapist you will get back to him/her after you’ve made your final decision. Interview each therapist over the phone to see who’s the best one for the job. During the initial free phone consultation you can get a vibe for who the therapist is. Notate at the end of this step which therapist overall makes you feel the most comfortable, understood, and confident in their ability to help.
- Schedule An Appointment With The Therapist That You Connected With The Most. Keep in mind that this is not the beginning of a lifelong relationship. You are not marrying the person, just going in for your first therapy appointment. Don’t put too much pressure on the therapist or yourself to make it work. Keep in mind that therapy takes time, and that you’re never stuck with a therapist. You’re just beginning a new working relationship with someone, and seeing where it goes from there.
- Allow At Least 3 Sessions With The Therapist Before Deciding Whether To Stay. Of course you most likely will not be cured after just three therapy sessions. You’re just giving the therapist enough chances to demonstrate how she/he can help you, and giving yourself time to familiarize yourself with the therapist. Soon you’ll know if you’re a good fit. Although with some you can start working on your goals as early as the first appointment, often times the first few appointments are devoted almost exclusively to developing a therapeutic relationship. Once this takes place is when all the magic happens. Expect this as part of the normal process.
- Let The Therapeutic Process Take Its Course. You’ve now decided on who you want to work with. Give therapy an honest and fair shot. Set realistic goals for yourself and realistic expectations of the therapist. Be open to exploring painful parts of your life that you’d rather not venture into, and go outside of your comfort zone. Feel free to communicate with your therapist how you feel the therapy is working for you. This is important information for the therapist to understand, and it communicates to the therapist that you feel comfortable enough with her/him to be open about your treatment, (even the negative stuff). Do your best to follow through with the therapist’s recommendations to give the process your best efforts.
- Enjoy What Life’s Like After Getting Better. Commend yourself for all the hard work, time and money you put into the process. Let others you trust around you know what this experience was like for you. Through setting an example to your peers about seeking therapy, giving it your all, and now living a life without your previous problems (or minimized versions of them), will say a lot to your peers. If they’re on the fence about going to therapy and they see how you’ve been able to do it successfully, this could be the final extra push to go out and do the same for themselves.
Now if you successfully read through my lengthy seven steps, congratulate yourself on actually reading the whole thing! I know it’s long, but there were so many pointers I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave out. Being a therapist myself I have a rare perspective on the matter, and I wanted to include some of that in here as well. Remember to be patient with the process. I can’t stress this enough. Your life won’t magically change over night. Most importantly focus on yourself, your upcoming journey, and working towards becoming the best possible version of yourself. Best of luck in finding your ideal therapist match. You deserve it!