Getting Started

I Want To Go To Therapy, Now What?

1. Check in with yourself.

When looking for a therapist it’s a good idea to begin by getting a sense of what it is you want out of your therapy. What do you want to work on? Is there a particular type of therapy you want to try: individual, couples, or group? Are there certain qualities you want your therapist to embody? Do you have a gender preference, or any preference, for that matter?

There are just as many types of therapists as there are people, so you want to choose someone whose personality and presence makes you feel comfortable. I suggest taking time to imagine the kind of therapist you want to work with. Write down or sit with the traits that feel important to you, and traits that are deal breakers. Ideally what you are looking for is finding a therapist that puts you at ease.

2. Consider your therapy budget.

Therapy is expensive. While I believe it is one of the best investments we can make in our self, there are real financial barriers that can make it hard to do so. Depending on the community you live in, therapy can range from $80-$200 per session. The price can be a deterrent for many, but I recommend being honest with yourself before exclaiming, “I can’t afford therapy!” Look at your overall spending and see where you can make adjustments. Saving could be as simple as bringing lunches to work and making coffee at home. It is a choice, like everything else, and you must weigh the financial commitment you are willing to make.

3. Ask people you trust for recommendations.

Asking people you trust for recommendations is a great place to start. This could be a friend, family member, colleague or other health professional. If someone you trust makes a referral, this can act as a basic pre-screening process. If you have a friend or family member who is a therapist, they would also be a good person to ask as well. Therapists tend to have reputable colleagues who can refer you too.

If your peers can’t make direct referrals, don’t be shy to ask a friend who goes to therapy if they can request a list of referrals from their therapist to assist you in your search.

4. Utilize the web.

The Internet is a great resource for reading about and finding local therapists.

5. Interview therapists.

Once you narrowed down your list of potentials (at least three names), start making calls. Most therapists offer a free 15-20 minute phone consultation. Prepare yourself for the phone consultation by thinking about what you want to get out of it.

You might ask the following:

  • How would you describe your style of therapy?
  • What do you charge per session?
  • What insurance plans do you take? (if applicable)
  • Do you provide a sliding pay scale?
  • How often will we meet?
  • How does therapy work?

Pay attention to how you feel on the phone. Do you feel comfortable talking with him or her? Do they sound clear and confident while answering your questions? Is their style of communication relatable? If yes, go ahead and book an intake session at the end of your phone call. Feel free to do this with more than one therapist if you like the idea of “shopping around.”

6. I think I found my person! What can I expect next out of therapy?

Your first session with your therapist will cover a lot of material. You will be asked to share what brought you into therapy, parts of your personal and family history, and the current symptoms you are experiencing. Your therapist will (obviously) ask you personal questions and, depending on your relationship to vulnerability, this may feel challenging. This is normal and to be expected. Your therapist should never rush your process. Your pace and comfort level must be respected.

Research continues to show that the most effective therapists build strong therapeutic relationships with their clients and have highly developed interpersonal skills including warmth, acceptance, empathy, and the ability to accurately identify how a client is feeling. With that in mind, I suggest you give a lot weight to how you feel in the room with your therapist and what the quality of your relationship feels like. And remember, we get out of therapy what we put into it—it is not a passive process. While your therapist is a facilitator in your healing, you are actually the one who needs to do the work!

March 6, 2016

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