This past year, I saw a therapist for the first time.

I’ve always been a believer in working through your issues so you can be a more vibrant and healthy individual, and I’ve encouraged others who are considering therapy to go for it. After all, our personal emotional and mental health deeply affects our day-to-day, as well as our relationships and interactions with the people around us.

But while I’ve worked to move towards health in so many areas of my life, there were still a few places that I felt stuck. I’d been able to identify some mental habits that weren’t serving me, yet I couldn’t quite figure out how to rewire them on my own. And I’d never taken that step of finding professional help to work through them.

Enter therapy.

Therapy should really be a no brainer. Most of us think nothing of diving into new wellness trends or trying a trendy superfood, all in the name of prevention and healthy upkeep. I’m religious about my annual womens wellness exams, chiropractic appointments, and visits to the dentist every six months. But when it comes to our mental and emotional health, therapy can often be seen as a last resort for mending an ailing relationship or fixing an issue.

When it comes down to it, what could be better than spending an hour with someone whose entire focus is to help you have a healthier and more balanced life?

Therapy has been incredibly helpful for me, but I still remember that feeling of not knowing where to start. So for all you therapy newbies out there who feel ready but need a little direction, read on for 6 tips on finding the therapist that’s right for you.

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Determine the type of therapist you’re looking for.

Narrowing down what you need from your sessions is essential to it being as beneficial as possible. If you’re dealing with anxiety and purposelessness in your career, a couple’s therapist probably won’t be the best fit for you. However, if you’re not sure exactly what you need, that’s okay too. There are plenty of therapists out there who can meet you where you are, and if they don’t feel like they’re the best fit for what you need, can refer you to someone who is. Either way, you’ll get to the right place.

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Okay, I know what I want – how do I actually find a therapist?

While googling and picking the first person that pops up in your search may work out for you, just like with anything, there are bad and good therapists. One of the best and most reliable ways to find someone trusted is through a recommendation. You can ask a friend, family member, coworker, or doctor. If your friend loves her therapist, try asking her to ask her therapist for a referral. If that feels uncomfortable for you, an online search doesn’t have to be fruitless. Using a reputable site can actually be incredibly helpful! With Psychology Today you can use filters that allow you to narrow your search by gender, race/ethnicity, specific problems, and treatment modalities and I have friends who have had great success with this site!

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Next steps.

Once you have a few options that fit your criteria, get in touch through email or phone! Not all of them will have openings. Not all of them will work with your schedule or take your insurance. Start with a few options and narrow from there. Having an initial call allows you to get a feel for the therapist and ask any questions you might have. A therapist should be able to communicate what kind of approach they take to therapy and possibly share any specific techniques they use in their work. Some examples of techniques or phrases to look for are: family systems, depth psychotherapy, trauma-informed, EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), attachment theory etc.

Not vibing? Don’t be afraid to move on with your search or even ask them for a reference! Your relationship with your therapist requires trust and openness, so don’t feel like you have to settle for the first one you come in touch with. This applies at any point throughout your relationship!

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Do online-therapy platforms work?

Speaking from personal experience, yes! While it’s hard to beat in person interaction, if you’re comfortable with it, online therapy can work great. I personally have met with a therapist online, who came highly recommended, and it ended up being a great experience. Just go into it with openness! If you’re looking for a more affordable therapy option, companies like Talkspace, which has a network of over 2000 trained therapists that can talk to you via text or videoing, is an amazing resource.

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How do I know if it’s a good fit?

First off, if it’s your first appointment, relax. During my first session it was easy to feel anxious about what I was going to say and how our interaction would be. However, your first session is usually laid-back and very conversational. Your therapist will probably ask something along the lines of “What brought you here today,” then follow up with a lot of questions about that, letting you do most of the talking while they guide the conversation.

Experts say it takes about three sessions to decide whether or not a therapist is a good fit so after a few sessions, try asking yourself a few questions like: “How do I feel with this person? Do I feel understood? Do I feel listened to?” If it doesn’t feel like a fit for some reason, voice your concerns, try to find common ground, and if it doesn’t work out, it’s 100% fine to move on! Red flags include your therapist talking more than you and interrupting you, any inappropriate behavior, or violation of confidentiality.

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Will I know when I can take a step back from therapy?

Therapists aren’t there to trick you into seeing them weekly forever. How long therapy lasts varies depending on the person and your goals. Your therapist’s goal is to get you to a point where you feel empowered and equipped to manage the challenges that brought you there in the first place. Usually you’ll know when you’re at a good place, plus they’ll know too and can communicate that with you. If something pops up that you’re struggling with, you can always schedule another appointment.

(This article is for informational purposes only, sharing the experience of the author. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.)

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