There was a time in my life where I was eating, sleeping, and living in a very, very dark hopeless place. And I knew that the only way that I was going to pull myself out of this depression was with the guided, consistent help of a professional that I felt comfortable and safe around.
Therapy saved my life, but the type of therapist was just as important as my decision to seek help.
For those of you that read what I just wrote, saw themselves in my testimony, and are ready to find the right therapist, here are some tips to ensure that your journey to healing is as smooth as possible.
Think about who you want your therapist to be.
Since you will be exploring some of the most personal and intimate parts of your life, you will have to be comfortable and trust your therapist. Would you prefer a male or female? Is there a therapist of a particular age, religious background, country of origin or race? I know for me, seeking the support of a woman of color who would not use any religious perspective when providing support or coping strategies was critical. I also knew that I wanted a person around my age, so my sessions would seem more casual and open.
Start the process before you are in crisis.
Roni Patterson, a NYC-based therapist says that many patients wait until it’s an emergency to seek support. It’s important to know that therapists are often in session and will not answer texts, emails, or phone calls in real-time. On top of that, they often work for themselves—meaning that they are their own secretary, which may delay their response times. And finally, with reputable therapists, you may encounter that they are booked for weeks, if not months, when you finally decide to seek help.
Be prepared to go on some “therapist dates.”
Like romantic dating, you have to kiss a few frogs before you find your princess or prince. Before finding my current therapist, I reached out to at least fifteen different therapists for phone consultations. Shortly after speaking to a range of professionals, I created a short list of viable counselors based on how I felt about our sessions. I booked at least one session, or what I deemed a "therapist date," with each of those from my short list.
In each of the sessions, I had the chance to assess the type of questions they asked, the observations they made about my life circumstances, the level of attention they gave to me, and other nuanced factors that could only be unearthed when you are working with a therapist. After a few sessions, it became easy to identify the therapist that I wanted to continue working with.
Speak with your insurance representative.
Therapy can be quite costly. If you have insurance, please reach out to your carrier for recommendations. If you are able to connect with an in-network therapist, you can save a lot of money. On the other hand, if you find an out-of-network counselor, your insurance provider will give you all the information that you need about deductibles, the amount of time it takes to process claims, and the types of forms you will need to fill out to ensure timely reimbursements, if applicable.
It’s unfortunate that our society doesn’t view tending to emotional pain with the same sense of urgency that we tend to a failing kidney or broken leg. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and should be treated as such. Finding the right therapist may take some time, but with these tips you will make a worthwhile investment.
A lot of your emotional wounds may go unhealed, but it's up to you to make sure that they do.