What to Expect When Seeking Therapy for the First Time
Many challenges in life can cause stress, depression, and anxiety; it could be worrying about finances and how you're going to pay for rent, or you could be struggling heavily with the loss of your limb and feel like you can't talk to anyone about it.
If you're experiencing any of the stressors above, then counseling or seeking a therapist's help could be good for you. What might be stopping you? There's always been a stigma about "seeing a shrink" as depicted from movies or TV shows, as it gives off the impression that you're a basket case. Jeannie Bertoli, Ph.D., a counselor, explains, "Just because you receive counseling, doesn't automatically mean that something is wrong with you."
Bertoli continues to share with HuffPost, "people think, I have to be in crisis or the intensity of the issue has to be so bad that I go to therapy." More often than not, individuals can benefit from therapy, regardless of how "small" or severe one's reason is for seeking help.
More often than not, individuals can benefit from therapy, regardless of how "small" or severe one's reason is for seeking help.
People are also afraid of the cost that comes with therapy, which can average from $80 to $200/session that typically runs for at least 50 minutes to 1 hour. "Therapy is expensive, but it's an investment and you should be getting a return on your investment," Bertoli explains. Most of us spend our money on expensive things that we don't question, so why not direct our finances toward something that can actually be truly beneficial?
One may ask, "aren't therapists just people you pay to listen to you?" As much as compassionate listening is vital to every counseling process, therapists are equipped to make clinical evaluations and deductions as they have acquired degrees to understand cases of depression, anxiety, and stress and how they relate to the individual's relationships.
Okay, I think I'm ready. Where do I start?
Find a therapist. If you're working on a tight budget, ask your insurance company for a list of therapists in their network. Some therapists may not offer cheaper options if your insurance covers half the cost, but it never hurts to ask.
Try searching in the Psychology Today directory. It contains a list of mental health professionals.
It can be difficult to narrow down your search if you're looking at a large database and it may be best to seek referrals from family and friends. Google may also be an option–a simple search specifying what you're looking for can help you find the right therapist. If you find someone who isn't in your area, online therapy via FaceTime or Skype can be alternatives for those who cannot see you physically.
How do I find my best match?
Narrow down your list to your top 3 to 5 potential candidates.
Contact them and ask questions that would address your top concerns like financial constraints or process. Note down their responses so you can get a good feel for who could be the best fit.
Evaluate how long you need to see your therapist for. Some may average 3 to 5 sessions, while others require months of regular visits. Don't be pressured to resolve things quickly if you need more time.
What can I expect during my first session?
Much like a first date, you may feel apprehension over "will this relationship work". Some therapists will ask about your background so they can have a further understanding of how your current situation relates to what you've experienced in the past; others will just listen to what you initially want to talk about and be more passive, while others can be more engaging. It's very important to prepare for your first session, as it usually sets the tone and checks if this relationship is something you'd like to pursue or not.
Lastly, be prepared to open up and to discuss things that you may not have been comfortable talking about in the past. Don’t' be afraid to discuss your "hot buttons" with your therapist as well–words or instances that may potentially trigger annoyances or have a negative impact on your relationship. At the end of the day, keeping communication lines open is the best way to nurture and foster a positive relationship with your therapist.