My best friend suffered from debilitating anxiety and depression after her boyfriend of four years broke up with her. She knew she needed help—in fact, she was desperate for help—but she was also nervous and reluctant to take that leap of faith. The months following her breakup became increasingly tough; things got worse, before they got better (so the saying goes), but improve they did thanks to her incredible courage and the help of a therapist. She only wishes she’d made that first appointment sooner.
Scheduling your first session with a therapist can be stressful, scary, and intimidating—but the benefits that await you are just too good to pass up. Don’t wait another second to begin your therapy journey. Follow Licensed Psychologist Dr. Carol O’Saben’s guide to taking that leap and scheduling your first session:
1) Do your research.
According to Dr. O’Saben, the first step is to do your research and find a therapist that is not only qualified to help you, but who also looks to be a good fit: “Look up therapists in your area who have experience with the issue you want to address. You can find information about many mental health professionals online through various therapist directories or just by googling the issue with which you are struggling and going to a therapist’s webpage. Find someone whose profile or webpage resonates with you. Fit or comfort with a particular therapist is far more important than any of the degrees or credentials behind their name. Find someone you think you would be able to talk to. If their website or profile listing sounds awkward or forced to you, they are probably not a good fit.
2) Reach out.
Once you’ve done your research, “identify how the therapist handles their initial contact with new clients,” says O’Saben. “Most therapists will do a free brief consultation to make sure you are a good fit for each other in therapy. Many will do this over the phone, some will do it in person. If you’ve found someone who does online therapy (through a secure videoconferencing system), you can even do the brief consult without ever leaving your home or office and get a feel for the technology. If the idea of calling and speaking to a stranger is overwhelming, find a therapist who has an email address or a messaging system through their website and send them a message. This can break the ice and give you a feel for the person before you ever talk to them.”
3) Schedule the consultation.
Next, take that important step in actually scheduling your consultation, despite concerns, worries, or second-guesses you may have: “If messaging with the therapist about a brief consultation feels okay to you, take a deep breath and schedule the phone call or video chat or meeting. Tell the therapist how anxious you are about scheduling the meeting and let the therapist help you with the process. Remember, people become therapists because they want to help; let the therapist be helpful to you, and they can alleviate some of your anxiety.”
4) Discuss your interest in therapy.
Make this a productive and worthwhile consultation by discussing your needs and your expectations with your potential therapist. If you’re nervous about this conversation, don’t worry—they will help you through it. “Getting through the door (or into the videoconferencing software) can be the hardest part of getting started because it requires face-to-face time. Again, the therapist can assist you in managing some of that anxiety at the beginning of the consult. During the consultation meeting, tell the therapist what you are looking for assistance with through therapy. They will tell you honestly whether or not they feel they can support you in meeting your goals. If the therapist doesn’t think they are a good fit, they will help you identify someone who might be a better fit. But more importantly, if you don’t feel like the therapist is a good fit during the initial consultation, don’t schedule another meeting with them. Sometimes it takes a few first meetings before you can find someone who will be a good fit. But it is definitely worth taking the time to find the best therapist for you.
5) Move forward.
Congratulations, you’ve done it! You’ve completed the first four steps of your therapy journey. Now that you’ve pushed some of those nerves aside and pursued potential therapists, you can move forward with the one you think will suit you and your needs best. Just remember: it might not be smooth sailing from here on out. Therapy takes hard work, but the results are incredible: “Once someone has gotten past that first initial consultation and feels comfortable with the therapist, moving forward will feel much easier. It won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be easier than the initial contact. And it will be so worth it in the end.”
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