A Worrier’s Guide to Finding a Therapist
I curled my body in a fetal position, screaming and crying like a baby. No way would my parents make me go to that germ invested hell hole called a movie theater, even if I wanted to spend time with my grandparents. In my eight-year-old mind, the movies equaled sickness. Every time Cinderella’s palace popped on that large screen, I knew I’d be sick by morning.
Eventually, my parents did make me go to the theater that night, and would you believe it? I actually enjoyed my time watching Grumpy Old Men with my grandparents. And would you believe what did NOT happen? You guessed it, I did not get sick.
I should have learned my lesson.
But then there was the time in third grade when I dreamed my mom contracted AIDs because the spit her doctor emitted from his mouth during a normal conversation landed in the wound on her thigh. Then she died. I awoke frantic and crying. That day at school, I couldn’t control my tears because I was afraid my mom was going to get AIDs and die. (Give me a break though, I watched the Ryan White move at a far too vulnerable age. Haha)
And even as an adult, I just recently realized most people don’t have thoughts like, “I better open the microwave at the exact moment it resounds or my cat might get sick.” That’s normal, right?
I think it’s safe to say, I’ve lived with some sort of OCD/anxiety tendencies my entire life. Yes, I’ve learned to manage it to a degree and for so long managing it was enough. However, I’m at a point in my life where I no longer want to settle for good. I want great.
And I know the only way to do this is to tackle my fears head-on.
Why a therapist? Why now?
I may be able to decipher dreams from reality now that I’m an adult, but that doesn’t mean I have better control over the anxiety. Recently, I quit my job and am planning another cross-country move. My life is riddled with change and inconsistency. On top of this, I’ve finally taken life into my own hands and have pretty big dreams and goals for how I want it to pan out.
And wow, my subconscious is having the hardest time coping.
My fear of missing out on the opportunity of doing something big, my fear of failure, my fear of other’s perspectives are rearing their ugly heads in the form of strange pains in my body. Then hypochondriac Meghan has herself convinced she has some form of a deathly disease.
I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THIS!
So I’m going to a therapist. Making it on your own is hard enough for any sane person, let alone someone who worries about worrying. I’m finally ready to admit I have a problem and actually seek help instead of stubbornly convincing myself that I can control it on my own.
Oh, and I also happened to draw “Find a therapist” as my second task for The Life Jar project.
How to choose a therapist?
I’m lying if I say finding a therapist is easy. I’m also be lying if I say this process did not make me anxious, or that I haven’t worried I’ll choose the wrong one. I’ve even tried to convince myself that therapy is a scam and that I’m wasting our family’s money on something that won’t make a difference. Even though I know in my heart this is not true.
Start with basics
Although it was the last items I completed during my process, I’d advise calling your insurance company first. I set up an online account and found nothing for mental health through my portal. However, when I called, I found that we just have a co-pay for in-network and a pretty great deal for out-of-network. So before you start bemoaning the cost of a therapist and using it as an excuse not to move forward (which is what I was doing), check with your insurance first!
What I actually started with was that tried-and-true friend — Google. I looked up therapists in my area and found so many! How could I just choose one? Each wellness center or clinic had at least five therapists, and I started to feel overwhelmed.
And that’s when I found Psychology Today. Their “Find a Therapist” feature made the process so much easier. Just type in your zip code, and you are presented with so many verified therapists in your area. Because you’ll find so many therapists, the filters feature is your friend.
Define your needs
Before I could filter on Psychology Today, I had to create my own, internal filters. I needed to ask myself and truly understand what I was seeking out of this experience and what I wanted out of the person who would lead me through it. I advice completing this exercise after you call your insurance company but before you start looking for therapists. It will streamline your process.
I analyzed the following topics before filtering for a local therapist.
Method of delivery
Should I try virtual or in-person therapy?
- Online: I’ve heard great feedback about virtual therapy. It is convenient, cheaper and can be done from anywhere. If I chose this option, I could begin therapy immediately.
- In-person: Touted as being more personal and intentional, it seems like in-person would hold me accountable in a way virtual just wouldn’t. And I need accountability.
- Result: I am choosing a hybrid. I like the idea of getting started with therapy sooner rather than later. Therefore, I want to start virtually with the intention of having in-person meetings once I move. The factor that most motivated my desire for in-person sessions is the fact that I work remotely. All of my work and interactions with people throughout the day are virtual. I don’t leave the house often, and that’s something else that causes me to feel anxious. Creating the discipline to get ready, leave the house, and attend a session is what I need.
Honestly, I didn’t even consider a male counselor. Perhaps that’s sexist of me; however, so many factors (hormonal, societal, etc.) are gender-specific. I am more comfortable opening up to a woman and feel like she will come from a place of a bit more understanding for my specific situation.
Based on my discussion above, it’s safe to say I need a therapist who specializes in anxiety. I also have a tendency to feel blue, so I want to ensure my therapist has experience with depression. I am a yogi and believe in the power of meditation and physical health directly affects mental health, so I want someone who has similar beliefs and promotes holistic remedies. Finally, I want someone who also provides couples therapy so Chris can participate sometimes too.
Once my criteria were defined, I used it filter for specific therapists who would be a good match. After wading through hundreds of options, I lowered my potential down to 17 women. Obviously, this was too many, so I re-read each profile and whittled it down to only eight therapists.
I reached out to each person through Psychology Today’s internal email feature. I sent the following email message hoping to find clarity on who of the eight would be a good match:
My name is Meghan Cain-Davis, and I found your information on Psychology Today. I currently live in Boston but will be moving to the Chattanooga area at the beginning of September. I’m hoping to find a therapist who could start out doing virtual sessions and begin in-person therapy once I’m moved. Would this be something you would be able to accommodate?
I’ve never been to a therapist before, but it’s been something I’ve always wanted to do. In general, I’m a pretty anxious person, prone to bouts of blue but have never been diagnosed with anything. This year, I’ve decided to start putting my actions into words and finding a therapist is part of this exercise of self improvement and rising above my anxiety and negative self talk. I must admit, I’m a little nervous writing this and getting the journey started, but I know it will be worth it.
The description of your practice on Psychology Today really resonated with me. I look forward to hearing from you and seeing if we would be a good fit.
Having a wonderful day!
I waited. One therapist responded within two minutes. By the end of the first day, I received three more email responses and one phone call. Other responses peppered in throughout the week, and I even received one while writing this post.
Based on the tone of each email response or voicemail, I knew immediately who would be a good fit and who I didn’t want to see. I scheduled phone conversations with the ones who made me feel comfortable, and based on that, decided who I would choose to be my therapist.
Ultimately, the reason I chose my therapist was that she took the time to listen to me during our consult, talked me through her methods and already had a plan for me by the end of our conversation (less than 30 minutes). She said she believed there was a reason I picked “Find a therapist” as my second The Life Jar experiment. She even said we would explore why I created this project and why I was compelled to put this as one of the tasks.
Unknowingly, she addressed one of my biggest concerns: choosing a therapist and then realizing it wasn’t a good fit. She put me at ease about that without me even mentioning it. She was confident and excited about the prospect of working together, which made me feel so excited about the future.
The other therapists I talked to seemed more routine and did not take the time to really talk to me and get to know me during our consult.
I will be meeting virtually with my therapist until I move and then will be meeting in person. It may be in my own head, but I already feel better!
How to tackle fears moving forward?
My biggest fear now is that I chose the wrong therapists, but I guess I’ll never know if someone else would be better if I really like the one I have.
Once I start my sessions, I fear I’ll mute my voice and say what I think the right answer is not the truthful answers. In order to combat that one, I’ll express this concern to my therapist during our first session.
I’m looking forward to having a professional listen to my problems and provide me with tangible solutions. I’m excited about not feeling alone in this journey. Nonetheless, I’m still nervous about the process, especially what it may uncover. However, I’m not so fearful about the experience as I am afraid of how life will continue without it.
So just like as a kid when I was scared to leave my mom and go to school, afraid her doctor would give her AIDs or when I lifted myself off of the living room floor and went to the movies with my grandparents despite my fears, I am lifting myself out of this anxiety-ridden, stress-inducing brain and asking for some professional help to combat the anxiety and fear so I can do great things.
I can’t wait to share this journey with you!
Have you been to a therapist? Comment below. I’d love to hear any and all advice!
Have you always wanted to go to a therapist but been too afraid to try? Comment below, and love to help!