Thinking about therapy? But you have no idea where to start, and are nervous about not knowing what you need? I know how difficult it can be to find a therapist. There are so many specialities, approaches and models, it can seem overwhelming. So, here are my top tips:
- Start with the therapist – not the problem or the speciality. This might seem counter-intuitive, but if you do not click with your therapist, then a hard thing (going to therapy in the first place) will have just got a whole lot harder. I don’t care if they are the world’s leading expert in whatever disorder, if they don’t get you or you don’t get them, I would recommend looking for someone else.
- Think about the kind of therapy session you are after. Some people want to talk all session, some like a more guided approach. Do you want a space to offload, or a place to focus on making changes with input from both you and the therapist? Some therapists are more reserved than others, which you might find soothing, whilst others might find it frustrating. Understand what you expect from therapy so you can ask the therapist about their approach to see if it will fit your needs.
- What is the difficulty you would like help with? If there is a specific area or diagnosis, it is helpful to know which approaches aim to tackle that directly. For example, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has a solid evidence base for difficulties such as social anxiety, PTSD, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic attacks, and depression – whereas counselling and more psychodynamic approaches look more closely at relationships and long standing patterns.
- Call or email them. Most therapists offer a free initial telephone conversation, so make a few calls if you need to. Have a little list of questions ready based on what you feel is important. After that first conversation consider: did you feel at ease? Were they able to get an initial grasp on what you were saying? Were they able to answer your questions? Do they have appointment hours that work for you?
It is normal to feel anxious about sending an email or making a call to start therapy. I know how often people put it off, or make excuses, but there is no shame in asking for help.