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I am not a licensed therapist. If you are suffering from a major disorder and need treatment please seek the help of a professional. If you need help finding a mental health care provider call 1-800-662-HELP (4357). You can download a free printable list of hotlines here.
If you’re going to therapy for the first time you probably have a lot of questions about how to prepare and what to expect. Going to therapy can be awkward at first and I still feel weird going to talk to a therapist I don’t know. However, there are a lot of benefits to therapy. If you’re struggling with your mental health I encourage you to go despite feeling awkward. If it helps you feel better it will be worth those uncomfortable feelings in the beginning. My therapists have helped me through a number of difficult situations and taught me coping skills I use every day. I can honestly say going to therapy can make a huge difference in your life and if you’re living with depression or struggling with anxiety you should definitly give it a shot. Here are some tips for going to therapy for the first time.
Finding a Therapist
Your relationship with your therapist is unique. It might take a few times to find the right person for you. You wouldn’t quit dating if you didn’t find a long-term partner on your first date. Finding a therapist can be like that. You have to go to different therapists to figure out what you like and what works for you. When I’m really depressed I don’t like to talk to anyone face to face and I use Better Help. This program lets you text, call or skype with a therapist. I also like that I can text my therapist as many times throughout the day as I want and it’s still cheaper than one face to face therapy session per week. Try searching online with Psychology Todays Therapist Finder. When you’re looking for a therapist do some research about different methods. Some of the basic frameworks include:
Behavior therapy This approach focuses on normal and abnormal behaviors
Cognitive therapy Cognitive therapy emphasizes normal and abnormal thoughts
Humanistic therapy Is an approach is based on concern and respect for others
You can read more about theoretical approaches in this article. Think about what you want to work on before you begin therapy. Going to a therapist is a significant investment of your time and money. You want to have a clear idea of what will make it worth it to you.
It Takes Time
I’ve heard people say therapy wasn’t for them after they only went to one session. There’s absolutely no way to know if therapy is for you after one session. It can take a long time to build a relationship with a therapist in order to do the deep work you might need to do to heal. Your relationship with your therapist is like every other relationship in your life and it’s not built overnight. If you’re going to go to therapy you need to commit to giving it a fair shot (I would say six months). It’s hard to be patient when you’re struggling with mental illness because it can make life so uncomfortable but healing is going to take time. You need to make the commitment to yourself to see it through and give yourself the chance to get better.
Yes, talking to a stranger can be awkward. However, your therapist is a professional. They aren’t judging you or your problems, they are there because they want to help you. Don’t let fear stop you from doing something good for yourself. If you’re feeling scared or nervous, keep in mind why you want to go. If you’re seeking help with anxiety or depression, think about how much better your life could be if you didn’t have to spend so much energy managing those things. Imagine how many possibilities there would be for your life. Use that as motivation to leave your worry behind and to start to step past the awkward stage. If you’re feeling particularly nervous about a session write down what is on your mind. Having some discussion points written down can help you feel more prepared for the session and ease some of your worry.
Put Yourself Out There
You get out of therapy what you put in. If you aren’t ready or willing to open up and work through some of your stuff then you aren’t going to get the results you want. Healing can be scary but you are worth it. It’s OK if it takes time for you to trust your therapist, but if you aren’t willing to open up, you probably aren’t going to get the results you want. For therapy to be effective you have to be committed to healing even if it’s uncomfortable. Be sure to communicate to your therapist why you want to try therapy and what you would like to get out of it. They should be able to work with you to help you set some goals for therapy that you can work on.
After you find a therapist you’re interested in seeing call and talk to them on the phone. Ask where they went to school, how long they have been practicing, and what theoretical framework they use. Tell them what you want to work on (anxiety, depression, confidence, etc) and ask how they would approach it. Talk to them about rates, insurance, and sliding scales. If you can’t afford what they are charging ask for a referral. Notice how you feel talking to them. If you’re able to work out a rate you can afford and you feel like they might be able to help you, schedule an appointment.
There’s Nothing to Lose
If you’re thinking about going to therapy, I urge you to try it. Maybe it won’t be for you but you won’t know unless you try. Isn’t it worth it to see if you can find a therapist to help you feel better? Your life is too short to stay miserable and/or in pain. I found therapy to be effective but I tried and am still trying lots of different things to manage my depression. You have to try different things to find what works for you. If you are unhappy find some way to take action and eventually you will find something that will help you. I’ve been to countless therapists, read tons of self-help books and tried about every health and fitness routine imaginable. It’s taken me a long time to find a combination of things that really keep my depression manageable but the relief I have been able to find has made it so worth it.
Be Proud of Yourself
Many people will suffer their whole lives instead of going to therapy or finding a way to manage their mental health. You’re asking for help and that makes you a total bad ass. Make sure you are giving yourself the credit you deserve for doing something outside of your comfort zone in order to make your life better. I wasted years of my life suffering instead of going to talk to a therapist and getting the medication I needed to manage my mental health. I thought going to talk to a therapist would mean I was weak and I should just figure things out on my own. Living with depression and anxiety is extremely difficult and there is no reason you shouldn’t take advantage of all the resources you can.
Going to therapy for the first time can be freaking awkward but wouldn’t you rather be a little uncomfortable to be able to talk to a professional that can help you with what you’re struggling with? I was terrified of going to therapy for the first time but looking back I’m not sure why it was so intimidating. Going to therapy gets easier the more you can and the first couple times are definitely the hardest. I hope this article encourages you to kick your fear in the ass and go talk to someone. I have a lot of other articles about living with depression you can find here.
I am not a licensed therapist. If you are suffering from a major disorder and need treatment please seek the help of a professional. If you need help finding a mental health care provider call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit BetterHelp to talk to a certified therapist online at an affordable price. You can download a free printable list of hotlines here and join the free mental health support group on Facebook here. This post contains affiliate links, you can read my full disclosure policy here.
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