October 20, 2018

A Simple Guide to Getting a Therapist

After already posting my own experience of the help I received from therapy, I wanted to follow up with a guide for people overwhelmed by the perceived enormity of picking a therapist.

I also want to stress that this is not just a guide for men (or those who define themselves as such), but for anybody thinking about this.

1) WHAT DO YOU WANT TO TACKLE?

Personally, I had noticed a pattern of behaviour in certain situations that was leading to panic attacks. They were so bad that they were stopping me from doing things many people consider normal, and were getting me into a pit of despair that there was no way of changing my life, and nobody I could talk to about it. Simple as that.

After a ton of google searches and web research, I eventually came to the conclusion that therapy was the way forward. But then what? How would I begin to describe what I needed? And what did I need?

Looking back, I believe I did something approximating an 80/20 list. What 20% of things in my life were giving me 80% of the struggle, lag, pain? Out of this list, I identified a couple, and focused on them as I proceeded.

For you, this could be to do with lack of sleep, lack of appetite, feeling anxious or fearful about something specific, sexual performance concerns, or parental, familial or spousal issues.

I must stress here that a therapist isn’t a doctor. If you believe you might be depressed, I recommend getting a diagnosis from your GP. If you are being subjected to suspected harassment or abuse, contact National Domestic Violence (UK) or call 0808 2000 247. Additionally, the non-emergency number of the police in England and Wales is 101.

2) HOW MUCH TO SPEND?

Don’t worry, while therapy costs money (Unless it’s with NHS — expect long waiting lists — or you’re a student), it can be adapted to fit your means. The therapist you go with may offer different options, and most will advertise these on their website. These could include variable prices for weekends, weekday evenings, and weekday daytimes. Therapy can also be open ended or time-limited, and so it’s worth checking the policy on this. It can be easy to get to the best part of 3 hours before realising how much that will be.

But whatever your budget, you can fit the schedule around you. Remember, it’s about you now. If you go twice a week or once every two months, it can be helpful either way, and no good therapist will judge your spending power. It is recommended however that once weekly sessions are the best for maintaining continuity and momentum, and not being too overwhelming.

I actually went online first, which was the first step in admitting the problem and verbalising it to somebody anonymous. Services like BetterHelp, Talkspace, PlusGuidance all offer therapists at different rates within this realm.

Personally, I feel therapy is one of the many things that benefit from being in a room with somebody (along with playing boardgames, and eating spagetti) so I would recommend having that as your ultimate goal.

Then once I picked a live one (avoid the dead ones), I had a free 20 minute consultation call before ever meeting them.

3) FINDING THE ONE

This is perhaps the most crucial piece in the puzzle, right behind deciding you want to do therapy.

But there are loads of types of therapies aren’t there?!

Yes you silly billy, over 400 different types. WHAT?

My experience with Rachel was that she is Integrative, which means she based integrated a load of different models into the sessions, and tailored them to me and where I wanted to go. This might differ depending on the person, and personally I found it to be the best approach.

After a bit of research on her website, I found this paragraph:

I absolutely love people. I hope that you’ll quickly feel that I care about and respect you. My clients often tell me how they value and look forward to sessions, that they learn a shedload about themselves, feel seen, understood, reassured and inspired to move forward. We dig into, sit with and process the challenging stuff; we also have a lot of fun — tears and laughter are part and parcel of working with me!

Sounds pretty ideal does it? That’s the sort of thing you want from many of life’s relationships, let alone somebody who’s going to be professionally listening to you and giving advice on your troubles. This is a good sign.

However, if you’re looking for something more specific and dedicated to an issue you don’t feel a generalised one could tackle, look here. It might give you the type that fits you best.

4) THE SEARCH

This is why I started with identifying the problem for yourself. If you can be specific about what you’re after, you can be more specific in a google search. But you might consider variables like:

  • Price — should be advertised up front
  • Experience — maybe you want somebody a lot older than you for example?)
  • Education level — Bachelors? Masters? In what subject? From what University?
  • Location to you (you really don’t want to have to drag yourself around your city or province to meet somebody at a massive inconvenience), and then how they reply during an initial contact, like a phone call or email conversation.
  • Specialist — If you’ve got a specific or unique issue, look for a specialised person.
  • Holiday and Cancellation policy — These vary hugely, and it’s worth seeing their flexibility with this.
  • Gender — It’s totally fair to choose by gender, but don’t discount speaking to the gender you might initially discount. They should all be trained professionals who have been doing this for some time, so their personality and demeanour should be key.

It’s like choosing a roommate: it’s somebody you’ll be spending some time with, so if you have the freedom to choose, use it.

4) THE FIRST SESSION

Whether it’s a consultation phone call, or during the first session, check how you feel speaking to them.

Good vibes if they

  • Ask about you and your issue
  • Spend more time listening than talking
  • Have a voice that immediately puts you at ease

Bad vibes if they

  • Dominate the conversation
  • Tell you how you should be or feel
  • Make judgements about your or somebody you’re speaking about that feel unfair
  • Seem flirtatious or interested in the relationship being more than therapist-client? I have had a friend tell me about an experience in which a therapist told them during the first session “When you’re in therapy you end up hating or wanting to fuck your therapist.”

A free consultation phone call is a good way of getting to grips with them before having to jump in and do some real human interaction, so it’s a good sign if they offer that.

If everything seems good and you feel at ease and prepared to be vulnerable with them, go ahead and keep on with them!

5) GOALS

Once again, a reason to be in the room (where it happens) is great. Your therapist will probably discuss why you’re there, and start with examining this issue, or at least the most pressing one if there are many. But once you’ve got a goal to aim at, homework may be provided (CBT therapists especially), and they can help guide you to a place where you feel like you’re directly addressing something that is challenging you quickly.

Regardless though, even without a goal, the feeling I often get coming out of therapy is of a complete lightness of being, and a readiness to jump into the next part of my day with vulnerability and fun. This derives from the feeling of somebody being completely present and listening to you intently for the best part of an hour. We don’t always get that in life!

FINAL COMMENTS

Remember, you are in control. You can stop it at any time, and change what you’re doing at any time. Do not feel like you’re being pushed down a road that is deeply uncomfortable unless you want that, or feel ready for it.

Most of all, I would suggest not seeing this as a huge step you’re taking, as that may make it seem a lot more imposing.

It’s more like going to the physio at the gym, or a GP at the doctor’s surgery, only for your mind.

You’re not broken, you’re not beyond help. You just want to do what millions of people worldwide do: work out a niggle, big or small, within ourselves that we ALL GET from the chaos that is growing up and living as an adult in the world.

If you want any further help, feel there’s something I need amending in this, or want to discuss further, or want to find out more about Rachel(!), don’t hesitate to get in touch at sam@lapazfilms.com.

I sincerely hope you receive the help you need and deserve.

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