The decision to seek therapy, although a great one, can result in a range of conflicting emotions. You may feel relieved that you are finally taking steps to get through a rough transition in your life. You might feel fearful, afraid of the unknown. Maybe you are fighting feelings of defeat because you’re returning to therapy for a second, third, or fourth time.
Whichever of these emotions you are feeling, realize that taking the first steps to getting the help you need is an accomplishment to be celebrated. Seeking the help of a professional means that you know deep within yourself that there is something better awaiting you. It also means you’ve decided to place your well-being in the forefront of your life.
Sometimes trusting in your own judgment when going through a difficult time is easier said than done, so when the worry, shame, or hopelessness gets the best of you, follow these steps to make the process of seeking help a little easier.
Acknowledge that there is something about yourself or in your life that you would like to work on making better.
Sometimes people when they need help feel broken, as though they need to be fixed. Instead of thinking of your need for help in terms of fixing, try thinking of it as a way of improving. It’s fairly easy to acknowledge that there is something that we can do to better ourselves—we all want to improve.
I’ve also heard clients say time and time again that they think their problems are silly compared to people who have what they consider more “serious” problems. Therapy doesn’t just have to be for people who have experienced extreme trauma. Think of therapy as time dedicated just to you and your growth and improvement.
Commit to seeing a therapist or counselor when you’re not in distress.
When you’re in the middle of an intense attack of anxiety, you’re probably thinking that you’re in desperate need of help because you just can’t take it anymore. But if you wake up the next day and feel just a little better, you’ll probably say, “I got through it. I don’t need to see anyone,” and you’ll put off seeking help for a debilitating problem. If you continue to wait until you’re upset and in distress to make the decision to see a therapist, you’re likely to dismiss the idea once the moment has passed. Just like with any important decision, you need to be in a rational state of mind to make the decision that is best for you. If you are calm, rational, and truly weigh the pros and cons of seeing a therapist, you are more likely to make a good decision and follow through with it.
Talk to friend or family member that has attended therapy.
If you have someone close to you that has been to therapy, consider asking them questions about his or her experiences in therapy. You may want to ask how they went about finding a therapist, how often did they meet, or what about therapy was helpful to them? You may find their answers comforting, encouraging, and even inspiring. The unknown aspects of therapy can be intimidating and scary. Asking someone you trust for more information can relieve the anxiety or fear you feel and help you to get more comfortable with your decision to seek help.
Know how insurance and payment works.
Let’s be honest. Most of us are worried about money, and therapy is an expense, but you do have options. Many therapists take a variety of insurance plans and can easily be found by searching online or contacting your insurance company. When contacting the insurance company you can also find out if you have a deductible, co-pay, or co-insurance associated with your mental health coverage. If you are uninsured, it is not impossible to find counselors who will help you free of charge or on a sliding scale (ex. Pro Bono Counseling Project).
Search your options and find the right fit with the right person.
One of the most important parts of therapy is your connection with your therapist. How effective therapy is can depend on how you relate to him or her. For that reason, it’s important to find someone you can be comfortable with. You can find a therapist by speaking to your primary care physician, asking a friend/family member, or simply searching online. Many therapists offer information about the kinds of therapy they provide, their history, and expertise. Find a person with whom you can connect. It may take speaking to them over the phone or having an initial visit to make this determination.
If you’ve made the decision to seek counseling, congratulations for taking one of the first steps to feeling better. Deciding to get help for an ongoing problem is often not an easy one. Despite how difficult the decision may have been, you’ve managed to do what is best for you. It is normal to be apprehensive, skeptical, or nervous about the process, but remember, all things are temporary and your new beginning is right in front of you.
The Stone Foundation is a community of counseling professionals who are committed to helping you live your best life. If we can assist you as you take the first steps toward improving your life, please contact us at 410.296.2004 or visit www.thestonefoundation.com. Please know that this article deals with a very serious matter and is intended for general, educational purposes only. This article, and others like it, should not and are not meant to take the place of professional counseling services or medical care.
Lauren Greenberg, MS, LGPC is a graduate of Loyola’s Counseling Practitioner Program. For three years, Lauren provided hotline crisis intervention to residents of Baltimore City. She also has experience providing counseling to students at a local college for issues including grief and loss, depression, substance abuse, self-harm, anxiety, and trauma. Her professional interests and areas of study include positive psychology, promoting social and emotional competence, and women’s issues.