Raise your hand if you remember your first panic attack.
Mine happened while in the vicinity of the David Letterman Studio in Manhattan.
To this day I don’t know what triggered it but I can recall the feeling that pulsed through my body. I remember not being able to track my thoughts and the ice cream truck I found on a nearby side street.
Since I didn’t understand what was happening to me, I eased my pain with a fist full of ice cream sandwiches.
Once I got back to my apartment I flipped open the Yellow Pages and started my hunt for a therapist.
Remember the Yellow Pages? Remember how thick and bulky that thing was? Ha!
Anyway, since the panic attack that inspired my hunt, I’ve learned quite a bit about the art of picking a therapist.
So if you’re someone that’s in the market for a therapist and your not sure how to go about finding the right one for you, today’s post is exactly what you need.
I’ve got 5 simple questions that will help narrow your search for the right therapist.
After you’ve had a chance to read, let’s discuss today’s topic in the comment section.
Tell me what you look for in a therapist or if you’re already working with one, how did you know he or she was the right fit for you? Any questions you’d like to add to the list?
Let’s discuss in the comments.
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Remember your voice, experiences and insights are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read. And that someone could be you.
As always, thanks for contributing to this community each and every week.
Until Next Tuesday,
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#1 What Can You (Honestly) Afford?
After my first panic attack, I knew I needed a therapist. And I also knew that I was broke.
If you have insurance, which I didn’t have for a long time, budget may not be an issue for you.
But not having insurance does not mean that working with a therapist is out of the question. Neither does a small budget.
With a bit of research, you can find therapists that offer a sliding scale. If you’re not familiar, a sliding scale is basically when payment for a service is determined by your income, or lack thereof, and not based on a set fee.
So after you sit down and figure out what you can afford, do a Google search for therapists in your area that offer a sliding scale.
Another option to consider – if budget is still an issue – is to work with a therapist every other week instead of every week. Now this is something you’d have to look into and discuss with your potential therapist. But knowing ahead of time what you can afford, over the long haul, will help you narrow down your choices.
I’ll be totally transparent with you here. I didn’t consider budget at one time and ended up finding a therapist I really wanted to work with. But after a handful of sessions, I knew I couldn’t afford her. So, I had to move on.
Luckily, this therapist was understanding but being clear on my budget ahead of time would’ve saved me unnecessary embarrassment and money.
#2 Do You Prefer A Male Or Female Therapist?
I don’t know why but when it comes to gynecologists and therapists I’ve always preferred to work with a woman.
Maybe it’s the nature of information that gets exchanged or the degree of vulnerability involved but I won’t have it any other way.
If you don’t have a preference that’s totally cool. And if you do, just know that it’s perfectly okay to.
#3 Do You Want To Work In A Group Or Fly Solo?
When it comes to therapy, there are lots of options. Especially with the Internet today, some therapists even make sessions available via Skype.
Now I’ve never had a Skype session but I have participated in both one-on-one and group therapy.
And each has pros and cons to consider.
For example, with one-on-one therapy you get the therapists full attention. You have more flexibility with scheduling and if you don’t want to share your business with a group of people you can take advantage of the level of privacy that a one-on-one session offers.
And at the same time, private sessions can be more expensive than group sessions and you don’t get to connect with other people that could be going through the same things you are.
On the other hand, when working in a group you’re not always the center of attention. So if you show up on a day where you just want to listen, there’s no pressure to keep the session moving forward.
Group therapy can be more affordable and at the same time you do have less control over scheduling.
Over the years, I’ve done both and I would do both again if I felt I needed to.
I love being able to focus in on what’s going on in my head with a therapist. And at the same time, I’ve learned how valuable a group setting can be especially when dealing with depression.
For example, years ago I attended a therapy group for depression. It was at a local hospital and just 20 dollars a session.
I don’t even recall talking much in that group but I did a hell of a lot of listening. And I realized that there were people that were much worse off than me and people that were just like me who could relate to what I was going through.
So as you can see both options have their pros and cons. You just need to experiment and decide what works for you.
#4 Are You Willing To Listen To Your Gut?
I’ve been around the therapy block long enough to be able to tell when it’s working and when it’s not.
As a patient, I believe that you have every right to discontinue treatment if your gut is telling you that somethings not right or it’s time to move on.
But and this is a BIG BUT, you’ve got to be honest with yourself. You’ve got to know the difference between sensing that a therapist isn’t a good fit versus a therapist that’s making you uncomfortable because he or she is challenging you to grow.
Take Joan and me for an example. She was my therapist for years. Often, she was the only family, friend and support I had. But we got to a point where it wasn’t working any more.
I sensed in my gut that it was time to move on – aka breakup with Joan. But instead of jumping on the impulse I waited to make a decision.
And after checking myself and really thinking through my options, I decided it was time.
So when you’re looking for a therapist to work with, be willing to listen to your gut. And also be willing to be honest with yourself about what you truly need.
#5 Are You Willing To Give Up On The Magic Wand?
I was sitting across from Joan once during a particularly brutal session when I looked at her and pleaded, “Just tell me what to do to fix this. Give me a formula to follow that will make this go away.”
And Joan, without saying a word, leaned over and opened a drawer next to her chair and started looking through it. And I said, “Joan what are you doing over there?” She looked up at me and said, “I’m looking for my magic wand.”
Clearly, she was joking. But from that moment she gave me advice I’ll never forget. She said,
“There are no magic wand solutions, when it comes to the work you’re doing here.” I can’t wave a magic wand and give you the answers that you’re looking for. You’ve got to find them yourself, all I can do is guide you along the way.”
You could seek out the most acclaimed, expensive and educated therapist on the planet but if you’re not willing to show up and do the work – then you’re wasting your time, money and energy.
Recovery, growth and self-improvement is a painful and, at times, frustrating process. And it can also, with the right therapist, be an eye opening and life altering experience.
Either way, you’ve got to show up, stay committed and be willing to drop the idea that there is a magic wand solution to the problems you seek relief from.