Once upon a time I had never seen a counselor. But I was getting desperate- my life felt like it was falling apart and things were getting to a scary point. I became grudgingly willing to see someone in case there was any way counseling could help me. I got a recommendation for a therapist from a friend, made an appointment and went…with my tail between my legs.
There, I blurted out my entire life’s story. And in answer to the therapist’s question, I admitted to smoking some pot. She told me she could not work with me unless I gave that up immediately and entirely. She might as well have shot me in the chest. I remember leaving feeling stunned, rejected, completely vulnerable and humiliated. She ‘gave’ me an unwanted hug as I left. I was worse off than when I went in. I suspected help would never come. I was clearly unworthy.
To shorten up a LONG story, I went to self-help meetings for a while and then tried another therapist, and that time it clicked. She and I developed a rapport, and I went on to work hard at recovery for many months. The experience was transformative and set me on a path of recovery and growth. I am happier and healthier than I could ever have imagined. Now I am a therapist, helping others to grow as well.
I remember those feelings: reluctant, desperate, hopeful before the first appointment. I remember the agony of the first appointment- fearing rejection. I remember the mystery of not knowing what was supposed to happen.
Who says what? Will the therapist tell me what is wrong with me? Will they respect me? Will they tell me what to do? Judge me? Isn’t this stuff written down anywhere?!?
If you are new to therapy, here are a few considerations:
- What is the problem and/or what is your goal? Put it in one sentence if you can. “we fight all the time”, “I get scary mad”, “I need to get a life”, “I want us to feel romantic and sexual again”.
- Consider how you want to pay for counseling. With the new healthcare laws, many more people have counseling benefits included in their insurance coverage. Call your insurance provider- the number is on the back of your insurance card, and ask “Do I have counseling benefits? Do I have to pay down a deductible before coverage kicks in? What is my co-pay? Where is the list of people I can see? Would you reimburse me if I saw Susan Truett?” There are other ways to cover counseling as well. For instance if you work for a larger employer, you may have Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefits. These can offer up to 7 or 8 sessions for free with very little hassle, and no loss of privacy.
- Call clinicians and ask about specializations, insurance company contracts and about hours of operation. Counselors rarely work with more than a few insurance companies so do check into the practicalities of payment and scheduling.
- Meet a few people and look for one you feel good working with. Therapists are all different and you want to find the one that feels right for you. You should feel safe, respected, and understood. You should like the therapist. Don’t be afraid to interview a few and move on if you don’t feel the connection.
- Just as therapists are vastly different in temperament, skills, empathy and approaches, people are different as well in the way they receive help. What feels like help to you is different from what feels like help to another. However you like your help is probably ok. There is help out there for you.