First of all, the response I received from my post about therapy was amazing. Thank you to so many of you who sent support and shared your own experiences with it. I know how tender it can feel to speak about a topic that can be taboo. But, I've said it before and I'll say it again: the only way to reduce shame around personal - sometimes darker - topics is by bringing them into the light. That monster in your closet? It's really just a hanger with an oversized shirt when you flip on the lights. Not so scary after all! I believe so fully in flipping on the lights in every area of our lives where we can and I'm grateful for a community that is so supportive.
Beyond sending me a whole bunch of "amens, I love my therapist!" emails, the number one response was this:
OK, I get it, therapy is good. But how do I find one?
So many of you mentioned not knowing where to start or - worse - having had a bad session with a therapist who was not a fit and feeling too intimidated to try again. For those of you who are in that boat, know this: you're normal. Many, many women replied that they felt this way.
Finding the right therapist is so very crucial to its success. It's kind of like friendship - the juju and natural cadence matter. For me, I need someone who understands my values, is nonjudgmental and - honestly - that I could grab coffee with (if they weren't my therapist!). Some people might want a more academic or prescriptive personality and that's great, too. They key is finding someone who works for you.
So how do you do it? Here are five steps to help you get started:
1. Ask yourself what you want.
Do you want a male or a female? Do you want a specific religious background? Do you want someone who can prescribe meds? Do you want certain credentials, or are you all about the juju? Do they need to take insurance? Do you want the office to feel zen, more professional or like a living room? What will make you feel at ease?
I once saw a male therapist, which I thought would be no problem at all. But, for the topic I wanted to discuss, I realized a female would be a better fit. For our premarital counseling? A male was great. Chris and I both felt heard and understood by him. Consider what you want to discuss and what would help you open up.
2. Ask for referrals.
I guarantee one of your friends - or, at least, a friend-of-a-friend, has a therapist. It might require a little bravery to tell a friend that you would like to see someone, but, I promise you there are other people around you who are going to therapy.
I was in a wedding a year ago and I said something about seeing a therapist. Another bridesmaid said she loved her therapist and, before we knew it, we realized almost the entire bridal party had seen a therapist in her 20s. I promise people around you have therapists to whom they could refer you. Remember, therapy is not embarrassing; let's bring this topic into the light!
3. Check existing resources.
Many churches and colleges have counseling centers. Also, if you're comfortable asking your doctor, he or she may have someone to whom they recommend patients. Do you go to yoga? Your yoga instructor may know someone. Do you have a favorite blogger who seems invested in mental health? Many bloggers I follow have mentioned struggling with depression, anxiety and eating disorders and I have no doubt that, if they were local, they'd share their therapist's name. Don't be afraid to reach out beyond your most-obvious network.
4. Contact an author.
Years ago, I was pretty obsessed with the book Intuitive Eating. I was interested in working with someone on this topic, specifically, so I emailed the authors to see if they had IE coaches in Atlanta. It turns out they did! They emailed me right away with a list of local therapists who were qualified to coach people on their model, specifically.
5. Research them.
Once you identify someone who might be a fit, ask them if you can set up a 20-minute phone call. Use the session to talk through the list of things you already identified matter to you. Check your juju here. Do they seem gentle? Professional? Thorough? Also, check their website. Do they have a blog or a book? Are they speaking anywhere nearby? Use every opportunity you can to get to know them ahead of time.
Remember: this is like dating. If you find one therapist who isn't a good fit, try again. Keep going until you find someone who is right for you. Your mental health matters and you're taking a brave step by caring for yourself. Stay strong, my friend.