The Quest: How to Find the Right Therapist For You
The quest to find the right therapist is a lot like dating. You have every right to weed out who’s not right for you so that you can be open to the possibility of finding the right person for the job. And just like dating, it can be equally as exhausting. I mean, there are apps for both – designed to make the process for each easier. But like anything worth doing, it takes time.
As I sit down to write this, I know fully well that not only do I want to find someone new to work with, but I need to: 1) if at the very least (one end of the therapeutic spectrum), to have an unbiased party to listen without judgment and 2) at the most (the other end of the spectrum), to grow and let go of traumas and issues holding me back from complete personal expression.
I wouldn’t be an active and engaged participant in my mental health and wellbeing had I not gotten sober on July 14, 2007. Not knowing it at the time, that day I entered the world of recovery and personal growth. Over a decade later I’m still actively invested in my mental wellness. As you probably know, recovery is anything but linear; like life, there are peaks (celebrations, love, friendships, etc.) and valleys (deaths, debt, depression). Close to a year ago, I experienced a gut-wrenching trauma that I’ve been working through with the support of close friends, family, and my online community – but I’m still on the quest to find the right holistic mental health professional with whom I can unpack it all. So please believe me when I tell you that therapy can always help, no matter where you are in life.
Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.
To demonstrate what I’ve learned, here's a quick Q&A between me on day 1 (Q) and me today (A).
Q: I’m scared. I don’t even know where to start. I mean, I don’t plan on getting sober forever. I just need to get my sh*t together and figure out why I have so many panic attacks.
A: I hear you. Just be gentle with yourself. This won’t get “fixed” overnight. It’s going to be a process. If you have health insurance, start there – see what’s covered within network. You can find a therapist, a licensed counselor, or a psychologist – those can be the folks you’d talk to about what’s going on with you. I’d look into finding a psychiatrist too, in case you need medication (although try not to be so dependent on the meds that you can’t consider living your life without them). Not sure where to start? Mental Health America’s screening tools can point you in the right direction.
Q: But I have panic attacks all the time. If I’m given something to help with my underlying anxiety, shouldn’t I take that?
A: Definitely consider it, and also consider holistic methods like amino acid therapy (www.vryeveryday.com is a great start) to help change your brain chemistry. Neutraceutical companies (e.g. Amare Global) have tapped into the power of the gut-brain-axis. Taking prebiotics, probiotics, and overhauling your nutrition are holistic ways to target mental health concerns. If you need a medication, then take that medication. Remember, your brain is just as much a part of you as your liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, etc. Just think creatively about your treatment.
Q: What about all my internal scars from years of bullying? That’s why I started drinking, so I could feel cool, less anxious, and forget about my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). God, I feel like such a cliché.
A: Stop beating yourself up. Seriously. I promise you that the right therapist will show you different ways to recover through that pain – he or she may use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Exposure Response Therapy (ERT). And I highly suggest starting yoga, getting outside, meeting other like-minded folks, and writing.
Q: But what if I’d rather use an app or website first before going to sit in someone’s office? Is that OK?
A: Yep, as long as you still consider meeting one on one with someone at some point. Start with Talkspace, Workit Health, Good Therapy, Psychology Today, Better Help, etc. If you want to try meditating, try Insight Timer and Headspace apps. Do you laugh at the thought of a guided meditation? Then laugh along with H*nest Meditation. There are loads of blogs and podcasts out there too. Just take it one day at a time.
Q: Will I ever not have anxiety?
A: I can’t answer that definitively. I can tell you, though, that you WILL absolutely know how to manage and deal with life. Always reconnect with yourself, your breath, and your community.
Q: Will awful things happen in recovery?
A: Yes. And you will get through them. I promise you. You’ll have your family, your friends, your online recovery tribe (in about 8 years, you’ll be the founder of The Sobriety Collective). You’ll get your heart broken, experience a heavy trauma, be in a crazy amount of debt. You’ll also mend your heart through time, personal work, therapy, and loving again. You’ll rise above the trauma and write about it one day. You’ll work on a debt management/settlement plan and prove to yourself that you can live debt-free. You will do all these things because you’ve made a commitment to yourself and your recovery.
Q: Will I be able to help someone some day?
A: Oh honey, you already have.