Terri K. Lankford, LPCS
My Resolution? Go To Therapy.
As January 2023 begins (and is ALREADY halfway over!), you’ve likely been reflecting on your goals. With the New Year still fresh in our minds, it’s no wonder we like to think of trying NEW things!
One new thing many folx tried in 2022 is going to therapy for the first time. In fact, one study done in 2022 reported 97% of mental health therapists saw an increase of first-time therapy goers that year, while 71% saw a significantly higher number of newbies than in prior years. Since 2019, the percent of American adults who have tried therapy at least once grew from 19% to 23%. Mental health therapy therapy is increasingly becoming more popular, more accessible, and more utilized.
Though it seems more people are trying therapy as a new experience, nearly half of the population is hesitant to jump in. The same 2022 study regarding first-time therapy goers reported that 42% of therapists were told by half or more of their clients that it took over a year to get them to come to therapy. That means over half of the newbies trying therapy in 2022 waiting an entire year after their concern began to actually come in for help!
What keeps people from therapy? Other than mental health barriers (which we talked about in a blog post last year), unfamiliarity in the therapy process may be another barrier. Luckily, the holistic counselors at Rise and Thrive are here to help!
In this four part series, we’ll talk about the ins-and-outs of starting therapy for the first time. Today, we’ll talk about what to expect while looking for a counselor. Here’s what that process may look like for you:
Recognition of Wanting to See a Mental Health Therapist
The first step is what takes the longest - recognizing you’d like to see a therapist! Some signs it may be time to see a therapist include:
Your symptoms/concerns are starting to interfere with your job, social life, or personal life. This may look like calling in sick to work so you can stay in bed all day, canceling plans with friends because crowds make you nervous, staying up late to follow an obsession you’ve been fixated on … in short, if it’s distracting from your wellbeing, it’s time to talk about it.
You have physical consequences. For example, many folx with anxiety also suffer from headaches and nausea. Depression may make us more susceptible to disease as our immune system is weakened, so we catch frequent colds. Hand-washing from OCD may make our hands chap and bleed.
Other people have mentioned you should see a therapist. We want to be clear: you’re the expert on yourself. However, if you’ve had a few friends or loved ones mention your experience seems atypical, it may be time to verify it with a therapist.
It’s not all doom and gloom though - therapy can be extremely helpful even for those experiencing no symptoms at all! Therapy for those wanting to simply improve their mental wellness can:
Be a space to process daily frustrations
Provide valuable tools to improve your coping skills and daily routine
Validate your experiences (“You’re right - that was unfair to happen to you.”)
Provide you with a teammate to navigate life transitions + changes you’d like to make
Help you improve your relationships, spiritual practice, overall health, and more!
As you can see, everyone can benefit from therapy. If you’re THINKING about seeing a therapist but are unsure if you need to, the answer is likely yes - because we all could stand to see a therapist!
Finding a Therapist + the Consultation Call
Luckily, finding a therapist has gotten increasingly easier as online telehealth therapy has become more accessible! One great way to find therapists is Psychology Today (no, we aren’t sponsored by Psych Today, or ANY business mentioned here, for that matter).
Psychology Today is like FaceBook for therapists - you can find a therapist in your zip code who takes your insurance and sees your specialty. There are plenty of other directories to check out for more niche populations, as well, like Inclusive Therapist, Therapy for Black Girls, South Asian Therapists, and more.
After you’ve found some therapists you think you’d vibe well with, the next step is to reach out. Many therapists will have an email address or phone number listed on their website. Similarly, many will have a way to schedule a consultation call directly on their site. Some information therapists will likely ask you to provide includes:
Your name and contact info
If you’re looking to do telehealth or in-person sessions
What insurance, if any, you’re using
What brings you in today
Whether you have a formal consultation call or not, here are some questions you may want to ask a potential match before jumping in:
Do you have experience in my area of concern?
What training do you have to support me (either for identity reasons, like being in the LGBTQIA+ community, or for your concern area, like eating disorder training)?
What does your approach look like with clients?
Scheduling + Intake Paperwork
If your therapist and yourself agree you’d be a good match, it’s time to schedule! We recommend trying to find a clinician who has the same weekly time for you - this way, you can make it clear to family, friends, or work/school that you’re busy at the same time every week.
After you’re on the calendar, the therapist will likely send you some intake paperwork. You’ll likely be asked to complete and sign …
An intake questionnaire: this will cover your demographic information, as well as what brings you in today. They may also ask if you have any experience with therapy before, strengths and weaknesses, your history of medical problems/substance use, and more.
An informed consent for treatment: this form is you giving permission to be seen. It should cover what to do in a crisis, the therapist’s beliefs on the purpose of therapy, and the limits of confidentiality (what’s said here stays here unless you plan to hurt yourself or others, and/or elder or child abuse has occurred).
Practice policies: This is the more logistical stuff - any late cancellation or no-show fees, how to communicate, session fees, and more should be listed here.
A release to insurance: if you’re planning on using insurance, you have to sign a release to be able to send your information to your insurance company. If you don’t use insurance, there should still be a financial agreement in the intake paperwork.
These are just a few forms the therapist may ask you to fill out. Be sure to read everything before signing it: you’ll want to know their policies and procedures off the bat.
We hope the first part of this series on trying therapy for the first time helps you visualize what the process looks like before even stepping in the door! If you want to try it yourself, we’d be happy to help you along the way. At Rise and Thrive, getting started with us is easy. Reach out today to see if we’d be a fit! We look forward to hearing from you.