Working on your mental health comes with an incredible number of benefits, and going to therapy is an excellent way to do it. If you’re starting therapy in 2021, you might have questions such as “How do you find a therapist?” “How do you know if a therapist is right for you?” “What will happen during my first therapy session?” and “How will I cover the cost?” Here is a guide to therapy that will answer your questions and help you get started.
Finding A Therapist
Of course, the first thing you’ll want to do is find a therapist. There are a number of ways that you can go about this, including but not limited to:
- Asking your doctor for a referral
- Searching the web or using an online therapist directory
- Contacting your insurance company or visiting their website to see who they cover
- Signing up for an online therapy website
If you are a student, you may also check your on-campus resources. Many colleges and universities have counselors or therapists onsite.
One of the most important things you’ll want to do when looking for a therapist is to think about what you want in a therapist and what you want out of therapy. If you’re seeking a couples therapist, you will want to look for a therapist who works with couples. You may be searching for someone who specializes in working with a particular demographic, such as an LGBTQIA+ affirming therapist, or you might be looking for someone who practices a specific type of therapy or who focuses on specific issues that you and your partner are facing and are going to therapy to address.
Similarly, suppose you are seeking an individual therapist. In that case, you might be looking for someone who treats a specific condition, such as anxiety, who practices a specific modality of therapy (take cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR, DBT, solution-focused brief therapy, or client-centered therapy as examples), or, again, someone who focuses on your demographic. When you’re looking for a therapist, you want to find someone that you’re not only comfortable with but who understands the ins and outs of your life and is equipped to listen and validate your experiences. While you don’t have to mull over every detail if there’s nothing you have in mind, if there’s something that’ll make you more comfortable or that you feel will help you progress in the areas that you want to, this may be an essential part of finding the right therapist for you.
The First Session
Once you find a therapist you want to see or sign up for an online therapy website, preparing for the first session is likely the next thing in your thoughts. This is not at all as nerve-racking or intense as it may sound; your first therapy session will typically consist of you and your therapist talking about what brings you to therapy or what has been on your mind that prompted you to seek out therapy. You will likely also give them a brief overview of your history as it pertains to your reasons for seeking therapy or counseling.
For example, if you are going to individual therapy for anxiety, you might tell them when your symptoms started. Something to remember when you are in counseling or therapy, whether it’s your first session or far beyond, is that you are protected by the HIPAA law. Legally, your therapist has to protect your confidentiality. In fact, one of the best things about therapy is that you can say whatever is on your mind and know that it won’t leave that room. That’s something that anyone can appreciate and benefit from, especially if what they are going to therapy for feels personal or isn’t something that they would want to give their closest friends and family members every detail about.
What Does A Therapist Do?
A therapist is someone who works for you. What you and your therapist will do depends heavily on what you were going to therapy for and what kind of therapy you are interested in. In some forms of therapy, you will focus on finding solutions and coping skills and will focus on talking without much else going on in the session. In other types, such as art therapy, you might be engaging in an activity during the session. Some therapists give more output than others, so if this is something you’re looking for, it might be something you ask about when you first inquire about therapy. If there are any questions that you want to ask your therapist during your intake or first session, you might write them down so that you don’t forget, or you might give them a call beforehand if the question is something that they can answer over the phone.
If you give it a shot and don’t think that your therapist is a good fit or feel like you would progress more with someone else, it’s always okay to switch providers. Your therapist will not be offended, and they’re trained to navigate this. A good therapist will take it with grace and will likely be able to either refer you out or simply close your case. Remember that not all therapy is psychoanalysis; there are many different forms of therapy out there, and what will work for you is not what will work for another person. Just like it’s okay to switch therapists, it’s okay to try different types of therapy until you find what works for you. Some people also find that they benefit from different types of therapy at varying points in their life, so if you’ve been to therapy before, this could be the case for you.
Covering The Cost
The cost is often one of the first things that comes up when talking about therapy. That said, therapy doesn’t have to break the bank, and there are options if you are low-income or can’t afford therapy. Here are some ways to cover or lower the cost of therapy:
- Use your insurance. One therapy session can cost up to $200 or more without insurance, but with insurance, your copay could be as low as around $20, or you might even have it covered in full if you have a form of insurance like Medicaid.
- Find someone who offers sliding scale rates.
- If applicable, take advantage of services offered through your university. If you’re a student, see if you have on-campus mental health resources. Although this is not true for all schools, many colleges and universities have licensed professional counselors and therapists on campus available for students to talk with.
- Access services through a community center or low-cost therapy clinic. You may be able to learn more about what’s available in your area by calling 211 or searching the web.
- Sign up for a reputable online therapy website with licensed providers such as MyTherapist that offers affordable plans.
If applicable, you may also see what your employee assistance program offers.
Online therapy is an excellent option for those working to improve their mental health in 2021. Just like with in-person therapy or counseling, your privacy will be protected, and getting online therapy means that you won’t have to worry about the cost of commuting or the time that it takes to get to a therapist’s office. When you get started with a platform such as MyTherapist, you will take a short questionnaire that will help you pair with a provider that matches your needs. Whether you see a provider in person or online, you deserve to get quality care. Starting therapy can be nerve-racking, but it can also be life-changing, so don’t hesitate to reach out.