For some, the quarantine lockdown was a time to take up a new hobby, remodel their home, finish lingering projects, finally write that book or start that podcast and for some, 2020 was simply about surviving. Every time I tried to type the numerical year 2020, I had to edit it because my fingers automatically jumped to the number 1 and not the number 0! Even my subconscious had had enough!! During the storm of 2020, the sunniest part for me was the gift of slowing down (hello, telework with no commute!) and making time to re-examine my mental health.
I started talk therapy and it’s the best decision I’ve made for my health.
Think of talk therapy as a mental tune-up. You don’t have to wait until you’re on the verge of a breakdown to get started. In fact, I started when I generally felt pretty good about my life and I wanted to be proactive in keeping things that way.
You can start talk therapy with who you are, how you live and what you need right now.
I was hesitant to get started for a few reasons –
- I didn’t know where to find a good therapist
- I already have great friends and family members I can call on in times of need, why would I need to talk to someone else?
- I didn’t know if I had enough “baggage” to unpack
- I wasn’t sure how comfortable I’d be talking to a stranger
- Thinking about reliving past hurts and discussing my feelings felt daunting
- I didn’t want to add one more thing to my to-do list
Maybe you can relate to a few of these?
After my first session, I felt lighter than I have in a long time. It was so refreshing to have a professional whose sole purpose was to support me, guide me and invest in my wellbeing.
I wrote this post for you if you’re thinking about starting talk therapy. I hope my tips and insights help you make the best decision for you! Start before you’re ready and remain open-minded to the possibilities that therapy can offer you.
A quick note – this post will not discuss medical diagnoses or go in-depth on treatment options. This post serves to enlighten you on the process of finding a therapist that is right for you and to offer some tips for making the most of your experience.
How I found my therapist –
- I made a list of things I was looking for in a therapist to guide my search. I didn’t want to treat the search like a Cheesecake Factory menu with 10 chapters of everything that all looked good.
- I used www.psychologytoday.com to scan through therapists in my area. Most are offering virtual sessions during quarantine, which worked well for me and my telework flexibility. However, I wanted to make sure that I would have a future option for in-office visits when the world reopened. *I am not affiliated with www.psychologytoday.com
- My employee health insurance covered my sessions 100%. Check your insurance benefits or message a therapist directly to inquire on pay-out-of-pocket options.
Speaking of that list I made of qualities to guide my search, here are a few things to consider when searching for your therapist –
- Their race, religion, ethnicity, cultural background and related practices
- Their political views
- Where they stand on social matters that impact your life (or those you care deeply about)
- Their gender or age
- Their credentials – do you want to work with a life coach, clinical psychologist, doctor, etc.?
Now that you’ve found the right therapist for you and worked out the logistics of your sessions, here are 10 best practices for making the most of your therapy experience –
- Bring your whole self to each session; don’t mince words – Be open and don’t hold back on saying things that surprise you. You’ll say things you didn’t want to say but knew you needed to get out in the open…and that’s exactly the goal! The more open you are the more you’ll get out of each session. Therapy is a judgement-free zone; your therapist is trained to support you.
- Do the work in between sessions – Some examples of this work might include having tough conversations with loved ones, keeping a journal, putting in for a new job, completing a task, setting a healthy boundary, or adjusting your daily routine. Be open to the suggestions your therapist makes and report back on your progress or shortcomings.
- Create boundaries to protect your work – Everyone in your life does not need to hear about all the details of your sessions. Share what you’d like and keep the rest between you and your therapist.
- Know that elevation requires separation – You may outgrow some of the people in your life as your thoughts and habits evolve. That’s part of the process. Your therapist can help you with those transitions as well.
- View your relationship as a collaboration – You are the expert on you even when you’re working with a professional. Take every suggestion to heart but don’t lose sight of the self-care practices that you know work well for you. Also, don’t be ashamed to mix therapy with other forms of treatment including medications or spiritual practices. This is your journey.
- Constantly revaluate your professional relationship – Periodically assess whether your therapist is still a good fit for you. Consider the progress you’ve made, the ways you’ve felt challenged, your overall rapport and future goals.
- Set markers for progress – Although progress isn’t linear, it’s important to discuss progress markers. Based on your goals, how are you going to assess your progress from week to week, month to month, etc.?
- Schedule the next session right away – Schedule your next session before leaving your current session. This will help you keep momentum, prioritize your sessions and help you track progress over time. You and your therapist will establish a system for talking about payments/insurance, scheduling, and other housekeeping items without interfering too much with your sessions. We save the final 5 minutes of my sessions for these tasks.
- Try to keep the focus on you – It might feel good to blow off steam about the people in your life and make every session about them, but, these are your sessions. Your therapist will help you focus more on the common denominator in each of your relationships – You!
- Connect with your therapist – Your relationship with your therapist should be a mix of professionalism and camaraderie. Connecting may take time, but you should feel heard and seen toward building trust with your therapist.
If you’ve been working through mental health concerns for a while and you don’t feel like you’re making progress, consider talk therapy. If you’re feeling good and want to keep it that way, consider talk therapy. Be gentle with yourself on your mental health journey.
Have you had a positive experience with talk therapy? Feel free to share your insights in the comments below!
Be well, friends :)