Updated: Apr 24, 2020
You may have tried many different things to help yourself feel better, get out of a rut, figure out a relationship, or find direction in your life or career, but nothing seems to be helping. You have talked to friends or read self-help books and while you understand the concepts, applying these things to your own life seems difficult if not impossible. Perhaps you know you have trouble with relationships but you aren’t sure how to change your pattern or choices. Or maybe you think you have anxiety or depression, but you’re unsure how to treat it. Regardless of what you have tried, you’re now thinking that you may need to see a therapist or counselor to help you sort out things.
Going to see a therapist can seem like an insurmountable obstacle. There are several steps you take before you even walk into a therapist’s office, and each one of these steps can be tough. Here’s a list of potential different steps involved in going to therapy, how you might feel about each step, and how to overcome your hesitations to guide you in getting the professional help you want and need.
Understanding what therapy is
You may be feeling nervous or even scared about what therapy even is. You’ve heard of it, you know that people do it and benefit from it, but what exactly is it? What does a therapist or counselor do? Therapists do and don’t do many things, but foremost, a good therapist or counselor will not tell you what to do or how to do things.
What Therapists Do and Don't:
· Counselors are trained not to give advice, but to elicit your own decisions and motivations from within yourself.
· Therapists listen actively, meaning they hear your words but also attend to the meaning underneath your words and to what you’re not saying.
· Counselors will help you process and heal even if they haven’t had your exact experience.
· Therapists connect with you on a level that few if any others in your life ever will.
· Counselors offer unconditional positive regard, meaning that they won’t judge you no matter what happened or what you talk about.
· Therapists help you enhance your self-awareness so you can be a better partner, parent, relative, friend, or colleague.
· Therapists offer unbiased perspectives and different ways of viewing problems and issues.
· Counselors identify and help you accept your emotions.
Exploring your budget for therapy
You know that you have health insurance that may partially cover the costs of mental health therapy, but in your research you see so many therapists that do not take insurance. Why is this? There are many reasons that therapists choose to be on insurance panels or not, but primarily insurance panels dictate that you provide a mental health diagnosis, provide therapy services only related to the diagnosis, and require that your diagnosis be released to the insurance company and therefore put on your medical chart. Many therapists, in advocating for their clients, do not like to be restrained in this manner in providing needed services. In addition, many insurance panels are difficult to get on, require lots of extra time and documentation completed by the therapist, and reimburse at low rates that make it difficult for counselors to make a living.
What are the benefits of paying out-of-pocket for therapy?
· You choose your own therapist; your insurance company does not choose for you.
· You get what you pay for: your out-of-pocket therapist will likely be highly sought after in the community, experienced, and provide good results.
· Your records can remain 100% confidential.
· You will likely have more flexibility regarding times available and locations closer to you as many more therapists accept out-of-pocket than accept insurance.
· You may have less wait time between your first contact and first appointment.
· You will be more highly motivated to participate in therapy and do your homework assignments (if assigned) if you are paying for therapy yourself, which results in better outcomes.
While in the short run it may be more expensive to see a therapist out-of-pocket, the long-term results will be impressive.
Committing to taking time for therapy
The next decision you need to make regarding therapy is to free up time in your schedule to actually attend counseling appointments. Usually when you start therapy, you will be meeting with a therapist every week or every other week. The duration of this frequency highly depends on the therapist’s style and theoretical orientation, your own presenting needs, and how quickly you are progressing in therapy. So, therapy is a large time commitment especially if you are very busy, as most of us are. In addition, there may homework assignments to do in between sessions or mental energy spent thinking about your sessions or the change you want to accomplish.
Fitting counseling into your schedule
You also need to figure out when in your schedule you can see a therapist. Are your days flexible so that you can see someone during normal business hours, or do you require evening or even weekend appointments? Many therapists or therapy groups offer appointments that are convenient to your schedule. One aspect of therapy is committing to the time it takes to work through an issue and not stopping in the middle of treatment, so know your commitment level before you start.
Researching to find a good therapist
By now, you may be thinking “Ok, I understand therapy, I know how I’m going to pay for it, I’ve put aside time in my schedule, now I just need to find the perfect therapist”. There are many ways to find a good therapist, here are a few ways:
· A personal recommendation from a friend, family member, or colleague
· Referral from your primary care physician’s office, OB\GYN office, or other medical specialist
· If you’re choosing to go through insurance, a list of therapists from your insurance company
· A Google search of “therapists near me” or even more specifically, “couples therapists Denver” or “anxiety treatment in Englewood, CO”. The more specific you get with your search, the more likely it is you’ll find a therapist who is a good match.
· A review of therapists’ websites that are located near your home or work
· A local social media search, using Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or even Twitter and Pinterest
You want to look for a therapist who specializes in what you are wanting treated instead of a generalist who treats everything. Often you can find this information on therapists’ websites, advertising, and marketing materials. For example, if you are a woman aged 35 who needs treatment for trauma [LINK], you’re going to want to go to a therapist who is trained and specializes in working with women with trauma.
Contacting a therapist
The final and hardest step other than actually stepping foot in a therapists’ office, is contacting a therapist. There are usually various options to do this, such as by phone, email, a contact form on a website, or through an online booking program. Most therapists have some sort of process for scheduling an appointment, and that may include getting some demographic information from you, asking what you’re coming in to treat to ensure you will be a good fit, providing you with Intake Paperwork to complete, discussing fees, and answering any questions you may have. Most therapists also provide some sort of free consultation, whether it’s over the phone or in person (less likely), to make sure you feel comfortable with the fit before scheduling an appointment.
You may be feeling extremely anxious during this process, and unsure whether or not you want to take this next step. Remember that therapists are trained to deal with your emotions, including anxiety, and most therapists, intake coordinators, and receptionists try to make this process as painless as possible for you. Finally, if your schedule and the therapist’s schedule match, then you’ll schedule your first therapy appointment. You did it! Yay!
Whew! That’s a lot of steps, emotional stress, and indecision to manage, just to go to therapy. Is it worth it? Thousands of people who have and continue to attend therapy think so, and studies show that therapy is effective for many different issues. Don’t let fear hold you back from getting the support that you need.
How Catalyss Counseling Can Help You
If you are interested in how the therapists at Catalyss Counseling can help you with your therapy needs, contact us for a free 20-minute phone consultation or schedule an appointment online with one of our experienced therapists to get started in balancing your life.
Shannon Heers is a licensed professional counselor and owner of Catalyss Counseling in Englewood, CO. Shannon helps adults manage anxiety, depression, work-life balance, grief and loss, and addictions, to live a more balanced life. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn or Facebook.