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Entering the World of Mental Health: Seeing a Therapist for the First Time - December 6, 2021

The subject of mental health and well being has become a popular conversation in the media. In the aftermath of the universal hardships brought on by covid we see a significant increase in depression, anxiety, substance abuse, sleep disturbances and poor eating habits (1).

Being isolated and disconnected from others has taken a toll on us individually and as a society. Many realized that they are unhappy with their friend groups, spouses, lifestyle and themselves, which also increased the number of breakups and divorce. (2)

More individuals are seeking therapy to address various issues and process everyday concerns, and for some this is the first time.

Going to a therapist can have many benefits:

  • Therapy can provide long-lasting valuable tools to help you lead a fulfilling, happy life worth living

  • Therapy is a private setting where you can be yourself without fear of being judged and share as much of yourself as you want. Being heard and seen for who you are can be a comforting and supportive experience.

  • Therapy can help create positive change. Therapy can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and many other issues.

  • It may positively affect your relationships - therapy can highlight unseen and complicated challenges and provide ways to handle them effectively.

  • Once you start to make positive changes, this many times carries on to others in your life. Learning about your patterns in relationships can reduce old maladaptive patterns and develop healthy ways to connect with others.

  • Getting to know yourself on a deeper level can reduce reactivity, give you a sense of control over your emotions through understanding and empathy, and start to love yourself.

  • Therapy can provide insight into your past and help you process old emotional wounds and traumas so that the past will have less of an impact on your present choices and your future.

  • And so much more!

Some risks to keep in mind:

  • Therapy can create personal change that may influence your perception of others. Once you start this shift, it could mean letting go of relationships that no longer serve you or prepare you for much needed conflict.

  • A good therapist can be pricey - some therapists, especially those with specialities, do not accept insurance and can range between $50-400 per session in the Los Angeles area.

  • Not all therapists will be a good fit and it may take some time to find the right one.

So how do you find the right therapist for you? This can be a difficult process, especially if it is your first time. Here are a few tips and things to keep in mind when seeking a therapist:

  • Think about who you would feel comfortable speaking with - gender, language, pronouns, specialities, location, etc. If you have a general idea of your comfort level and needs, this can help narrow down your search.

  • Ask someone you trust for a referral - make sure to ask someone who will understand and not judge you like a close friend or a doctor.

  • Check your insurance - there are many therapists that may take your insurance, and it can save some money.

  • Go on websites with large databases to choose from including, but not limited to, PsychologyToday, Foresight, OpenPath, TherapyDen, etc. or just Google for therapists in your area.

If you are nervous about meeting a therapist for the first time, you are not alone! Generally, therapy is about 50 min where you can talk about anything you wish. Most therapists will have an initial intake session where they gather general information about you, why you are seeking therapy, and what your goals are for therapy. Some therapists are starting to see people in person, but many are still holding sessions through zoom or other Telehealth options. The most important aspect is the relationship with the therapist - get to know them and see how you connect.

There is not one way to do therapy, and you do not have to come prepared with monologues or things to discuss, but can definitely bring up anything that comes to mind or just see what comes up in the moment. Some therapists may lead you by asking questions about your life, some may ask you to practice skills at home, and some may give you space to talk about whatever you choose. Remember, the therapy room is a non-judgmental space where you can be yourself. You can always talk to your therapist about what you want or if something isn't working for you.

Remember that you are the expert on you - if you don't connect with someone after 1-3 sessions, trust your gut and look for someone new. If you feel comfortable, you can also ask your therapist for referrals as they might have trusted colleagues who are accepting clients.

Good luck and enjoy!

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