Starting Therapy

This is part 9 of a guidebook on how to find a therapist. Check out the introduction to get started.

You should schedule a first appointment with at least 2 people. Just one other therapist as a point of reference will be really helpful when evaluating a therapist. Maybe you’ll have to pay another $150 upfront, and the process will take another week or two. But in the long run, if you find the right person, you’ll get better much faster, and you won’t waste any money on therapy that isn’t helping you.

This is really important. Meet at least 2 therapists in person.

You’re almost done! So now you’re going to meet a therapist. During the first session, the therapist will ask you a lot of questions to properly understand your situation. This may take up the whole session, and you may not get to ask questions about things you think are important. So at the beginning of the session, I would lead by saying “I’d like to keep the last 10-15 minutes to ask questions.”

When evaluating the therapist, remember - go with your gut. Do you like what’s happening?  Do you like this person?

Finally, you pick between all the therapists you’ve seen, and now you start seeing one therapist.

Treatment Plan

After the first 1-3 sessions, it’s important to discuss a treatment plan with the therapist. Here are some questions to think about:

  • What are the issues you and the therapist will work on?

  • What will be the format of each session? For example, talking, mindfulness, coping skills, other exercises.

  • What will you have to do outside of the sessions as part of the treatment?

  • What will be the indicators of progress? For example, an improvement in your mood from week to week, handling certain conversations or situations in your life better, or making certain lifestyle changes.

Not all of these questions can be answered immediately - as mentioned earlier, therapy is not like taking cough syrup! It’s difficult to determine how many session you will need up front. It may take multiple sessions for you and the therapist to clarify exactly what your challenges are and goals. And as you start working towards your original goal with a certain approach, you may uncover other issues which need to be addressed, or the therapist may introduce new techniques.

However, at the highest level, therapy is medical care and a big part of your life. Just as you would create a plan and set expectations for a surgery, you should at least think about therapy with structure.

Giving Feedback

Right off the bat, the therapy may not be perfect. You like the therapist and the therapy is pretty good, but there are a couple of things that could be better. Often, you and the therapist may not have alignment on the issues you want to work on. You might want to address an issue that’s not being talked about. Or, the therapist may want to talk about something you don’t think is important. 

This is harmless and usually due to miscommunication. Feel free to give the therapist feedback at any time. During the last 10 minutes of the second session, you can say very straightforwardly, “I like what we’re doing, but I wanted to give you some feedback. I don’t think topic X is that important, and I’d like to spend more time talking about topic Y instead.” This may be uncomfortable, but it’s totally okay. This is their job, and they shouldn’t take it personally.

Switching Therapists

Finally, after 3-4 sessions, if you’re really not enjoying yourself, it’s okay to stop and look for someone else. Go with your gut! Remember, therapy has been shown to be really effective, and if it isn’t working, it’s often the lack of fit between you and the therapist.

Summary

  • Schedule a first session with at least 2 therapists!
  • Tell the therapist you’d like to keep the last 10-15 minutes of the session to ask questions.
  • Go with your gut - do you like what’s happening? Do you like this person?
  • It’s okay to give feedback if specific aspects of the therapy aren’t helpful.
  • If you aren’t enjoying yourself 3-4 sessions in, stop and look for someone else.

We Can Help

Neb can handle this entire process for you and find you the right therapist, free. If you’re interested, please check out our website.

Conclusion

That’s it! We’ve covered: why do therapy, what therapy is, types of therapy, finding the right therapist, insurance, searching for therapists, the phone consultation, and actually seeing a therapist. If I had to summarize this entire article in five bullet points, they would be:

  • therapy is awesome!

  • therapy and finding a therapist take a lot of time and effort

  • find a therapist you like

  • reach out to 15-20 therapists

  • do phone consultations and first appointments with multiple therapists

Self-care is one of the best things you can do in life. If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at hello@neb.health. Good luck!