Where to start when finding a therapist feels overwhelming

Kara WarrQuartet Ambassador

Healthcare | Stories | Nov 7, 2017

One of the scariest experiences of my life was the moment I decided I needed to see a therapist. I was being crushed by the weight of depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder. I couldn’t get through it alone.

It took a while for me to get to that point, despite my friends seeing what I was going through and urging me to seek help. I was skeptical, worried, and overwhelmed — about having a stigma attached to me, that I couldn’t afford the sessions, and that a therapist wouldn’t understand my specific situation.

I was most concerned that no matter who I saw, he or she wouldn’t understand or be able to help me manage my eating disorder. The few times I did open up about my issue to my friends, I was looked down upon or simply told to stop.

“Don’t you know you’re hurting yourself?” people would ask. I wish it were that easy! In my mind, a therapist or counselor would have the same reaction. On top of it all, l I needed to somehow summon the courage to actually go. I was terrified.

In the end, I decided to go because these issues were interfering with my relationships and day-to-day life, and I knew that had to change. It was by far the best decision I’ve ever made.

When I was overwhelmed and unsure how to find a therapist I would like, I found it helpful to break the process into smaller steps.

Here’s what worked for me:

  • Look for providers that take your insurance. I was willing to give therapy a shot, but only if I didn’t have to pay out-of-pocket. Contact your insurance company or research online so you can find someone whose services are covered.
  • Know your must-haves. I wanted a female provider as I felt like she would better understand and empathize with my situation. Knowing that parameters helped me narrow my search.
  • Find a specialist. Someone with a background treating what you’re going through is more likely to be a good match. That made a huge difference for me — it allowed me to trust my therapist and believe she could help.
  • Do your research. Online reviews are available for many providers. See what others have said — but remember that everyone’s experience is different and that commenters often lean negative. For me, reviews helped me to get a sense — if feedback was generally positive, I was open to contacting that therapist.

My research paid off. I connected with a therapist who specialized in eating disorders. She didn’t look down on me for the issues I was struggling with. She knew it was connected to deeper issues I was dealing with and equipped me with constructive ways to manage it.

Most importantly, I feel heard and understood in our sessions. I appreciate that these feel like conversations, not interrogations and that she relates to me with stories from her own life. That may not work for everyone, but it worked for me — finding someone whose style works for you is important.

I was definitely lucky: not everyone finds a good fit in the first therapist they see. But you won’t really know if you’re a good match until you step through the door and start talking — so take that first step.

It’s also ok if the first (or second, or third) therapist you see isn’t a good fit or you don’t feel a connection. Go back through the list and try another.

Talking to family and friends may also be a good sounding board as you work through that process. All of us need help at some point, and they may actually have suggestions for how to best navigate the process.

The most important piece of advice I can give is DON’T GIVE UP.

The process can feel overwhelming and you may go see a therapist you don’t click with. Take it step by step, take time to see multiple providers to find the right one for you.

I can tell you from experience it will definitely be worth it.

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