I have been fortunate enough to be able to see a therapist. Looking for a therapist, however, was not an easy process. Let me start at the beginning when I had first seen a counsellor in university before I get into how I found my therapist.
I was going through a lot at the time- having been violated, hating what I was studying and the not-so-great friendships. A former friend had suggested I go and see a counsellor on campus. These counsellors were all studying towards being psychologists, but need the practical training, and this is where the students on campus came in.
I went to the front desk to book my very first appointment. The receptionist asked me whether I wanted to see a male or female counsellor. “Woman, please,” I said. She paused to look at me and then wrote a few things down on the paper attached to her clipboard and told me I could come through next week.
I walked in the following week, sat in the waiting area until my name was called. My counsellor, we will call her Abby*, came through and greeted me with a warm smile. Abby didn’t pronounce my name properly (I never expect anyone to the first time around. I corrected her but she didn’t ever seem to get it right).
Abby had been picked for me, so I was still wary of how she could help. But I needed an outlet and she needed the experience. I liked Abby enough, but I began to see things I didn’t like. She would sigh heavily sometimes as I was speaking. She urged me to talk about certain traumas in my life I wasn’t quite ready to talk about. I could sense the frustration between the two of us whenever this happened. She was also a clock watcher. I understand that a session can only go on for so long, but even minutes in, I would see her staring at her watch or at the clock in the room. However, I needed a place to vent and be myself (for free) but in all honesty, she was not the right person at the time.
A few years later, after being pushed by my mom to see a therapist, I started doing my research. I scoured the internet for therapists near me, who could possibly see me on Saturdays (I didn’t want my colleagues to know and I wanted to be as private as possible). I emailed all the therapists who’s profiles I really liked (male and female). I came armed with a hoard of questions, because I didn’t want to have another Abby again.
Here were some my questions:
- Are you available on Saturdays?
- Have a you worked with clients that have anxiety and depression, or other mental illnesses?
- Have you ever dealt with issues of sexual abuse, assault and rape?
- What kind of “treatments” do you use for your clients (I really responded to the therapists who mentioned that they used various practices because all their clients have different needs)
- What is your general approach to clients? (What I meant by this is, are they a Dr Phil? Or are they slightly gentler but still assist?)
- How long have you been practising?
- How long are your sessions?
- What is your fee?
- I would like to come once every two weeks, but would you be fine with this?
I had one therapist who told me “I haven’t worked with anyone with sexual abuse or assault issues, but I am willing to try.” Um, nope! I shall not be an experiment. I needed professional help, not someone who wanted to see if they could help me with issues they haven’t dealt with.
I finally found a therapist (I’ll call her Natalie*) and she answered all my questions exactly how I wanted and then also agonised with me over my long commute to work. I liked that she was funny. So, I said “yes”. I felt I could connect with Natalie and that she would understand my random funny quips about life.
Turns out I really did connect with her. She was amazing and really cared for my wellbeing in general. I do know though that not every therapist can be found successfully through email, and that finding a therapist is a hit or miss kind of situation. Sometimes you think you have found the one, but they prove you wrong.
If you are looking for a therapist, and the decision is in your hands, ask the relevant questions! Make sure you have expressed all that you need to, whether it is in email or face-to-face in the first session. Make sure you are going to get the mental health care you really need and want. You don’t have to put up with a therapist who won’t put the proper time into you or wastes your money and you get nothing out of it. Remember, you asked for help, you are paying for the help and they need to help you. You should walk out feeling empowered or feeling like you have learnt some very valuable information that without their help, you would never have known.
Have you had any therapy disasters? How did you find your therapist?