Let’s talk about mental health. It’s something we all experience and sometimes struggle with in one way or another. There’s no shame in that. It’s okay to give ourselves the permission to take a step back and assess how we’re feeling, taking time for yourself is cool! You may even find yourself considering reaching out to someone else, like a therapist. Going to see a therapist is the same as going to the doctor for treatment when you get sick. The brain deserves the same recognition you’d grant to the rest of your body. After you may decide to seek therapy, the tricky part is finding a therapist that works for you. Not only must you consider someone who you feel comfortable with, but you also have to find someone who works with your insurance or other payment options.
If you’re a student at West Chester, you’re in luck because the Counseling Center has got your back. I went through the Counseling Center at 241 Lawrence Center and they helped me find my therapist. The Counseling Center can give you an initial assessment where they determine what the best options for you are, whether it be to stay with a therapist at the center or to refer you to someone beyond the center in cases where you may need long term help. In this case, the center will set you up with a case manager who will sit down with you and figure out your options for providers who are within your insurance network, or who you can afford. This piece is crucial because it can be daunting to try and navigate this industry on your own, even discouraging. However, if you have someone to help you through the process, it can become less stressful.
After finding a therapist you’d like to try, it’s important to go into the first session with a plan. I suggest the following things in order to prepare for and get the most out of your therapy experience.
- Why are you seeking therapy?
Your therapist will probably ask you this during your first session anyway, but it’s good to think of a cohesive answer so you don’t feel put on the spot. I usually will go into a session with some points that I’d like to cover, so doing this for your first session will be beneficial for both you and your therapist. This way, you’re not forgetting anything you’d like to bring up right away or missing any crucial information. Therapists will also use guiding points and questions to help create a foundation for your sessions.
- What do you want to get out of therapy? / What are your goals?
It’s a good idea to have goals in order to be able to measure your progress. Think about the specific things that you’re struggling with and how you want therapy to change those things. For example, if you struggle with saying “no” to things, keep that in mind and mention to your therapist that you’d like to be able to speak up for yourself and say “no” to things you don’t want to do. This will allow you to focus on this goal and work through the issue.
- What do you expect from a therapist?
This is important. Therapists vary in styles, some are very talkative and prompt you to respond to questions or things they propose to you. Others can be very quiet and allow you to guide the sessions. You may be afraid that you’d feel lost during an appointment and would prefer for the therapist to guide the session or you may want to guide the sessions yourself. Communicating these ideas to your potential therapist can be useful, so that you can receive the kind of therapy that works best for you.
- What kind of therapy does this practitioner specialize in?
Doing some research on potential therapists is key, find out their areas of expertise. There are probably a hundred, if not more, focuses a therapist can have. A therapist will usually have a website or they’ll be on a website such as Psychology Today, where they provide specific information on their styles and focuses. You can find a therapist who is educated to help your specific issue or someone who is sensitive to your needs. For instance, therapists will usually label themselves will some of the following specialities: cognitive behavioral therapists, feminist therapists, addiction counseling, etc.
- How often do you want to meet with your therapist?
The last bit is probably the smallest but most important: making sure this therapist fits in your schedule. Think about how often you’d like to meet with your therapist, and what times work best for you so you can figure out a schedule that works for both of you. Depending on the severity or the state of your mental health the amount of time you see a therapist will vary.
I would encourage anyone to go to therapy at some point in their lives. It can be very helpful to receive an outsider’s input on the events in your life or being able to work through things with a fresh set of ears. I want to stress that going to therapy is normal. It’s okay to ask for help if you need it. There are resources in place specifically to help you, use them! Going to therapy is cool, the world would be a better place with more therapy.