Ask a Therapist!


May is Mental Health Awareness Month and you all submitted some great questions to Ask a Therapist! Here are the answers from Vanessa Trine, LPCC and some thoughts from our team as well. 

Q: I’m interested in therapy but don’t know what I’d talk about….

A from Vanessa: That’s ok! If there is something you’d like to improve (“I’d like to feel less anxious,” “I think I might be unlovable,” “Certain things make me so angry and I don’t know how to control it,” etc) you can bring it to your first therapy appt. The therapist will be able to ask questions to move the session along - the questions will not only provide them information to know how what directions the therapy can go, but can also provide clarity for you on what you’re feeling and what you want out of therapy. All this to say, you don’t have to know what to talk about in therapy! The therapist will be there to guide the session and help you both discover the best direction to go in each time.

Q: ⁣How do you know if a certain therapist is the right fit? / What should you look for in a therapist/ How to find a therapist you “click” with?⁣

A from Vanessa: Great questions. When you sit with them, do you feel like you like them? This could mean their energy, their face, their office, their vibe… And then ask yourself, do you feel like they like me? If your gut tells you yes, that you both seem to like each other as people, even just in the first consultation call or first session, that is a sign you’ve found a good fit. You can also look for people who give language to things you’ve been feeling - if someone seems to verbalize (on their website, in a session, etc) something that really resonates with you, that can also be a good indicator. You can ask yourself if you feel like the therapist is truly understanding you, or at least working to make sure they understand you. It’s also important that you feel respected by your therapist. If anything feels off, trust your gut. Yes you’re sitting with a professional, but they’re not a professional on YOU, so always listen to what will be best for you.
A from Odd Daughter: In terms of actually looking for a therapist (before meeting or talking to them), there are lots of ways to narrow the search. One easy place to start is Psychology Today. You can filter by “issues” (like anxiety, substance abuse, family conflict, grief, etc), insurance, gender (including non-binary), age, price, sexuality, language, faith, and “ethnicity served.” For people with marginalized identities, these filters will probably be particularly helpful. “Ethnicity served” is definitely not the same as listing the therapist’s ethnicity, but many therapists have their pictures listed so you can still get an idea. The other filter that can be helpful is “Types of Therapy” -- especially if you know someone who has had a good experience with a specific type of therapy like EMDR, DBT, Internal Family Systems, etc. But don’t worry if you look at the list and don’t know what any of them mean. For people who like to do a lot of research, this can be a place to start -- looking at the types and researching them. For most people, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable, understood, and supported by your therapist. Then, after you narrow it down, you’ll want to see if they are accepting new clients (in other words, do they have room in their schedule to add a new person?). Many will state this in their Psychology Today profile or on their website, but you can also email or call to find out. And once you’ve connected with one or more therapists, you’ll either meet them in person or have an introductory phone call and this is your chance to see if they seem like a good fit. When you explain why you want to start therapy, do they seem to “get it”? Do they seem to empathetically understand what you’re talking about? Once you do choose, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been seeing them, you can always change your mind. If you feel like you just end up venting or talking each time, but not actually making changes that improve your life, you can bring this up! Or you can “break up” with your therapist and find a new one. Don’t give up just because your first therapist isn’t the best fit for you.⁣

Q: I feel that my therapist and I talk about the same things every week. how do I bring up fewer visits or stopping?

A from Vanessa: You have full control over how often you see your therapist and when you want to stop all together. You could start a session by bringing up that you’ve been having thoughts of coming in less frequently/being done with therapy for now. This would allow you time to discuss what the change might look like, and for you to process it in real time. You can also bring it up near the end of session if you’re worried it will feel uncomfortable to start out like that. Know that your therapist is a professional, and they should not take it personally or make you feel bad for speaking your needs. Our role is to be here when you want therapy, and to support you when it’s the right time for you to be done.
⁣A from Odd Daughter: Therapists are also in high demand right now, so there are probably potential clients who could have a chance to get in with your therapist...which sounds like a win-win-win to me!

Q: My therapist told me that she expects our time to be 2 years. How do I discuss wanting to be a longer term client?

A from Vanessa: The shortest answer I have is - you always are welcome to bring this up with your therapist, at any time! Sometimes insurance will only cover a certain amount of sessions (like 6 or 10), so be aware that longer term therapy may have to be paid for outside of insurance. But outside of possible financial constraints, you are in control of how long you want to be in therapy. Discussing this with your therapist is helpful though, because then you can both be on the same page as far as what you’re looking for. A way to bring this up is by saying something like, “I’ve been thinking about how you said our time together would be around 2 years. I’m hoping to be able to work together longer than that - are you open to not having an end date and just playing it by ear? I want to make sure I still have access to therapy and therapeutic support even beyond two years from now.

Q: I know someone who I think would benefit from therapy -- is there a good way to approach that topic with them?

A from Vanessa: Depending on your relationship with the person, you could ask (kindly), “Would you be interested in going to therapy?” Or versions of, “What do you think about therapy?” “I’m wondering if therapy could be a good fit, what do you think?” These questions can work assuming you have good rapport with the person you’re asking, and that you’re not asking because you want to shame them into feeling bad for recent life decisions/current big emotions. Asking someone their opinion on the matter can open up space for them to explore their possible interest, or to bring up concerns they might have. Maybe they’ve thought about going but are worried they’ll be judged. Maybe they feel like it’s not possible financially. Maybe they think therapy is for shmucks and there’s nothing wrong them thankyouverymuch. Now you’ve started a conversation, and you can gauge how best to respond based on their initial reaction.
A from Odd Daughter: I think if you go to therapy, talking about your own experience can be a good way to bring it up. Explaining why it is helpful for you could be enough to get a conversation started. Even if they don’t feel like they “need” therapy, they might be open or interested in the idea of having an hour set aside just for them on a regular basis.
What do you think? Do you have any other questions? Let us know in the comments!

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