There comes a time when your depression, anxiety, and your problems take too much out of your life. It makes everything so complicated to do, and you may come to the point that you feel lost and cannot see how to get out. At that moment, one of the first things you should do is schedule an in-person appointment with a therapist. What steps should you take to find a therapist? What should you do in the session? Here I will give you a few tips of what worked for me, so let's dive in.
How to find a therapist
Although finding a therapist is a slow and demoralizing process, you will have no option but to push through it until you find the right therapist. Here are the steps to follow:
1) Make a list of all the therapists in your area. Include the name and phone number. If you have medical insurance, make sure they are in your In-Network providers. Don't contact the therapist via email. Always make a phone call (see point #2 as to why).
2) Call each one of them, and if you get an answer from the secretary, always ask to talk directly with the therapist. You want to speak with a therapist to see if that initial interaction makes you feel welcome and not judged. If you get that "good vibes," schedule an appointment to see how it goes in person.
When I was looking for a therapist, I called the place, and I asked the secretary if I could talk with the therapist briefly to see if he might be the person for me. She told me that the therapist does not do free consultation calls, and if I wanted to speak with him, I would need to schedule an appointment and pay $250 for the initial consultation and, after that, $150 per session. I told her I understood that, but I still wanted to talk with the therapist first. She told me they cannot do that and then try to force me to make an appointment.
It was a very unpleasant experience and made me feel unwelcome. That's the last thing you want to feel when seeing a therapist. The most important thing that you need with your therapist is trust.
Preparation before the therapy session
Do this at least one week before the first session.
Now that you found a therapist, you need to take a quiet moment to contemplate why you want to see the therapist. For this step, you need to go to a place where you are completely alone, free of distractions. It's only you and your thoughts. So once you identify that place, here's what to do next:
1) Buy a notebook
You will use this notebook to write everything you are feeling and to have your "Appointment Agendas" (more on this later). Do not share anything you write in this notebook with anyone. This notebook is for you and your therapist only. This notebook will represent your progress, and it will help you grow, and you need to guard it with value.
2) On the first page of your notebook, write a bullet list of everything you want to figure out about yourself. Do not write a novel on each bullet. It should be a short sentence of the global problem you are having. Here's an example.
- Social anxiety afraid of speaking with strangers
- Not inspired to do anything. Depression?
- Hate my job
- Problems with boyfriend/girlfriend
Write as many bullet points as you can until you cannot come up with anything else. Don't be afraid to write even lamest of your problems.
3) Close your notebook and put it away safely, and do something else. You put all your problems and feelings on paper, and you will need time to relax your mind and body. The best thing I recommend you do is to exercise. Make your body tired, sweat it out, and then take a fantastic shower and go to sleep.
Preparing for the first therapy session. The "Appointment Agenda"
Do this a couple of days before the session.
Now that you wrote all your problems, go back to your notebook, and you are going to select three main issues/problems that are causing you the most distress. After having identified this, you're going to create your "Appointment Agenda," which is the schedule you're going to follow during the therapy session. Usually, a therapy session lasts around an hour, so my suggestion is that you make your first "Appointment Agenda" as follows:
1) Introduce yourself to your therapist. Say your name, where are you from, and what do you hope to get out of the therapy.
2) Ask your therapist about his/her professional experience and therapy methods. It will give you an idea of what to expect.
3) Talk about the first issue/problem that is causing you distress in your life. You should have this written down in your "Appointment Agenda" for that day's session. Tell the therapist everything. Don't hold your feelings back.
For your therapist to truly help, you need to be honest. One important thing about being honest with your therapist is that by doing so, you will automatically be true to yourself. No matter how afraid you are, you cannot hold back your feelings. That's what the therapist is there to help you figure out those feelings.
4) Since you only have about an hour with your therapist, you need to use your time wisely. I recommend that you go to the session with at least three issues/problems that are causing you distress.
Aim to talk with your therapist about all the topics. However, if you need to spend more time talking about one issue more than others, it's ok. If that happens, all you need to do is add it to your "Appointment Agenda" for your next session. You can start with that.
5) Once the session is over, make sure to schedule your next appointment. Depending on your current state of mind and your finances, you may need to schedule a weekly, biweekly, or monthly session.
I like biweekly sessions because there is always some new dramas in my life during these two weeks. After the session is over, take a deep breath, and be thankful for what you have learned and look forward to becoming better.
Write down your therapy session observations.
After finishing your therapy session, you're going to go to your notebook and write all the things that you discuss with your therapist. Be as specific as possible and write down as much as you can remember. Make sure you write what the therapist recommended and how it made you feel.
I like doing this at least two days after the session, but you can do it whenever it works for you. However, don't forget to write down your observations. You must do so because it will help you reflect on your issues and believe me, this will help you a lot in your recovery.
Future therapy sessions
If you felt you "hit it off" with your therapist, you need to get ready for the next sessions. The way to do it is the same as the first. Create your "Appointment Agenda," but the first thing you're going to add to your schedule is a summary of the last session.
You will start your next therapy session, discussing what you talk about in your previous session. Doing this will help you reflect on how you felt in the last session and what you did to get better.
After that, you simply follow your "Appointment Agenda" topics one by one, and at the end of the session, write down your observations. So from now on, your appointment will look something like this:
- Last session summary
- Issue #1
- Issue #2
- Issue #3
Prepare yourself to become a better you.
Now that you got some basic guidelines on how to prepare for therapy sessions, the next step is for you to follow your therapist's advice and become a better version of you. You need to put the effort. It won't be easy, but you need to know it is for the best, and you will become a much better you. Go for it!