When life itself starts to feel overwhelming, the last thing you want to add onto your plate is how to find help. Seeking out the right mental health help can be just as stressful as anything else, which is why we talked with Joanne Newfield, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the WMN / WRK network, about the steps to take as a beginner to find the right mental health help. This guide will help you get started no matter where you are in life.
Ask Yourself Why You’re Seeking Help
Before you can start asking for help, you have to understand why you’re asking. Usually, your reasoning will fall into one of two categories. You’re either dealing with a diagnosed mental illness, or you’re looking for extra support for challenges that pop up, like a breakup or a death in the family.
The misconception about going to a therapist is that it’s only for people who are struggling with a mental illness. But that’s not true: Plenty of people seek out a therapist. Life gets to be too much for everyone at one point or another, and environmental factors like a career transition or a breakup can stimulate a need for therapy.
So it’s important to figure out why you’re seeking help before you can find the right therapist. If you’re struggling with some temporary challenges, you can seek out a therapist that you connect with on an emotional level. If you’re dealing with a longer-lasting, diagnosed disorder like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or Clinical Depression, it will be important that you research options for therapists who specialize in that disorder.
Talk to Someone You Trust
Sometimes the first step is the smallest one. Going to a therapist often starts with talking about your struggles with a close friend, partner, or family member who can support you on your journey to seeking help.
Beginning therapy can be scary for a lot of people, especially if they’ve never been in a therapist’s office before. But talking to someone you trust about the challenges you’re facing can be the first step. So often, that friend or family member will be able to even talk about their own experiences with therapy and encourage you to seek out similar treatment. Hearing that encouragement from someone close to you can be the push you need to seek help.
Look Into Your Options
Once you’ve decided that seeking out a therapist is the best option for you, finding the right one is the next step. But where to start?
When you reach out to your friend or partner to discuss your thoughts of going to therapy, ask them if they have any recommendations of therapists who they’ve worked with. You’d be surprised at how often you’ll be able to find a quality therapist, just from asking people in your own circle.
If no one you know has a recommendation, you can also ask your primary care physician. General doctors will usually have some ideas of mental health professionals for you to reach out to.
And if you’re still short on ideas of therapists, you can also do a search on PsychologyToday.com. Through this site, you can search based on your zip code, and other factors like if the therapist has a specialty, their fees, and whether they’re male or female.
Interview Your Short List
Finding the right therapist can be really similar to finding any other doctor you would work with: it takes time to find the perfect fit. So don’t be discouraged if you spend time with the first one on your list, and it doesn’t work out.
It can be helpful to come up with a short list of potential therapists you’d like to work with. Once you have that list, start “interviewing” each of them. Most therapists will offer free consultations (usually over the phone), so you can get a general sense of how you would work with them. You can do consultations with multiple therapists – and even meet a couple of times with several – before making your final decision.
Therapy is an extremely intimate activity, so finding the right therapist should absolutely take as much time as you need to make sure you’ve chosen the right person for you.
Ask the Right Billing Questions
Another misconception surrounding therapy is that all of it is extremely expensive. But there are options available so you can get the help that you need.
If you have health insurance, make sure that you ask your therapist (once you’ve chosen the right one) if they take your insurance. Some will; some won’t. If they do, make sure you’re aware of the copay that you’ll have to pay each time that you go in for a visit.
If a therapist doesn’t take your insurance, there are other options. If you’ve found one that you really want to work with, be sure to ask them if they offer a sliding fee. Some therapists have slots in their schedules open for people who aren’t able to afford their full fee. Some even go down to 50% of their normal fee, for people who are paying out of pocket and can’t afford expensive rates. Another option to consider if your therapist doesn’t take insurance is to request a “Superbill” from your therapist, which is an itemized invoice of services rendered that you can submit to your insurance provider for reimbursement. Make sure you check with your insurance provider but most will reimburse a significant portion of the bill and although the extra step of managing the paperwork to submit the Superbill can seem annoying, it can save you a lot of money and make it possible to receive treatment from the therapist you like.
Finally, there are also options available in your community. Many areas offer low-fee counseling centers that can offer inexpensive mental healthcare options. Look around in your community for something similar (the local health department can be a good place to start your research).
Don’t be afraid
It can be difficult to ignore the stigmas that are so often associated with mental health. But it’s important to remember the landscape is changing — and people are slowly but surely realizing how crucial mental healthcare is for everyone.
Whether you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, or you just need someone to talk to about the challenges life throws at you, you’re not alone. It can be courageous to reach out for mental health help, and it’s important to understand that no one does so alone. By taking the necessary steps, you can feel better, one day at a time.
The above information is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider immediately. If you are looking for a mental health provider but don’t know how to find someone, you can always reach out to WMN / WRK, a curated network of vetted professionals who are committed to helping women thrive. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or hopelessness, know that you are not alone and please contact your healthcare provider immediately or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), which offers free support and resources.