Finding a therapist can feel as uncomfortable as going on a blind date — but I'm doing it anyway
When I first started going to counseling, I wasn’t even completely convinced I’d benefit from having a therapist, and I had no idea what to expect. It turned out to be nothing like what I’d seen on TV. My therapist didn’t look like she moonlighted as a professor at an Ivy League university. There wasn’t a big green couch to sprawl out on. I was never asked to describe my earliest childhood memories or latest pizza-induced dreams. And, unlike Rory Gilmore, I didn’t even cry into a box of tissues about my love of coffee or take up tap dancing.
I survived that first session, though. And as I became more comfortable, therapy gave me a safe place where I could open up about how I was really doing. My therapist listened when I needed to talk, offering helpful insight and providing ideas for how to cope with my anxiety. To my surprise, the things I learned in therapy were very practical, even healing.
I’d been seeing my therapist for nine months when I moved a few cities over.
I mean, not only had she been there for me as my extended family imploded, but our therapist-client relationship had weathered everything from misunderstandings to my sarcasm. But commuting more than an hour each way finally took its toll.
Long-distance relationships can be hard, even when it comes to therapy.
So here I am, faced with the challenge of finding a new therapist. Back to the drawing board. And it’s feeling a bit like trying to get back in the dating game.
I’ve been spending time browsing Psychology Today‘s directory, which is a bit like the counseling equivalent of Tinder. There’s usually a headshot, a list of which insurance plans each therapist takes, and a brief description of their therapy style and approach. It’s a good place to start. So I shoot them a message and see what happens.
At first, I was taken aback by how much the first session with a new therapist felt like a blind date.
I pick out a shirt based on breathability so I don’t anxiety-sweat right through it during the first five minutes. I make eye contact with my reflection – reminding the person staring back at me that she’s smart and capable (despite being so socially awkward that she could rival the heroines in most YA novels). And I mentally go over any key points to bring up when introducing myself so that I don’t forget important details (like my name).
While it’s like a blind date, the hoped-for intimacy isn’t nearly as fun. If things go well, instead of ripping each other’s clothes off and jumping into bed, I’ll be jumping headlong into emotional intimacy with a complete stranger. Instead of asking me about my favorite movie, I’ll be asked, “How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?”
Finding a new therapist, especially since I liked my last one, is stressful — but I know it’s worth it.
I believe in healing and — like those looking for love — I want it enough that I’m willing to endure some blind dates along the way. I’m putting myself out there again. I believe, eventually, the right one will come along – and also take my insurance.
Searching for a new therapist feels different than going on a blind date in that a therapist-hunting quest can feel isolating.
I think this lack of conversation can make the whole process even more awkward. If a friend set me up on a date, whether it was comically horrible or near perfection, I’d be able to talk about it. And that’d help me feel less alone.
Therapy is extremely personal, so for some people, talking about it could be awkward, and even painful. I don’t expect everyone to suddenly open up about whether or not they’re in therapy and how it’s going. But I’m trying to do my part in minimizing the stigma by talking – and laughing – about my latest adventure in finding a therapist.
It’s okay to talk about therapy, just like it’s okay to talk about dating.