You’re ready to try talk therapy, now what?
Several years ago my family was suddenly hit with an unimaginable tragedy. I found myself in a dark place, experiencing difficulty processing what I had learned, and full of guilt for not preventing this hardship. The heavy weight of these feelings consumed my daily life and began to affect various relationships and progressions of my career. I confided in a few close friends and grieved with family softly, tiptoeing around the deeper conversations and emotions. After minimal improvement and lingering unfavorable emotions, I made the decision to talk to a professional, and for the first time in my adult life I gave talk therapy a try.
More than ever, talk therapy is being promoted and endorsed to deal with the daily struggles of life. The last few crazy years have been extremely challenging for many people. At Building Hope we continue to battle the negative stigma around mental health-issues. Dealing with traumas past and present, daily emotions from stress and anxiety, and working through diagnoses like depression and addiction are routine in this imperfect world. You are not alone and you don’t need to hide from these issues or bury them deep. Talk therapy is a considerable positive process for many, and a great place to start in improving your mental-health journey.
Where to Start
Once you make the brave decision to open up and confide in a professional, where should you begin? After all, choosing the right therapist and starting those crucial conversations can seem overwhelming. A great place to start is the Building Hope Find a therapist page. Use the provided filter to look for available therapists, who they specialize in serving, what areas they specialize in, treatment orientation, where they are located, and what insurance they take. If you feel comfortable, confide in friends and family members who have used talk therapy and request recommendations.
If the thought of working through this filter sounds mind-boggling, tap into one of our Mental Health Navigators. These experienced coordinators offer personal assistance and recommendations. They can guide you through the process– in English or Spanish – to help get you started. Another great community option is the Mental Health Navigation available from FIRC (the Family and Intercultural Resource Center).
Don’t have health insurance, or you can’t afford the high premiums for therapy? Building Hope’s Therapy Scholarships are a possibility. We believe that cost should never keep someone from receiving the mental health care they need. If you live or work in Summit County, individuals, families, or couples can receive up to 12 funded sessions.
Regardless of how you start your therapy process, having a short list of priorities and expectations can assist you or your mental health navigator in the hunt for the right therapist. While I certainly wasn’t interested in spilling all of the tea right away, I did pick a few specific topics to address. This looks different for everyone, but at the time of my inquiry, family trauma, daily anxiety, and dealing with a TBI (traumatic brain injury) ranked high in my preferences.
I shared my short list with my Mental Health Program Coordinator, Ravi, and he returned with 3 or so recommendations based on availability, my insurance, and my priorities. I read through each profile on Building Hope’s website, learning more about each recommendation, what areas they specialized in, and their treatment orientations. By visiting dpo.colorado.gov/ProfessionalCounselor you can also check your potential therapist’s credentials and current licenses to ensure they are fully qualified. Honestly, I still did not fully understand or grasp what all of this meant, but I was committed to continue the process. One of the profiles stood out for me, and I decided to give that therapist a call.
This first phone call is a great opportunity to share your priorities and expectations, discuss fees and insurance questions, and gain a first impression of your connection. Keep in mind it is completely ordinary to have a few options or failures before finding the right match for you. One thing that stood out during my initial phone call with my potential therapist was their honesty and recommendation to make a few appointments with other matches to find the right fit for me. They also made me laugh – a feeling I remember embracing after the built-up stresses from the whole experience, making me feel comfortable and enthusiastic to “spill my tea.” Finding the right connection and what works best for you will only enhance your experiences through talk therapy.
Congrats! You’ve made it this far, and now it’s time to prepare for your first session. A few suggestions include revisiting your priorities and expectations at the start of the session. Be open and honest about what you are looking for and where you want to start. Ask questions about the process and what you can expect in future sessions. One of the first requests I had in talk therapy was for hands-on tools and practices to use when I felt my anxiety kicking in. I received specific recommendations for meditation practices, breathing exercises, and other tools that I still use on a regular basis.
Practice patience in the process and remember that while each session may not end in abrupt change, long-term improvements are the objective. It’s also OK to feel a lack of connection after a few sessions, or the desire to test out a few different options simultaneously. Keep in mind that finding the right fit for you will increase the benefits you receive in your therapy journey. Perhaps you are considering group therapy or a support group instead, seeking comfort in the company of other people with whom you can relate. Here is a list of current community support groups and resources.
I can honestly say that my life has improved with talk therapy. While each day is different and my path still feels bumpy at times, my anxiety levels have improved and I have learned to offer myself grace and forgiveness for past mistakes and move forward. Most importantly I have connected with a professional who allows me to be vulnerable and open without judging me. We have yet to dive into the long list of deeper traumas, but they have made it clear they are ready to get started when I am as well. My once-weekly sessions are now scheduled monthly, with flexibility to increase or decrease as needed to maintain progress.
My last proposal to you is to be open and honest with your friends and family about therapy when you are ready. No, I’m not promoting “spilling the tea” with the whole family at Christmas or with coworkers after a shift at work. Pick the right time and place to open up with a friend or family member. By simply making it known that you are trying therapy and working on yourself you might motivate someone in need to give it a try. The more we normalize these conversations we decrease the stigma around mental health. And we collectively create healthier communities. I have had more than one friend reach out with questions about therapy and where to begin the process after casually mentioning the benefits I’ve received. I am happy to answer questions, and I feel no shame in needing professional help in my personal journey.