What is therapy? This might seem like a basic question, but so many of us who have never experienced the therapy world might not know the answer or what to expect when deciding it may be a good time to seek a therapist! In essence, therapy is a safe space created just for you to expand and grow in.

Therapy is a space to prepare for difficult conversations, which can be especially helpful in our current times, and work together to find the right language for those conversations so you’re not going into them completely unprepared and overwhelmed or intimidated.

Therapy is also a safe space to say the wrong thing, which many of us don’t have in our everyday lives.

Therapy is a Place to Process

Therapy is a place to have support as you process emotions and situations that come up in life that may be challenging for you to work through on your own. Often having an outside perspective and guidance in navigating new experiences or unforeseen obstacles can be the difference between feeling capable of moving through them and feeling paralyzed and not knowing how to step forward.

But how do you go about even finding a therapist or scheduling a therapy appointment? Finding therapists in your area can be done online via a web directory like Therapy Den or Psychology Today, where you can narrow down your search by issues the therapist treats, types of therapy, insurance types accepted, and more. There’s even space for therapists to enter a short passage about themselves, which can give you an idea of if you might be a good fit! As you search for the right therapist, check in with yourself. Ask yourself, 'do you feel more willing to open up to someone with a certain religion, race, gender identity or sexual orientation?' If so, consider finding someone who can offer you the connection you are hoping to feel from a therapist. If you have lived a certain experience, sometimes it's important to find a therapist who can understand you on a deeper level because of that lived experience. If you are a person of color, it can be really vital to seek a therapist who is culturally competent and can serve you in the best possible way.

Once you’ve created a list of a few different therapists to look into, it’s time to start reaching out.

Something that isn’t widely known and can be incredibly helpful is that all therapists should offer a free call. This is important so you don’t feel you have to pay for a first session in order to get your chance to ask them questions and interview them to find out if you resonate well with them and feel like they offer a safe space.

A Few Questions to Get You Started When Beginning to Interview Therapists

What is your experience working with (depression, social anxiety, eating disorders, etc.)?

This can give you an idea of their history with the issue you’re looking to address and inform your comfort level in seeking therapy with them. Therapy for depression and therapy for anxiety are common issues people seek help for, but it’s also okay if you’re not looking to treat a specific issue but looking to begin therapy as a means of simply bettering yourself and having a safe space to grow!

What types of therapy do you like to work with?

Therapists like to work with different modalities of therapy, from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, to ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), to DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), and more. Asking which methods the therapist is most comfortable with and utilizes most often gives you a chance to research that method and learn more about it!

How often would you be able to see me/what is your schedule like?

Many therapists hold standing appointments for their clients each week, so it’s important to find out if the therapist has the availability to see you as often as you need in order to have the support you’re looking for. If you’re looking for weekly appointments, be vocal about that need and make sure they have the space to accommodate that in their schedule.

Do you offer a sliding payment scale?

Therapy needs to be accessible. Something that can be difficult but is important to address is the financial aspect of therapy. You deserve a therapist who is willing to meet your budget, and many therapists are able to offer a sliding scale to accommodate a range of clients who have different financial landscapes to work with. If a therapist is unable to offer a sliding scale, they should be able to provide you with referrals to other therapists who can! Be sure to ask for this information so that you have a plan for moving forward and some next steps laid out, this will help prevent you from feeling discouraged if a therapist doesn’t financially work out for you.

Money is something that, as uncomfortable as it is for some people, you can expect to talk about with your therapist throughout the duration of your time with them. Things come up, situations out of our control happen, and we need to feel safe in knowing our therapist will support us during those times. One thing to note that can be reassuring is that if you happen to lose your job during the course of your treatment, you can’t be kicked out of therapy. This is helpful to know especially during current times when things look so uncertain.

Another thing to look for in a therapist is one who will hold you accountable and challenge you! This can look many different ways. For some, it looks like “therapy homework,” which can be a worksheet or two, maybe some reading, or practicing a skill you learned in therapy in your everyday life. For others, it can look like checking in with you on difficult topics and gauging where you stand with them and how you’re managing them. This is what you want in a therapist, one who will help you learn more about how you relate to the world through discussion of things that may not be comfortable, but that will help you grow and get outside of your comfort zone.