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LET THE ‘DATING’ BEGIN! TIME TO FIND A THERAPIST (Part 2 of 2)

To find the right therapist there are several questions that we need to ask ourselves. Without the answers, making a good match becomes less likely. When we start to look for love, we have certain questions we know the answers to, such as what are you looking for short term in a relationship? How about long term? What should ‘your person’ look like? Are they educated or religious? Do they have kids or like to travel? These are questions that will likely help you decide if you want to end the journey or continue to learn more. A mental health relationship is just as important. This is a person that will ultimately know more about your life than most people, including life partners! There needs to be absolute trust and comfortability. Some questions that need to be answered before the search begins include:


1. Why am I even going to a therapist?

2. What exactly do I want to get out of therapy?

3. Do I need a therapist or psychiatrist?

4. What if I can’t find someone I like?


When it comes to why we choose to see a therapist, only you can answer this question and it should be answered in conjunction with what you would like to get out of it? For me, I wanted to see a therapist because I didn’t feel I was being heard at home, and when I was heard it came with judgement. I felt depressed and was always made to feel like I was irresponsible, which made me angry, sad, and confused. I was hoping to find someone who would listen to me without judgement, and to give me clarity on why I was always sad and depressed. I also was looking for solutions to help me feel ‘normal.’

When I was younger, I knew I had found my first good therapist because talking to her was very cathartic and I looked forward to every meeting. I spoke about anything and everything in my life with no judgement and felt good about myself every time I walked out of her office. I never felt like she wasn’t listening to me, and she always guided the conversation to a place that I learned something about something about myself.

Going to see a therapist is a task that is 99% voluntarily and until recently hasn’t been a very publicized resource. Therapy has always had many perceptions which have kept many people from exploring it as an option. Until recently mental health wasn’t recognized as a disease or illness, it was more of an excuse to justify why certain people commit certain acts. In high profile cases, we would hear “they did it because of insanity.” Other reasons include mental health can be perceived as a sign of weakness, “being crazy,” and something to be embarrassed about.

With social media and the immediate dissemination of information, we are starting to see and hear first-hand the effects of mental health conditions. More importantly, so many famous idols including musicians, athletes, actors, and influencers are coming out publicly and talking about their illnesses in a positive way, and unfortunately some are committing suicide.

What does it hurt to explore the possibility that you are not living your best life and may be at risk for a potentially life ending condition? Women go for routine mammograms not because they have symptoms of cancer, but to proactively let experts diagnose something that a layperson wouldn’t be able to. If I told you that mental health issues are more prevalent than breast cancer, wouldn’t you want to just make sure? Unlike most medical tests, mental health assessments would most likely only have to be done once, unless there is an event or change that can alter your mental state?

Starting this process to find your metal health match is one of the easier tasks and just takes some research to compile a list. Making sure they are right for you is a different story. Start with a spreadsheet or list with columns that include name, location, contact info, areas of specialty, age, sex, insurance accepted, and any other miscellaneous notes you find relevant or important to you. Next, just search! Start with Google and use resources such as nami.org, psychologytoday.com, and ask people you trust, such as friends and family.

The next step that I am going recommend is one that most people do not do, or even think about. I believe many of us have a predisposition that mental health professionals are intimidating and have a rigid process that we must accept, and not veer away from it. One thing that all therapists will tell you is that the first session is an assessment for them to learn about you and your background. For me, I have changed that widely accepted process.

When online dating, how many of us just look at someone’s profile then immediately set up a first date without ever speaking? That’s ludicrous and I guarantee that 90% of those dates would prove to be a waste of time and money! When online dating, most of us are looking for a relationship that hopefully will last more than one date, right? Finding a therapist is the same, and we are seeking to find a match that will ultimately become a long-term relationship. Just as in dating, each therapy session we learn more about each other, which makes the relationship stronger as time goes on.


WHEN CHOOSING A THERAPIST, YOU ARE BOTH OBSERVING AND ANALYZING ONE ANOTHER, MOST PEOPLE THINK THEY CHOOSE YOU. REMEMBER, YOU CHOOSE THEM!


One thing that I believe most of us have in common on a first date is that within the first minute or two, we know if there is going to be a second date. Why do we tend to feel like we have to stay and ‘finish’ the date? We don’t want to feel uncomfortable, seem rude, or just feel bad for the other person. What if the other person doesn’t feel the same and sees a potential relationship? Eventually the bomb will have to be dropped and most of the time this is accomplished by ghosting their date, deleting their profile, blocking them, ignoring their calls, and just acting like they never existed. This is hypocrisy. Staying on the date to not hurt their feelings then ghosting them isn’t being nice, it’s being cowardly.

I was on a highly anticipated first date with someone that I had great conversations, and we shared similar interests and hobbies. When we met at the restaurant, there was an immediate disconnection and feeling of disappointment. I felt duped by her online pictures versus what I was looking at. Before we even sat down, I knew I had no interest in trying to build a relationship, and I started mentally preparing all my options of escape. I could go to the bathroom and just run out the back door, stick out the date so I don’t hurt her feelings, or just tell her the truth. Before I could make up my mind, they sat us at a table which increased the difficulty level of my escape.

Once we sat down, I decided I was going to be honest and thanked her for meeting me, but I wasn’t feeling the connection. I was more nervous about the reaction she was going to unleash on me, however, she took a deep breath and told me how good she felt that I said that, because she was thinking of her escape too! I was relieved and humbled, who was I to think that the escape clause only pertained to me? I believe many of us feel the same when it comes to a therapist, that we can’t end the relationship in person, but need to make the next appointment knowing we will cancel it later or ghost them.

It has taken me many wasted first dates and many co-pays to come up with my own screening process. I started making a short list of standard questions that I could be used over and over. I would probably waste my time and money if I went on a first date with someone who smokes, wants five more children, hates the outdoors, or was still married. I don’t smoke, don’t want any more children, I love the outdoors and certainly don’t want any drama with a husband! How would I find this information prior to going on a date? ASK! Before you set up a first appointment with a therapist tell them you would like to talk to them for five to ten minutes on the phone. If they have an issue with this, move on to the next. Some questions I find useful include:


1. What conditions do you specialize in?

2. What methods do you use to help people? For example, spiritual like self-awareness, meditation, just talk therapy? Let them explain what methods they use?

3. Have they had a lot of success with their methods?

4. How do they measure success, what would they consider success?

5. What is their stance on medication?


I think this is a good starting point and should give you enough insight to decide if you want to schedule that first date and explore the relationship more. Any good therapist will absolutely understand and appreciate you not wasting their time. I have even had some refer some of their colleagues to me that they felt might be a better fit because of these questions. Good luck and happy hunting!


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