Often, one of the most difficult phases in counseling is the very beginning. Knowing when the time is right for you to schedule your first session, and then how to do that.
Let’s start with when. If you were to call me and ask “When should someone start counseling?” I’d likely respond with “How about now?” No matter what your reason is for seeking professional help, most clinicians (myself included!) will advise that you start the process sooner rather than later. For example, think of couples who are in premarital counseling. Usually these couples are communicating pretty well, are feeling happy and satisfied in their relationships, and don’t “need” counseling in the same way that you might think the couple screaming at one another in the grocery store parking lot “needs” counseling. So, although they may not “need” counseling, this premarital couple will be learning healthy and effective communication strategies to use during times of conflict, along with identifying and preparing for potentially stressful situations in the future.
“Man. We are that couple in the grocery store parking lot…guess it’s too late to start counseling now. We should have started years ago”. It is never too early, nor too late, to seek professional help. While old patterns can be tough to break and old wounds take time to heal, if you feel ready for change, then the time is now.
“Okay…but how do I go about finding a therapist in the first place?” Thankfully, once you’ve made the decision to schedule your first session, this part feels easy! A simple online search for therapists/counselors in your area should bring up plenty of options. If you want to see someone who accepts your insurance, your insurance company should have an online provider directory. If having so many options feels overwhelming, you can also ask your doctor (or anyone else you trust) for a referral. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few options, give them a call. Most therapists offer a free initial phone consultation, so make sure to ask any and all questions you have. Along with getting your questions answered, you will also be able to get a good feel for the therapist’s personality and professionalism on the phone.
And there you have it! As you await your first session, remember to sit back, relax, take some deep breaths, and remind yourself that one of the toughest parts is behind you.