Calling a therapist takes guts!


It takes enough "moxie" to admit that there is a problem in your life that needs addressing. Once you've recognized that, calling a therapist can be just as daunting.

So admitting it is hard. Perhaps it's a marriage difficulty, or perhaps it's depression. Perhaps you were abused or neglected as a child, and have tried for years to "move past it." Perhaps the problem is a touchy subject for you, or something you don't want anyone to know about. In any of these cases, simply admitting that a problem that needs addressing means confronting the possibility that the big train of life (as the world defines it) is going to have to slow down, and stop running away. That's hard, especially when our jobs, chores--even children, spouses, and friends--have been used as a distraction or excuse for not doing anything.

But then what? How will you ever find a therapist, and does therapy even work? Making that first call is even tougher. Many people are worried that their therapist will not respect their religious beliefs, or will always side with their own gender in couples' counseling. Many are very justly afraid that trauma therapy will only rehash painful memories. Those things do happen, unfortunately. And there are so many therapists out there, so how can you even know if one is even competent? But I figure it's like this:

There was a doctor who went to a refugee camp ready to help, having taken a week off with no pay. He had his equipment ready and a tent to set up with a big red cross on the roof. But when he got to the camp, there were thousands of ramshackle shelters, even as far as the eye could see, and each one seemed to have at least one person inside in dire need of medical attention. The doctor felt paralyzed and helpless. How could he help so many people? Furthermore, where would he even start? An old man saw this, and asked the doctor a question. He asked, "What would you do if there were ten refugees who needed help rather than ten thousand? How would you choose then?" The doctor replied that he would pick the nearest person he saw and start with him, do his best to work his way through as many of the ten as he could, in the time he had. The old man replied, "Look, here are ten families in this shack nearest us--what's the difference?" So the doctor set up his tent, and brought in the first patient, focused on the task at hand rather than the difficulties created by his own mind.

So, just start calling therapists by making a list of ten near you. Interview them by writing down important things for you and asking pointed questions. Ask each therapist who they would recommend besides themselves, and see whose name comes up the most often. Find out what kind of therapy the therapist uses and ask them about it so you can research it. What insurance is taken, and what is the therapist's schedule?

I will say three things that are simply personal opinion, but compare it to what you would expect from a car mechanic. First, we regularly spend thousands on our car to keep it running, or to buy a new one after an accident, thinking about the best choice for the future--so how silly is it that people shop around for price rather than quality in therapy, when the differences in prices is usually in the $20 range? Second, I believe that good therapy is regularly scheduled, and that any less than once per week is playing catch-up, and only prolongs your time and money spent in therapy. Last, I also believe that therapy is a science, and if a therapist does not have specific training in specific methods related to your specific problem, that's not worth your time.

But once you have called a therapist, look out for the "pat yourself on the back" effect. Many people feel much better after they call a therapist, like a weight has been lifted. Then, illogically but understandably, folks will continue to feel a bit better, such that when the appointment comes around, they cancel it. Worst of all is when a spouse takes credit for calling a therapist, and finds it easy to excuse dropping therapy because their husband or wife has doubts. "I did what I could" is a poor excuse if you didn't do anything.

That deserves saying again: "I did what I could" is a poor excuse if you didn't do anything. That applies to following through with any tasks or homework your therapist gives you also, as well as showing up for your appointments and being on time.