Do you remember when Oprah used to do her free car giveaway? For one of her shows, every single unsuspecting audience member received a free car. Oprah would point to the audience shouting, “YOU get a car, and YOU get a car, and YOU get a car.”
I would like to do the same thing for people in my life, except I would give away therapists.
Finding a therapist is one of the greatest gifts I have given myself in the past few years. It was a huge step in practicing self care. Several of my friends share my enthusiasm for dates with a therapist. We literally skip into our bi-weekly appointments.
“I’m going to see my therapist today.”
“YES! Have fun and let me know what you learn.”
We cannot wait to chat about our breakthroughs and epiphanies. It probably sounds like a liberal cliche for women to sit around talking about their therapy sessions, like some cheesy scene from “Sex in the City,” but we are working on the most important project of our lives— ourselves.
My best friend had been telling me for years that I needed to find “someone to talk to.” Truthfully, I think she just needed some back-up and thought a professional would lighten her load. But it wasn’t until I sat at a book club meeting listening to a friend discuss her therapy breakthroughs that I developed enough self-help envy to go out and find a therapist of my own. My friend had found someone to listen and help her sort through the static in her head. Her therapist did not give her answers, but she gave her new ways of seeing.
I started my search the very next day. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Just last week my therapist said she was reviewing notes from when I started meeting with her. “You stated that you wanted to build a better version of yourself. You have done just that.” Progress, not perfection.
But what a relief to realize we don’t have to do it all on our own. Fighting through it alone does not make us a hero or put us ahead in the race. Many of the strongest people I know gain their strength by being open to receive support from those around them. And perhaps most importantly, my children see that I am not afraid to ask for help or take time to care for myself. “Have you talked to your therapist about how this makes you feel, Mom?” My son totally gets me.
I don’t want to downplay or take my experience for granted. Just as healthy food and exercise are luxuries in my life, the same can be said about seeing a therapist. It requires time and monetary resources.
Time is not always on our side. Jobs, kids, spouses, and daily life maintenance keep us hopping and become our go-to excuses. “So, Jaime, you are telling us we should make time to cook fresh food, exercise regularly, engage intentionally with our family, and see a therapist on a regular basis? When exactly should we sleep?” I know, I know. But I do believe it is equally important. We need a healthy marriage of our body and our mind. As a CrossFit coach, I can tell you that the brain is the hardest muscle to train. It needs our time and attention.
Committing to see a therapist also requires a financial investment. I am fortunate to have health insurance that offers unlimited visits for mental/emotional health and well-being. I only pay a copay. Until I picked up the phone and made a call, I had no idea this coverage was sitting there untouched for years. I invest funds in my physical health (CrossFit and nutrition), so why wouldn’t I gladly turn over a few copays a month to reap the rewards of a healthier, more balanced mind? It just makes sense.
While it might be a luxury to me, therapy still gets a bad rep in our culture as a whole. If I could be Oprah and gift everyone with a therapist, then we could instantly eliminate these misconceptions. We could show everyone that seeing a therapist is not a sign of weakness. It does not mean that you cannot handle your life. It does not mean that you are irrational or emotionally unstable. It does not mean that you are mentally ill.
I am adamant about creating conversations and initiating dialogue to destigmatize some of the vital tools we have at our disposal for greater mental health. So, yes, if I could be Oprah for a day, I would give you all a therapist.
Since, sadly, I am not Oprah, I thought I could offer some tips for finding a therapist on your own. I found the process to be daunting and a bit overwhelming. I’m offering some suggestions of where and how to get started based on my personal experience.
Check your insurance. Verify your mental health coverage. Then, when you find a therapist, check and see if they take your insurance. Many offices require that you prepay and get reimbursed by your insurance company. My therapist files for me, so I pay her the copay directly. It is very convenient.
Check psychologytoday.com. You can review philosophies, qualifications, and finances. I read the introduction for my therapist and thought she sounded just like me.
Be open to shop around. I found my therapist on the first try, but that is not always the case. I felt at ease and “home” from the moment I sat down in her office. Trust your gut.
Location, location, location. My therapist’s office is close to my home, which was very important when I looked at adding one more appointment to my packed calendar. I did not think I could sustain a long commute on a regular basis.
Stick with it. The first few meetings build a foundation. Commit to really try.
Don’t expect the therapist to have all the answers. That part is still on you.