Don’t give up on finding a therapist. Here’s how I found one

You will hit roadblocks along the way in this process. But you will find a therapist that will help you improve your self-esteem. You will find a therapist that will teach you techniques to overcome an unanticipated loss. You will find a therapist that you can work through your anger with.

If you’ve ever began the process of trying to find a therapist, then you know first-hand how truly difficult it can be. You’ve experienced starting and stopping around 50-100 times because each time you get a little closer to finding a potential match, there’s another roadblock. You think to yourself, “Okay, this lady looks great. She specializes in eating disorders and anxiety”. You start to look for her contact information and ROADBLOCK— She doesn’t accept your insurance.
So then you wait a few days and after your afternoon run the adrenaline and endorphins are flowing so you think to yourself, “Okay, let’s give this another try, there has to be someone out there”. So you type in a variety of search terms of what you’re looking for:

Female, PTSD, Aetna, within 5 miles, and stress.

Next, you click on a licensed professional counselor (LPC) that matches all 5 criteria objectives you typed in. You email her along with two others that could potentially work. ROADBLOCK— None of the three potential therapists are accepting new patients right now.

So you try again in a week. More and more roadblocks continue to pop-up and you’ve pretty much lost all hope in finding a therapist at this point.

There are an innumerable amount of barriers when it comes to finding a professional to talk to. It’s easy to find a dentist or a nail salon, but it can feel like it’s close to impossible to find a licensed therapist that’s right for you. What was specifically challenging for me is when I was finally ready to look into options, I quickly became defeated. Each time I tried searching on a variety of websites I hit a new roadblock– Not accepting new patients, too far from my house, hours that weren’t compatible with my work schedule, out of network providers, etc. After my brother died, I searched for someone to work through my trauma with on and off for over a year. You’d think that in NYC you’d be able to find what you’re looking for in 10 minutes, but that’s just not the case. Eventually I moved to Denver and after living here for two months I started the search again. With persistence and commitment to figuring this out, I finally had a great phone consultation that led to an appointment that was booked for the following week. These are the steps I took:

7 Steps to Finding a Therapist

  1. I used Psychology Today
    • I applied the following filters:
      • Zip code
      • Widened the search to 5 miles
      • Clicked “Cigna” as my insurance
      • “Show Only Women”
      • Selected Grief, Trauma & PTSD, & Anxiety

  2. Next, I opened a few profiles that looked interesting to me

  3. Then, I emailed them directly through psychologytoday.com
    • Here you provide basic information: Why you’re reaching out, your phone #, email, and name. I also wrote the name of my insurance provider in the message as well

  4. Now the ball is in the therapists court and you wait to hear back. I also recommend giving them a call at the number listed on their profile

  5. When your potential therapist gets back to you, set up a 15-30 minute initial phone consultation
    • The free consultation is very important.I cannot stress this enough. During this call, the therapist will ask you questions and you can ask them questions. Be transparent and open about why you’re looking for a therapist. This will give you a good gauge if this could be a good fit for you.
    • Examples of questions to ask:
      • Do you specialize in ___(anxiety, trauma, self esteem, relationship issues, bipolar)__
      • What does your availability and hours look like?
      • Do you accept my insurance? **This is very important because out-of-network costs can be through the roof. If the provider you’re looking at setting up an appointment with is in-network for you, then you will pay a co-pay (mine is $40 per session). You and the therapist should both call your insurance provider to confirm your benefits.
      • How long are your sessions?
      • How do we set up counseling goals specific to me?
    • I’m very sensitive to people’s voices and tone, which is another reason why an initial call is extremely beneficial.

  6. If the initial consultation goes well and you’re interested in setting up the first appointment, the therapist will likely have you send over three things via email:
    1. A picture of your insurance card (front + back)
    2. Your date of birth
    3. Your current address

  7. Lastly, confirm your appointment time and go.
    I highlight go because setting up an appointment can seem like a good idea now, but then the day comes and we make excuses for why we can’t go. Excuses like, “I haven’t seen this friend in a year and we should get dinner”. Response: You’ll be a better friend if you prioritize your health and wellbeing. Or this excuse: “I have to work late”. Response: Keep your commitments, you’ll be better at work if you prioritize your health and wellbeing.

    If this first appointment goes well, set-up a second appointment while you are in the office. If you’re on the fence as to whether this is the therapist for you, go to 1-3 more sessions and then make a decision to start looking again.

You may have to repeat this process several times until you find the therapist that fits your needs and wants. I did. You will hit roadblocks along the way. But you will find a therapist that will help you improve your self-esteem. You will find a therapist that will teach you techniques to overcome an unanticipated loss. You will find a therapist that you can work through your anger with. You will find a therapist that uses EMDR as a therapy method. You will find a therapist that is in-network that you can afford. You will find a therapist for you. Start by taking the first step. You’ll be even stronger than you already are afterwards.

When we talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.

-Fred Rogers

Creativity: a coping skill

Just like that shelf helped distract my mind for an hour or two from my thoughts, writing this story helped distract my mind for an hour or two. When we take on acts of creativity that challenge ourselves, we help ourselves.

My room is white. The candles are white, my bedding is white, my blankets and pillows are white.

The curtain that hangs above my narrow, but tall window is white. My dresser which houses too many shirts I don’t wear is white. And the shelf I built beside my bed to keep my mind busy is white. I could have gone on Amazon and bought a modest white wooden shelf for ten bucks, but I decided I’d go to the hardware store around the corner and see what I could build.

When I was little I asked for a toolkit for Christmas. Why I wanted this, I’m not entirely sure. But I remember this toolbox so vividly. It was translucent blue and clear, stocked with hammers, nails, and a screwdriver. I immediately took my new toolkit down to the basement and began hammering and nailing pieces of wood together. Now that I think about it, I think I had a little saw too that I used to create my masterpieces.

Okay, so back to me building a shelf in my tiny Upper East Side apartment– 

After turning the corner, I walk into the hardware store and tinker around for a few minutes looking at gray towels and bath mats I most definitely do not need. Alright enough of this let’s find the wood I think to myself as I meander through the narrow aisles of Rainbow. I find one piece of white wood that will work if I get it cut (Its New York City, there’s only so much space).

Next up: wall mounts. Right next to the wood. Piece of cake. I act like I wrote “Hardware Stores for Dummies” and carry on to the next line of business: screws. It takes me a few minutes to survey the array of screws. Would 4 inches work? Is oval tip or round better? Better question- which is cheaper?? After I pro/con each individual screw, I decide on a pack of 4 that look like they will do the trick. I grab a pack of anchors, too.

The last step before checking out is getting the slender piece of white wood cut. I eyeball it and the man cuts it with a HAND SAW! I shake my head internally, but smile and say “yep that’s fine”.

I walk up to the counter where the cashier lady is standing in a red apron that has “Rainbow” printed across the front. “$21″, she says. I wish I could say I was surprised, but everything is overpriced here. The nice lady bags my miscellaneous parts and I head back home to build my little white bedside shelf.

This bedside shelf took me about an hour to complete.

From measuring where the mounts would go to drilling holes into the wood and the wall. I was dripping in sweat as my little white fan just wasn’t enough on this hot humid day in New York City.  With a few tightenings from my yellow screwdriver, the masterpiece was complete. I knew exactly what it needed:

  1. A small green plant
  2. Daily Devotional
  3. Grief book
  4. Mini journal of “one good thing that happened today”
  5. A framed picture of me and two of my girlfriends

All done.

As I mentioned earlier, I decided to build a shelf to keep my mind active and busy. Just like that shelf helped distract my mind for an hour or two from my thoughts, writing this story helped distract my mind for an hour or two. When we take on acts of creativity that challenge ourselves, we help ourselves.

Healthy challenges are healthy coping skills.

I haven’t been able to articulate my feelings in the form of writing since I lost my 16-year-old beautiful brother. I lit two candles, made tea, turned on my fan, but I still wasn’t feeling up to writing. So, I glanced left and right, across my room that I designed, and my surroundings gave me the strength to express myself through something I love: writing.

My worry and grief subsided for an hour. This is how we cope.

Linked is an article about how creativity improves mental health and wellness.

Please reach out with any questions or thoughts. I’m always here to listen and talk. 

You are beautiful because you let yourself feel, and that is a brave thing indeed

Shinji Moon