How to cuff a therapist
There is something to be said about the similarities between trying to find a significant other and trying to find a therapist. No one knows where to start, how much it’s going to cost, if the relationship will drain or uplift you, or if after a few meetings you find out the person is a fraud and you want the throw the whole person away. There’s fear and uncertainty, but also hope and determination that your desire to better understand and help yourself, will make it all worthwhile.
First things first: it is absolutely normal for therapy to feel weird the first...or second, or even the tenth time. I had a client after several sessions tell me that while it was still uncomfortable in the moment to tell me some things, the relief they felt at the end of our sessions and the changes they were making made made it worthwhile.
Therapy involves a therapist learning a lot about you, and not so much of you learning about them, and that is the way it is supposed to be. Therapy is about YOU and a therapist’s job is to help you explore and challenge your thoughts and emotions, but remember - you are the expert on yourself.
As cliche as it sounds, Google is the best place to start to find therapists in your area. If you know what you want to woto on, you can also search for people specializing in that area. In recent years, more websites have created directories dedicated to helping people find black therapists and psychologists, such as the Association of Black Psychologists (www.abpsi.org) and TalkNaija (www.TalkNaija.org). Therapy that is delivered by a person of color doesn’t guarantee a great relationship, but it can ease some of the anxiety that accompanies seeking therapy as a minority. We are out there.
You should consider some key questions to help you in your search:
What school did the therapist go to? Going to an Ivy League does not mean someone is a good therapist, but graduating from an accredited school ensures that they graduated from a school with certain guidelines and stipulations for getting a degree. You can check this out by typing in the school’s name and APA accreditation in Google. Whatever school your therapist went to, there MUST be an in-person component that gave them counseling experience. #Noshadetotheonlineprograms.
Is your therapist licensed or nah? Your therapist MUST be licensed or be supervised by a licensed professional. This could be a licensed professional counselor (LPC), licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), licensed psychologist…basically just make sure they are licensed. Being licensed ensures they have done the schooling, passed the exams, and completed all the clinical hours necessary for that title.
Many therapists will list their theoretical orientation on their website. A theoretical orientation is how your therapist views how your problems developed and how best they can help you. There are a lot of theoretical orientations, but there are certain buzzwords you can look for like “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” “Psychodynamic,” “Emotion-Focused,” “Integrative,” and so on. However, if you see an orientation that looks like a bunch of words thrown together, run.
Going to therapy costs money, but there are several ways to lower costs. Most insurances will pay the majority of the fee and leave you to pay a copay. Always ask prior to your first session what insurance they accept. Another way to lower costs is to look for community based clinics that offer services on a sliding fee scale, meaning, what you pay is based on what you earn. Many universities offer clinical services by therapists in training who are supervised by licensed therapists at a reduced rate to the general public.
At the end of the day, trust your gut. There are many things and relationships that we force ourselves into throughout our lives. Your therapy relationship should not be one of those. You may walk into the room and after a session or two, realize that this isn’t a good fit. That is okay. If you want to challenge yourself you can open up to your therapist and share this. If you therapist is a good therapist they will help you explore your emotions and guide you to a better fit.
As therapists, we understand. We want to help you and sometimes the best way to do so, is letting you go.
Finding a therapist that’s a good fit for you may be challenging at first, but it’s worth what you and your therapist can accomplish together.
For or more information on mental health and therapy, visit TalkNaija.org.