When dealing with grief, sometimes it’s just not enough to talk to family members and close friends about how you’re doing. You get into a cycle of dumping your problems onto others without feeling any real relief. If you’re beginning to feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, know that it’s OK to need to talk to a professional.
The good news is, the number of mental health providers is on the rise. You might be surprised to find that there are a variety of therapists out there, from ones who offer sessions over a video call to others who offer workshops or host groups for those grieving. The challenge is making sense of all the options and knowing where to begin.
What Are You Looking for in a Therapist?
Do you want someone to teach you coping skills? If so, you might consider a pro with a practice that includes Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Do you just need to vent and be heard by someone outside your circle? Any qualified therapist should be up for that. Do you simply want a tool to help you focus and relax? An app like Headspace could be just the thing.
Does the Therapist’s Experience Match Your Needs?
These days most therapists have a website or profile that lists their areas of expertise, certifications and clinical background. Websites like Psychology Today and Good Therapy allow you to filter your search by specialty and provide you with lists of providers in your chosen location, complete with their background information, contact details and links to their website. This is especially helpful if you’re having a hard time choosing. It’s OK to want to check your therapist out first. If seeing a picture of them and knowing they are close in age to you (or your grandmother) helps you take that first step, then search away. Hey, we’re only human, and sometimes we need to make a connection before we commit to something outside our comfort zone.
Chat With Them on the Phone First
Feel free to follow up your initial research with a few questions by phone (or email) to make sure that the requisite experience is there. You’ll know within a few minutes if you want to take the next steps to meet in person. Chatting with them will give you a good feel for their personality as well as a sense of responsiveness, tone and style. Be ready to speak with as many prospective therapists as it takes until you feel ready to choose.
Do You Feel Safe Opening up to Them?
The importance of comfort in the therapeutic environment (aka, the office) cannot be overstated. It’s critical that sessions feel supportive, validating and safe because progress is largely based on how honest you can be in the session.
If You’re Uncomfortable, Don’t Be Afraid to Switch
Don’t let guilt or self-doubt convince you to stick it out with a therapist that doesn’t feel right. You’re investing time, money and energy in work that’s important, and you should be getting what you need in order to heal and move past any sad or low feelings you’re having. It’s nothing personal, and an experienced therapist will be more than supportive of a move.
Ask Around for Referrals
Consider asking trusted friends or colleagues if they’ve had good experiences with local providers. Not everyone will be willing to share, but those who do can offer valuable insight—the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Cost of Treatment
While it can be expensive, the cost of therapy should never get in the way of your treatment. If the provider you want is in network, you’re off to a good start. Others may offer a sliding scale, so don’t hesitate to ask. If your provider is out of network, contact your insurance company to ask about their reimbursement rates. Most plans offer something, but you may have to cover a deductible first. Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) or Health Savings Accounts (HSA) can be used to pay for sessions, and local universities and hospitals often offer treatment at reduced rates to support their research initiatives.