Written by: Nihal Nour
It’s not easy to take that first step of going to a complete stranger and opening up about your deepest, darkest secrets. In fact, most people usually feel anxious, embarrassed, or overwhelmed. Many people don’t even know where to start and that’s where this article comes in handy. Here are some tips to help you take that first step with therapy:
The search is perhaps the most important step here. You want to make sure you’re seeking the right kind of help for your problems, and that your healthcare provider will likely give you the service you need. Of course, there is no way of guaranteeing that unless you actually visit them, but you can improve your odds by doing the following:
What kind of help do I need?
The first task is to understand the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. Psychologists have a degree in psychology, allowing them to offer different types of therapy and counselling services. However, they can’t prescribe you medications if needed, since they have no medical training.
Psychiatrists, on the other hand, are fully qualified doctors. This allows them to prescribe medication if needed, as well as adjust the dosage and help you come off the medications when you both decide it is the right thing for you. Some psychiatrists provide therapy and counselling services, just like psychologists.
If you’re going through a crisis situation where you’re feeling severely depressed or suicidal, it is probably best to see a psychiatrist at first. However, if you decide to see a psychologist, they can still refer you to a psychiatrist they know and recommend to help you get the medication you need.
Where do I find the help I need?
Asking a friend, colleague, or mentor to recommend a mental health professional is perhaps the most tried, tested, and safe way. Don’t take it for granted that the mental health professional your friend recommends will be right for you. You should always google them first, look for content they create such as vlogs, TV interviews and articles. This should help you get a better idea about who you’re about to see and how comfortable you feel with their method. If this feels like a heavy task for you, ask for the help of a trusted friend or relative.
Websites like Vezeeta and Shezlong
Both websites have a huge number of profiles specifically for mental health professionals. The good thing about both websites is that there is a review section where you can read other patients’ reviews. However, keep in mind that a single negative review does not mean they are not right for you. You should make your decision based on both the reviews and other information you collect, either by looking for content created by the professional or asking friends for their opinion.
The first visit
It’s very important to manage your expectations at this stage. Your first session will likely be a time for you and your healthcare provider to get to know each other better. A good mental health professional will know how to effortlessly steer this universally awkward encounter. Don’t expect a diagnosis during that first session, even though some professionals can accurately diagnose you the first time they see you. However, most healthcare providers will need to see you a couple of times before they can offer you a definitive diagnosis.
Don’t feel pressured to let everything out the first time you meet your mental health professional. They are perfectly aware that there may be difficult topics you don’t have the heart to talk about with a stranger. However, it is a good idea to let them know that some of the things you say will be incomplete and that you can’t fully answer some questions until you feel ready. You can also discuss any anxieties or concerns you have about talking and be sure that they will understand and help you gradually open up without pressuring you.
Communication is key when it comes to your relationship with your mental healthcare provider. Felt bad about something they said? Felt attacked? Surprised? Upset in any way? Felt like what they said wasn’t helpful? Go ahead and tell them. A good therapist will know how to accommodate your feelings, no matter what they are. During your follow-up visits, constantly ask yourself if you’re comfortable with your mental health professional. If something feels persistently wrong, trust your gut. However, don’t judge therapy all in all by your negative experience but believe that you will find the right therapist for you and that you only need to try to find someone you’re more comfortable with.
Finally, remember that you deserve to be happy and that you shouldn’t be in pain. So, take the step and don’t be scared.
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