How to Find a Therapist

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Looking for a Therapist?

Looking for a therapist can be a daunting task. I know because I have had to find several over the last 40 years. Finding someone compatible can take time and when you are in a crisis, time is not what one typically has.

Here, I will lay out questions that can help with the screening process for who might be a good fit… and who will definitely not be a good fit.

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How to Find a Therapist

Finding who to call can include getting names from Human Resources, your insurance book or Googling “Therapists.”

I find that if you need low-cost therapists, going to support agencies can help more than just Googling. I suggest the LGBTQ+ Center in the nearest town, even if you are not wanting to talk about those issues, they keep a long list of therapists who are low-no cost. You can also search the county’s social services site.

You can call the local college and ask them for recommendations. If it is a school that licenses therapists, that can be a jackpot, asking for newer therapists because they often charge less. It can seem not fabulous to ask for a new therapist, but they are often the ones with the newest ideas in research and are willing to work with you and your desires for therapy.

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Once You Have the List

It can be daunting to call the long list of therapists you have in front of you. Take your time. Call 3, then take a break and call 3 more the next hour or so. Be gentle on yourself even if you are desperate.

Desperate, of course, means NOT in a place to harm yourself or others.

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If you are in a suicidal or homicidal place, PLEASE CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY.

Calling for an Appointment

You will almost always get an answering machine when you call. That is normal. So plan out what you are going to say… write it down and read it if you want to… and then say what you need to the machine. Short and as succinct as possible. Therapist’s appointments end at 10 ’til the hour, so occasionally you might catch a person between then and the top of the hour, but not usually.

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“Hi, my name is Barb Herrera and I need a therapist for depression. Your name was given to me by the LGBTQ Center. I am in crisis, but not suicidal, so the sooner I can see someone the better. My phone number is: xxx-xxx-xxxx.”

If you are in crisis, it is important to say you are. Make sure to add the not suicidal part, please… if you are NOT suicidal, of course.

If you are a parent, needing therapy for a child, you can say, “Hi, my name is Barb Herrera and my 10-year old son William needs help with his ADHD and anger issues. We are having a very hard time right now, so the sooner I can see someone the better. Please help!”

I find the phrase, “Please help me,” brings out the codependent in just about everyone. I use it in the ER, in bookstores, and looking for therapists.

You might need to call 20 therapists to get 3 to call you back. That is the way it goes, sadly. Some will be kind and tell you they cannot help, but good-luck, but that is pretty rare.

Try with all your might to answer the phone when a strange number calls (or a blocked number even) because catching each other can be a terribly frustrating game of cat and mouse.

When You Speak to the Therapist

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While it sounds like you want that exact therapist when you left a message, there is a screening process you get to do to see if they are a good fit or not.

I encourage writing down exactly what you want help with:

“I am struggling with my marriage. My partner is distant and I don’t know why./My partner asked for a divorce and I’m scared/I’m having such a hard time getting anything done, my life is shit.” Etc.

If it is for someone else, your child for example, being really clear with what you need is good.

“My 15-year old daughter is using drugs and I don’t know what to do about it/My daughter is 13 and angry all the time. I need help understanding her/My 9-year old son struggles in school and cries a lot. I need help figuring out how to help him.” Etc.

So, when the therapist calls, this is when you bring out that paper and read to him or her what you need. Then ask, “Is this something you work with?” They might say yes (some say yes to anything), but they might tell you that isn’t their skill set and that’s great. Ask if they have a referral, thank them for calling and move on.

If you make an appointment with someone who says yes, WRITE DOWN THE APPOINTMENT DATE AND TIME and keep it handy. I say this because you want to keep talking to the therapists who call you back. Make an appointment with each one, just keep them straight (stars or ** next to the ones you like) so you can cancel  the others when you get a feel for the right therapist. It is rare you will not connect with one of the folks that eventually calls. If you do not, pick the least objectionable and start there.

When you have the appointment with the therapist, please call the others and cancel. You will get a machine again, so no worries on hurting their feelings. It happens all the time. BUT, thank them for their time and that you are holding onto their number for future reference. And then do so so you don’t have to go on the search again in the future if the one you choose does not work out.

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Appointments

The first appointment can make or break the relationship, but I highly encourage having at least 3 before deciding you are not a good fit and moving to the next one.

It is also so so tempting to stay with one that is meh because the prospect of starting over is daunting and can be really challenging when you are in crisis. But, I promise, if you give the therapist 3 sessions and you are still not clicking, the idea that you will eventually is really delaying the obvious. Best get out and start over now. The sooner you do, the sooner you will find the right fit.

When I moved from San Diego after my 28-year marriage ended, I had specific needs because of the situation… needed an LGBTQ+ friendly and knowledgeable person. The first three people I had were very young and I spent those first 3 sessions teaching them about the transgender person. I stayed the 3 hoping after session 1 and 2 that they would learn on their own and come back armed with information they could use to help me. When it was clear I was going to be the educator, I ended the relationship and moved onto the next one. With the 4th, I hit the jackpot and am still with her 3 years later. I did not have to teach her one thing about the trans community or the trans experience. She is older and volunteers as a therapist at the LGBTQ+ Center in town. It took almost a year to find the right person, but it was worth it. (A year waiting for appointments to open up and the down time between therapists when I was frustrated and was too tired to move forward.)

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Lastly

Trust your instincts.

If you are able to be CLEAR about your needs… even if it is merely describing your child’s most difficult behaviors or your most intense emotions about your job… that is a fantastic way to start.

Others who have made these choices, do you have other ideas on how you choose therapists?

I’m Depressed (Again)

Due to a glitch in my insurance and the Latuda company’s lack of medication, I went about a week without it. Might have been more. I have been back on it for 4 days now, but have fallen into depression. I wasn’t sure at first, but after sleeping 20 hours a day 3 days in a row, I think that qualifies as depression.

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And the crying.

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I hate the crying.

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The welling up of tears for (seemingly) no reason. The way they fall unabated, no amount of logic stopping them. They just turn on and off at their own whim.

What am I sad about? Nothing. There is no precipitating factor here, merely biochemical.

I want out of it.

NOW.

Who Is “45”?

“45” is what I call POTUS, the 45th president of the United States, that horrid man who squats in the White House tweeting (LYING) about random topics to divert our attention from the fucked up bullshit he does that will, PLEASE GODDESS, get him impeached.

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Bipolar Diary: Visions

So, I still have hallucinations, minor visual ones, not scary. But for a couple of weeks now, I have been having visions… premonitions are what they feel like.

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I meditate and have vivid images cross my mind. They are different than the fleeting, wandering thoughts that float around inside my head during meditation. These are more solid than vapor-y… and so, so, so real. They come with emotions, sometimes intense. So far, all good, but I am a tad nervous about seeing scary things; trying not to focus on them, though.

They do not only come when I meditate, but they seem to come easier at that time. Sometimes I am in that half-asleep place, going to sleep or waking, and they appear, too.

“Seeing”

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I saw a dear single friend of mine sitting in a library and a woman came to sit by him. She was dressed modestly, something that is important to my friend and struck him immediately. I saw them meeting, marrying and having a family together. All within moments. It was so real I almost reached out to touch them.

I’ve seen my grand-babies, growing through their lives… specific activities that I’ll leave a mystery for now.

I’ve sat in a meadow touching a rainbow.

Confused

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Google-ing visions with bipolar disorder, one gets “schizophrenia.” Eek! Really? I see the Psychiatrist in a couple of weeks and will ask him what might be going on.

Until then, I’ll take what I see, write the visions down and not worry too much about this new phenomenon in my mental illness.

Bipolar Diary: Manic Spending

I’m pretty upset as I write this. I’ve known I spent money during the Mania… enough that I am in quite a hole I cannot seem to climb out of… but I did not know how much.

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I could have gone and looked at my bank statement when I realized the money was gone so I knew where it went, but I was sticking my head in the sand, ashamed of what I had done… too embarrassed to even disclose it to myself.

But I found a pile of Blu-Ray DVDs 3 days ago; all 6 seasons of Northern Exposure and Season 1 of St. Elsewhere. I’m enjoying Northern Exposure (am on Season 5 now), it being one of my fave shows of all time, but I cannot help wishing I had the $400 back instead.

Today, I decided to be brave… and humble… and go look at the accounting of my spending during the Mania. It isn’t pretty. I didn’t have lots of new things in my small space, so was baffled what I could have spent the money on.

Apparently, I was benevolent.

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Not needing to share the organizations I picked… I’ll just say I chose ones who were either in Syria or were attending to Syrian Refugees. 3 different ones.

1  of them twice.

Trying to put the pieces together, I looked here in the blog and, as the Mania was ascending, I had written about my utter horror and distress about the Middle East. Clearly, it affected me deeply considering the amount of money I donated very soon after writing those posts. There is no way I could say, “I wish I had the money back,” but I still wince seeing how much I sent out.

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I’ve been trying to figure out a way to not have that happen again. As far as I know, I didn’t tell a soul I had done it. If I had, maybe someone could have questioned me? I have zero recollection of spending anything during that time. I don’t have a real life lover or anyone to watch over my finances (which Zack used to do). I don’t have credit cards, but spent everything I had plus more I had in the bank, so can’t even cut up cards to try and save myself from me.

I’m lost. Maybe someone will have some good ideas for not having that happen again?

Bipolar Diary: Coming Back to Life

Holy crap! I am finally awake more than 2 hours a day. I worked right about 500 minutes last pay period (I usually average over 1000)… and yesterday alone, I got almost 300 minutes!

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Med Changes

So upping the Wellbutrin to 400mg a day and the Risperdal down to 1mg a night seems to be the ticket. At least for now. How many times do I have to do this readjustment? Over and over again. Very frustrating.

However, I took no nap yesterday, so that was good. I laid down this morning, but not sleeping, just dozing.

I am cranky. (Oh, well. I have good reasons.)

I do hope I keep feeling better.

Bipolar Diary: (Fucking) Depression

I am immobilized by depression now.

I cannot work. I can barely write. I am sleeping 100 hours a day.

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artist, Ksenia Anske

Yet ANOTHER Visit to the Psychiatrist

Over and over and over I go, like on a loop, sitting in the Psych’s office, trying to form words that explain how I feel:

  • Despondent
  • Apathetic
  • Useless
  • Premonitions of Agoraphobia
  • Infinitely sad (made worse by Aleppo)
  • So, so, so tired

And words I do not share because they will toss me in the hospital if they fall out of my mouth. We’ll just let them sit in there and rot.

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artist, David Kessler

Medications

Another change in meds. Lowering the Risperdal, upping the Wellbutrin. Will it make one iota of a difference? Can’t I have some speed, please? “We don’t want you having those horrible hallucinations again, do we?” (Yes, please. If I can stay awake.)

Change cannot come soon enough.