So you've decided that you need to talk with someone. Or your doctor has suggested it. Or your significant other has demanded it. Where do you begin?
Personal recommendations are the best. Has a friend mentioned seeing a therapist whom they really like? When your doctor broached the subject did he or she recommend someone? (I often receive referrals from doctors.) Do you have a minister with whom you feel comfortable talking? They often have a list of counseling profesiosnals in town to whom they refer.
But maybe, for whatever reason, you don't want anyone else to know you're looking. The internet has made life easier in this regard. There are a number of therapist directories online. One of the most popular is hosted by Psychology Today (go to their website and click on "Find a therapist.")
You can see if they take your insurance or work with your issues. You can get a feel for how they work. Even better, if they have a website and/or blog you can learn even more.
No matter how many techniques come along and schools of therapy we develop, over and over again studies show that the most important quality in the success of therapy is the fit between the therapist and client. Different therapists have very different ways of working. What works well for someone else may not work for you. And vice versa.
While it's normal to be nervous, also pay attention to your gut feelings. Do you not like this person because you're scared? Or is it because they don't seem to be listening to you very well?
True story: The first time I attempted therapy I dropped out after one or two sessions. The therapist was a nice woman and well recommended, but she wanted to go too fast. She pushed harder than I could go at that point. It was many years later before I was ready to try again with someone else who could respect the pace I needed.
What if you call them and leave a message and they don't call back? Sometimes therapists aren't very good about that, I'm sorry to say. But sometimes we don't call back because we cannot.
Right now I have a message on my voicemail that I cannot return because someone's cell phone cut out at the wrong time, leaving me a digit or two short on a phone number.
We have very strict guidelines for the safety and privacy of our clients and potential clients. I cannot simply call the number on my caller ID if that's not the number a caller was giving me. I don't have permisison to call that number.
Depnding on the situaion, it could be a terrible mistake (for example, if I return a call to a home number instead of a cell and someone else answers who doesn't know this person is considering counseling - and may be violently opposed to it.
If you call, speak slowly. Spell any names more unusual than Jack, Bob or Sue. (I have listened to messages over and over trying to figure out what a name actually is.) Give your number slowly. Then repeat it slowly.
Dont be afraid to ask for what you need. We can't always accomodate, and there may be a good reason why a therapist is nudging you in one direction and not another. But at its best, counseling is a collaoborative process between you and the counselor. If your therapist isn't willing to be open to hearing your concerns about that process and talking about them, then it may be time to try someone else.