Make the first appointment
I started counseling right around my vestibular event and I’m grateful for the journey. It can also be quite difficult to get started. Sometimes sharing our experiences can help.
To paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi taking the first step welcomes you into a larger world.
Therapy is hard. I mean really hard. Yet, it’s something I look forward to every week. My life is pretty hectic. One aspect is raising a child who has a chronic illness. The last time we were in Cleveland for medical check-ups my son shared with his mito specialist his anxiety and difficulty handling emotions. The doctor said if we were living in Cleveland, it would be a coordinated effort with a psychiatrist, psychologist, and himself. As we are not living in Cleveland that we should find a good counselor so he can work through this. I didn’t even think twice about him getting some help. He’s been poked and prodded since three and of course, it’s taking its toll.
Just like when he needed someone for his lungs or stomach we made sure to seek help and getting help for your emotions shouldn’t carry any different weight. And that’s the thing. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal go to therapy, counseling, etc. Yet for so many, it is a big deal. There are so many reasons for that. From macro to micro and everything in between the collective “we” struggle with access to mental health services and care. For our family unit, we’ve opted to normalize mental health. It’s not to say we’ve done it perfectly but we are trying our best.
One barrier to receiving care is finding the right mental health provider. Sometimes you’re lucky and know someone who can recommend a jumping-off point. If you have insurance you could do a search of therapists in the area but that doesn’t really tell you much beyond their name and location. The fact is you might not even know the differences in approaches, what you are looking for, and of course what kind of personality is going to work best with you. All of that is exhausting and takes a lot of effort! It’s not hard to see why so many give up before they even get started.
In our case, we were given a recommendation from someone we trusted. The first few sessions for my son included me so I had the opportunity to get a sense of who the therapist was and his approach. I feel like we hit the therapist jackpot! A person who is patient, empathetic, and kind. It wasn’t too long after my son started that I sent him a text asking if it’s allowed and would it be too awkward if I also carved out some time to talk to him.
The consensus was that it would work and perhaps bring unique insight so yes, I could set up an appointment. Just showing up takes courage. To walk into a room with a stranger and be your most vulnerable is a big deal. It’s normal for it to be scary that first visit.
So what makes a therapist the right fit? The answer, of course, is going to depend on who you are and what you need. I need someone who isn’t going to just “switch off” when that hour is up. Yes, as a professional he needs to be able to disengage and compartmentalize. It’s part of the package in this field and he’s trained to do so. That being said, if I’m in the midst of a huge sobbing meltdown to just click your pen, tap your clipboard and declare “time” isn’t going to work for me. I’m willing to sit in a waiting room for 10-15 min knowing my therapist needs a little extra time with the client because one day I might be that client.
In fact, no clipboards anywhere! I’m not a case, I’m a human. I need someone who approaches their practice with a holistic approach. Curious and empathetic. Knows when to push and when to give space.
Trust and safety are a big part of this process. Part of the safety comes from the environment. From the person who checks me in the waiting room to the set up of the office, I will spend an hour each week helps set up a container of safety.
Session two for me was a big turning point in trust. I had just sustained my vestibular injury and was incredibly dizzy. However, I was determined to go to therapy. I just lost so much and I was drowning. I needed a lifeline. I was on a walker and barely able to manage the 10-minute car ride. Propped up on the small soft leather couch I started to tell him what happened. I was just going to give the very removed play by play. But that’s not his job. His job includes getting me to process feelings, understand this event, provide a safe place to fall apart. That’s exactly what I did. The weight of this injury and illness and what it was taking from me hitting me like waves of an angry ocean. My therapist provided the lifeline and we were able to develop trust.
Even with this trust, there are times when I’m in a session that my defenses go up. He recognizes it and then gets curious about why and together we explore the process. Every week there’s a new level of understanding. He shares pieces of his life with me. He doesn’t share with any agenda other than allowing me to see his human side. The entire picture. That, of course, we share in the human condition. That’s the kind of therapist I need.
The thing with therapy is that showing up once is only the beginning. It’s a big step and a big deal. If you are taking steps to care for yourself and emotional well-being thank yourself. If you are thinking you should take that first step then yes, absolutely yes! You can do this. Push through the bureaucracy, shove back against the system and make that appointment.
Take your first step into the larger world.