I feel like a lot of the time when people talk about getting help for their mental health problem, the biggest obstacle people that's talked about is asking for that help. Don't get me wrong, that is a very big step. I've been living with depression for eleven years and I still have trouble asking for help. But no one ever talks about how hard finding that help can be.
I have seen six therapists over the past eleven years, and I am currently working on finding lucky number seven. There are a few different ways you can start your search for a therapist. You can ask your doctor for recommendations (like I did for #5), you can consult Google (which is my current method), or you can just go wherever will take you as soon as possible (how I found #6).
No matter how you get a list of names, then comes the next challenge: seeing which therapists fit your needs. Maybe they don't specialize in the problems you're experiencing, maybe you're only comfortable with a certain gender, maybe they don't match your health insurance. There are more factors than a person would probably think of that can affect how you and your therapist are going to pair.
Then is the waiting game. If you're lucky, your therapist will have an opening and will be able to see you right away. However, in my search for therapist #6 most places were telling me that the waitlist was a year. And sure enough I got about three calls about a year later telling me that they could take me. Unfortunately there just aren't enough mental health resources to go around, and often times people are left waiting when they especially need it.
Now, you've found a therapist, they check all your boxes, you have an appointment coming up soon. Here comes the last challenge. Are you going to get along? I've had an amazing therapist, I've had some okay therapists, I've had a therapist I thought was bad but in retrospect were just what I needed at the time, and I had a therapist that I'm sure was the right match for somebody who isn't me. Unfortunately there is no way to tell until you get into it.
I hope that detailing this process doesn't scare off anyone thinking about finding a therapist, because it's not intended to. As with a lot of things people tend not to talk about the gritty details, but it's important to know what all might come up. You may get the perfect therapist on the first time, or you may get one that you just don't vibe with. The important thing is that you take every step of the process for you. If it just isn't working between you and your therapist, tell them. They understand that they can't be everything for everyone, and any good therapist will just want you to find the match that works best for you.
As I yet again embark on the process of finding yet another therapist (thank my constant moving for that), I'm reminded that the process doesn't et easier but you do get more used to it. I'm still just as nervous for my consultation call as I was the very first time I had to find a therapist on my own (#3). I openly talk about my mental illnesses on the internet of all places, and I'm still nervous having to tell a medical professional about my diagnosed conditions. In the end, I know that it is so, so worth it but until then I'll just be a little ball of anxiety over there in the corner.