Finding Peace — Manuscript Post #17
–Finding a therapist
December 1, 2008
It was time to find a therapist. I had no clue how to go about this. I knew that my benefits plan at work included various counseling options. I reviewed this online and found the number to call to get approval to see a therapist. To see a therapist I was using my Mental Health benefit. A reasonable person could conclude that this meant I was having a mental health issue, which means I was mentally ill. I believe this prevents many people from seeking help for issues that are much less serious that any real mental illness. Many people could benefit from counseling, many people that are not mentally ill.
I made the call to what my benefits plan called the Employee Assistance Program. Because I was asking for referrals to see a therapist, I had to answer some questions on the phone. Remember that this was happening in 2008. I don’t know if this would all happen online today or not. On the other hand, perhaps I would still have to call and speak to a human. I needed to get pre-approved before I could see a therapist. The person I spoke with was very soothing. They asked me if I had any thoughts of suicide. I wasn’t completely surprised that they asked this, but it was a little creepy. I understand why the process works this way, but, it seems too bad that anyone that wants help with any emotional issue has to be asked about suicide before anything else can happen. Their questions were straight forward. Since I already had an initial diagnosis from Dr. Sue, this process went smoothly. I needed to see a therapist for help with anxious depression. I got the approval I needed.
The next step was to actually find a therapist. While my employee benefits covered seeing a therapist, it only applied to a list of therapists that work with my employer’s insurance. I like to control things. I like to gather lots of information before making a major decision. However, I knew that I was in need of help with things I didn’t understand. I made a very carefully considered decision. Instead of creating a complex selection process, I simply asked for a list of therapists in my area that were covered by my insurance.
I was given a list of five therapists. For each, I wrote down their name, phone number and address. I chose to simply call them in the order they were given to me. I made a decision that I wasn’t going to try to gather lots of information on each of them to analyze who they were, what their qualifications were, or any other set of metrics. I accepted that I didn’t know what was happening to me and therefore I wasn’t really qualified to know what I needed in a therapist.
I remember looking at the list of names before I called any of them. While I had decided not to try to gather lots of information about all of them, I did think about the one thing I could tell from the list of names I had. Would it matter if the therapist was male or female? At first I thought I should favor a male in case we needed to discuss anything related to sex. I didn’t think my issues were related to sex but I realized I had no way of knowing what I knew and didn’t know about what would be important in my treatment. Perhaps a female therapist would be easier to talk to. Maybe a male therapist would be less nurturing. I didn’t think about this for very long before I realized that I had no way of knowing what would be best for me.
I decided to let fate take its course. I called the first two phone numbers on the list and waited for a response. If both of these didn’t work out, I would move down the list. Keeping it simple reduced stress. I’m glad I didn’t overanalyze this process.
Fate decided to keep it simple. I left voice mail with the first two therapists on my list. The first one returned my call later in the day. We spoke briefly and scheduled a first appointment for December 4, three days later. The second therapist called back the next day. I told them I already had an appointment. I remember her voice, she sounded disappointed. Why is this relevant? I was worried that I had a problem that no one would want to hear about. It was a good feeling that I had found multiple people that really wanted to help me.
I felt good just having made the first appointment with a therapist. When I made the first appointment with Dr. Sue it felt good because it meant I was on the path to getting help. When it became clear I needed to see a therapist I was again concerned and again, it felt good when I made the first appointment. Whatever lay ahead, at least I was starting down the path. It feels good to take action, to start the process of dealing with whatever my problem was.
My insurance covered eight visits at 100%. Further visits would have a $15 copay for up to 52 visits in a year. Again, this was 2008 and the copay would be more today, but this is what I was dealing with at the time. It wasn’t a big issue for me, but, the cost of therapy is important. I knew I had the money to pay the copay for a lot of visits. This means I wasn’t worried about the cost of therapy. This is one of many issues that could make someone hesitant to look into therapy. I was concerned about my symptoms and worried about what might come next, but at least I didn’t have to worry about money on top of everything else. I hope the cost of therapy won’t prevent you from getting the help you need.
If you are worried that you can’t afford the cost of therapy, perhaps because your insurance doesn’t cover as many sessions, the copay is too much or you don’t have insurance that covers therapy at all, you should still look into what is available. I would discuss this with whatever medical resources you do have access to. Talk to your doctor and ask them what kind of therapy options are available in your area and make clear your concerns about the cost.
Now that I had an appointment, I wanted to be prepared. I gathered my notes from both of my visits to Dr. Sue. I also had notes about my symptoms since the initial onset at lunch back in September. I also got the details of the medications I was taking. I typed all this up on my computer so I could print it all out to give to the therapist. I wanted to provide as much information to the therapist as possible. This was something I had control over.