Therapist shopping can be an unpleasant experience, it is not a one size fits all, shop around to see who is a good fit for you and your family.

One of the most common questions I receive is “How do I know I need to see a therapist?” Good question. I will answer your question with a question! When would you see a personal fitness trainer? No, I am serious, tell me! Hmmmmmm….perhaps when you are ready for a change, when you are struggling in a certain area, when you want to be healthier for yourself and your family, when you are preparing for an event, etc. These are all reasons to see a fitness trainer, but are all good reasons to see a licensed therapist. Many will say well, “I have my grandmother or uncle Joe,” for that. Perhaps this is true. But let me share with you the magic of therapy, lean in close because I am going to whisper this in your ear. Ready for it? Therapists hear things that are not spoken! We help you connect the dots, we accept your truth and we do not take it for granted that you share your truth with us. It is an honor in fact! We provide a safe space for you to process. Now, let me define safe space for you. This therapeutic safe space is not a place for you to hide. You do enough of that out in your world. But it is a safe place for you to be challenged and your thoughts to be confronted so positive change can take place. You follow me? Good, let’s continue.

The fact of the matter is, anytime is a good time to see a therapist for yourself. However, you cannot push someone to see a therapist, they have to decide that on their own, so when “asking for a friend,” it will be when they are ready. Readiness is a huge part of a prognosis. Yes, there are individuals who are threatened or forced into therapy, and in these cases, building rapport or getting a person comfortable does take a lot more elbow grease on the therapeutic side. With that said, let us focus on you! You are a good candidate for therapy! I, as a licensed therapist, am a good candidate for therapy! There are different levels of care in receiving mental health services. Levels of care range in time, the higher the level, the more time and intervention provided. The lowest level is outpatient services, this is where you would go to an outpatient office and see a licensed therapist for about an hour, maybe 2 hours on your first visit, and you both will develop a plan for treatment. There are times a licensed therapist may feel you need a higher level of care. For an adult, that may mean intensive outpatient, where instead of having weekly or biweekly sessions, you may have sessions 3 or more times per week. Sessions are usually in 50-60 minute increments. In higher levels of care, you will hear terms like partial care program or residential programs. Remember, the higher the level of care, the more time and intervention provided by the professionals.

Shopping for an outpatient therapist is a good place to start, it’s the lowest level of care, and this means you can function pretty well out in civilization and are not a threat to yourself or to others. Many call the back of their insurance cards, or get recommendations from their primary doctors, or even through a friend or loved one. But still, they may not be a good fit, so the search continues. It is good to review a therapist’s website and their areas of expertise. Remember, it is not a one size fits all. A therapist does not address or have a specialty in all areas of life. Also, their modalities or therapeutic approaches can be different from other therapists. On top of that, it is possible, the rapport or the relationship between the therapist and the client doesn’t seem like a good fit. Therapeutic rapport is so important. I mean, remember when you were in school and you didn’t like your teacher, you knew you were not going give as much effort in the class, or perhaps slept during the lessons because the teacher
just annoyed you, or you avoided going to class completely. Either way, a good rapport with a therapist is important.

If a therapist does not have a website or a social media page where you can gain more insight about their therapeutic approach and personality, perhaps go to your first session with questions. Some questions asked address the therapist’s approach or modality, their specialties, how they feel about medication, do they explore spirituality. I have also been asked if I was married or do I have children. These are personal questions, however, a therapist will answer these questions if it is therapeutically appropriate. Many do not self-disclose personal information. For myself, I do have a website and a social media page, and I encourage potential clients to visit my page and social media page to gain more info about myself. Some clients may be looking for a male, or maybe age is important. I will say be open though, because sometimes a person’s preferences may be to avoid certain issues they do not wish to address. For example, sometimes a person may not want anyone close to their father or mother’s age because of issues with their own parents. I am a licensed clinician who is grounded in biblical beliefs, and making this known, will allow many clients to feel comfortable exploring their own personal relationship with God. On the other hand, knowing this in advance, may deter clients as well. As a Christian therapist, I have had several pastors and organizations reach out to seek professional counseling for their congregation, members, and themselves, to address areas that they are not equipped to address. Again… even therapists need therapists! I will always say, if you practice what you preach, it will make it easier to teach.

Mental and emotional awareness is important for a growing family, and often times styles of communication are handed down from generation to generation, as well as family dysfunction. Sometimes timing plays a part as well. You may need to see a therapist, but you feel you do not have the time to dedicate towards it. There is no rush. When you are ready, you are ready, and we will be ready to take that journey with you! One of the best experiences in therapy, as a therapist is seeing the light bulbs go off for a client. Their epiphanies, the moment when mental change has occurred and they are ever changed, never the same. It can be rare for a therapist to see the change and the after effects of therapy, just as it is rare to see a seed grow into a flower. We plant seeds, and water them, but we may not see it grow. Many times we may not see the impact therapy had on a person’s life because change is gradual, and sometimes things won’t click until months to years later. But, I like to lean in and listen, and look out for small changes such as in a person’s tone, expression, or how open they are in session compared to former sessions. When I see change, we celebrate! Oh the joys of progress and not perfection!

About the author

Danisha Reed, LPC, ACS

Published Author: “Love Letters From Ishra,” (2016) and “You Are Worth It!” (2018) both available on Amazon, Kindle, and Barnes and Nobles. I am a licensed therapist from NJ who enjoys normalizing therapy and building strong marriages and families. Starting my private practice, while being a single mother of 4 beautiful children has not been an easy journey. More than 5 years ago I started SUGAR Counseling and did not look back! S.U.G.A.R Synthesis Under God’s Authority Restored! It’s SWEET when passion meets purpose!

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