At the beginning of the year I shared five resolutions I thought others should make in 2019. I have no authority. I have no credentials. I just own a website and like to write demands on it. Who knows if anyone actually listens. But honestly, that has never stopped me before.
One post that generated a lot of questions was my get-a-therapist recommendation:
How do you find a counselor?
How do I know if my therapist is good?
What if I can’t afford therapy?
Where do I even start if I want to find a counselor?
I don’t know. Good luck, I guess?
I kid, I kid.
It’s really easy to write a blog post about how everyone needs a therapist this year while not addressing the financial strain, the stress of finding someone you feel safe with, and the time it takes.
Many people know they need therapy and would love to go to therapy but can’t afford it. I don’t have time to disparage all the ways our healthcare system is letting us down in terms of mental health, but I think we can all agree many of our most vulnerable and needy citizens don’t get the care they desperately need. We need to do better.
If you need/want counseling and resources are tight, I’d start by calling local churches and community centers. Many churches have access to low-cost counseling services or can recommend places that do. You do not have to be a member of these churches to ask for help (and if you call a church who only wants to help you if you’re on the membership list, hang up and call a different one; also don’t go to that church.).
When Chris left his treatment center, he spent some time counseling with an addictions counselor at a community center downtown. The setting wasn’t traditional and sometimes there was a crisis he had to attend to so he cancelled at the last moment, but it was worth it to us because Chris was getting help he needed and we were still able to buy groceries.
Yes, there are therapists who charge $100 to $150 an hour, but there are others who don’t. It will take some work, some perseverance, and some trial-and-error, but asking for referrals and about reduced rates is where you start.
Also, find a intern! It’s like getting two counselors for the price of one and with a discount. Sure, interns don’t have years of experience yet, but they’re still trained and beneficial. Plus, they’re monitored by someone with the experience so if money is a concern, this is an accessible way to still get the counseling you need on a tight budget.
I know I got lucky when I called my church asking for help and was referred to my therapist. It’s common to have introductory appointments with a handful of therapists to see if you have chemistry. You don’t like every person you meet, why would you like every therapist? (Wait, do you like every person you meet? Seriously, you need a counselor, that’s weird.)
This seems like silly advice, but if you have insurance, please call and double check your mental health services. You might be surprised at what they cover, and, again, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Our insurance doesn’t cover counseling, and some counselors don’t accept insurance, but asking all the questions anyway is worth it. Asking about a counselor’s insurance rate and their cash rate is okay too.
Not everyone will feel comfortable doing this, but asking your people for references is a good way to find a counselor. When I was looking for a marriage counselor, I asked a few friends I knew had been to counseling before or were connected to the counseling community. I’m all for getting past the stigma and shame associated with saying you need help and what better way to do that than announcing it on a Facebook post?
That’s extreme. Maybe don’t do that. Or do. I don’t know what you’re about. But seriously, asking people in your circle is bound to point you in the right direction.
Asking your physician is a good idea too. Doctors make referrals all the time, and some offices keep a list of mental health professionals to recommend when asked.
So basically my answer is speak up.
I realize that’s hard to do when you’re struggling, but if you can only do one brave thing this month or even this year, let this be it. Ask for some help and see where it leads.
If all else fails, just Google.
I mean, the internet holds all the answers, right?
I just found your blog today and I’ve been bingeing for hours. I’m living so much of the same situations and emotions you’ve written so clearly about. Thank you for all the effort you put forth in writing and being real.
I am one month out from my first and last visit with the counselor from hell, who focused the entire 2.5 hour session on how unbiblical and wrong my responses (crying, anger, fear) were to my husband’s repeated secret drinking episodes and lies (five episodes over the last couple of years). No attention whatsoever given to my husband’s role in the whole mess!
Yesterday was my first session with a different counselor, and for the first time I felt the validation of someone treating me with empathy, kindness…. So I definitely echo your advice that if you get a clunker of a counselor/therapist the first time, don’t give up until you find one who is good.