If you’re wondering if therapy might be helpful, know that you’re not alone. Many people seek out therapy at some point in their lives, and for good reason. Therapy can provide support, guidance, and relief from a variety of mental and emotional difficulties, help you navigate a difficult situation, or give you more tools for relating to and communicating with the people in your life. And you don’t need to have experienced major trauma to benefit from therapy.
In this article, we’ll go through common signs that indicate therapy would likely be helpful. We’ll also provide resources to help you find a therapist and understand what to expect.
How do you know if it's time to start therapy?
If you're noticing any of the changes below, then therapy might be a great step for you:
- Your eating or sleeping habits have become distracting, unhealthy or irregular
- You no longer enjoy activities you used to enjoy
- You're experiencing more intense emotions than usual
- Your support network is insufficient. You don’t have many people to talk with and/or you can’t talk to them about particular topics
- You’re weighing a difficult decision and need an unbiased person to discuss it with
- You’re experiencing acute or chronic stress, such as workplace difficulties, relationship issues, etc.
- You’re struggling with troublesome or repetitive thoughts
- You’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety
- You feel unclear about who you are and what you desire for your future
- You’re ruminating on a past or present experience that you want to process and heal from
- You’re in a rut and nothing seems to be helping (meditation, exercise, etc.)
- You're having a hard time focusing or completing tasks
- You're withdrawing from social activities or isolating yourself
- You’re experiencing thoughts or urges to hurt yourself or others
If any of these resonate with you, therapy could be a beneficial next step.
How do you find a therapist who's right for you?
The first step we recommend is to narrow down your options between in-person and digital therapy. There are now apps, like Talkspace and BetterHelp, that allow you to converse with a therapist through your phone or computer, however it’s important to find a reputable provider that honors the therapeutic relationship you will be creating. Here at Touchy Feely, we recommend avoiding these types of apps if you have access to other options as their business practices have been under recent scrutiny for a myriad of reasons from security breaches to hiring unqualified providers.
Editor’s comment: Good therapy can be prohibitively expensive or hard to find in some areas. If an online platform is your only option right now, that’s ok. Therapeutic support, even if it is limited, can positively impact your well-being.
Many traditional therapy offices do offer telehealth appointments. However, you typically need to find a local office due to provider licensing requirements.
We recommend either asking your primary care provider for a referral, or searching these databases:
- Psychology Today - the therapist database recommended by therapists
- Zocdoc - search for in-network therapists
- Good Therapy - resource site for therapists and patients
- Therapy Den - emphasizes trans and LGBTQ inclusivity
- Open Path Collective or Therapy 4 the People - therapists who can offer low cost ($30-$60) sessions for people with a limited budget or inadequate/no insurance
- Therapy for Black Girls - therapists who understand the unique challenges of Black women and girls
Both sites are respected and used by top therapists and doctors across the country. You can read reviews of various therapists and find out what they specialize in. While there are many different therapy modalities, you don’t need to get too caught up in the technical terms. Most therapists use a blend of approaches so it’s more important to find a person you feel comfortable with than it is to choose between someone who specializes in DBT vs. CBT.
Another option is to get referrals from people you trust, like friends, family or members of your community (church, community group, club, etc.), just know that what works for someone else might not work for you. If a therapist comes highly recommended by someone you trust, but they aren’t a good match for you, you didn’t do anything wrong! It’s ok to try different providers until you find the right one.
How to Narrow it Down
Once you have a list of potential therapists, visit their individual websites and do a little more research. Read their bios to get a sense of their specialties, background and approach. If you have insurance, you might also want to see if the therapist you're considering is covered by your insurance plan (while most offer out-of-network coverage, you may be surprised to find one that’s considered in-network with your plan). And last, consider logistics, like location, availability, time commitment, and cost.
Most insurance policies cover mental health to some extent, but it’s typically not fully covered. Unfortunately, the best way to know if your insurance will cover a particular provider is to call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask.
Our founder, Kendra, also notes that using insurance for mental health conditions can have implications on the ability to get life insurance and other things. We’re in the process of creating an in-depth resource on insurance as it relates to therapy. For now, we recommend reading this resource. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to hear when our in-depth guide on insurance is released.
Finding the Right Fit
Many therapists offer free consultations. This allows you to meet the therapist and get a sense of their approach and whether or not you’d be comfortable working with them. Keep in mind: it's completely normal to meet with a few therapists before finding the right fit, and it’s always fine to part ways if you have a few sessions and realize it’s not a great fit.
What should you expect from therapy sessions?
Here's what you should expect:
- Your therapist is a licensed mental health professional with a legal right to practice in your state (Typically that includes: counselors, therapists, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists)
- Therapy is a safe space and your therapist is a safe person
- Your privacy is maintained
- Your therapist is compassionate and friendly
- You're given plenty of free time and space to talk
- Your therapist will likely reflect your thoughts back to you with a few shifts
- Your therapist will have suggestions for how to improve your day-to-day experience
- Your therapist will remember each session and help you notice trends over time
Here's what not to expect:
- You will likely not have a revelation in each session (although that's possible).
- You will likely not heal overnight, but you will notice improvements over time.
- Unless you have chosen to see a psychiatrist, your therapist will not prescribe medication. If you think you need medication, we recommend speaking to your primary care physician or a psychiatrist.
Therapy is a practice. With each session, you gain insights that add up and over time help you improve your lived experience.
How can therapy help you overcome your problems or challenges?
There are two key ways that therapy helps you. First, you’re given space to talk with a highly-trained listener. Within this space, you’re more likely to discover what’s bothering you and how to move forward, and you’ll receive guidance to do so in a safe and effective way. And second, with someone on your side helping you, you’re more likely to get where you want to be and resolve any issues blocking you. No one was meant to process, heal, and grow completely alone. With help, we can all go so much further.
How do you know if therapy is working?
We love the way Mental Health America defines progress in therapy:
"Progress happens gradually – you probably won't have one big moment in which it's clear that therapy has 'worked.' Instead, it's slow and steady growth. You will know therapy is working for you when you notice a change in your general mood or mindset. Maybe you'll catch yourself challenging your automatic negative thoughts or processing a frustrating situation rather than immediately reacting with anger. It's helpful to identify your therapy goals early on so that you can track your progress."
How long does it take to see improvements in therapy?
It depends, however, many people find immediate relief knowing they have someone to talk to. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), many people report feeling consistently better after 2-3 months of regular treatment, however sometimes it takes a little longer. In a study published by the American Psychologist Journal, half of psychotherapy patients improved after eight sessions. And within 6 months, 75% of patients improved.For most people, therapy isn't a "quick fix." They describe it as “a tool to increase your resiliency so that you're better able to cope with the many challenges we all face throughout life."
Our founder Kendra says, “For me, therapy is an ongoing process. I have seen various providers or changed modalities over time to help me deal with different phases in life, however, I will always make room on my calendar and in my budget for therapy. No matter what. It’s a tool that has helped me grow enormously as a person, a business leader, a spouse and a parent, and I personally recommend it for everyone!”
How much does therapy cost?
Cost is a huge concern for many people. In general, therapy costs between $50 to $250 or more per session.
Fortunately, there are ways to make therapy affordable:
- Find a therapist who is covered by your insurance
- Attend group therapy
- Request a stipend from your employer
- See if you are eligible for state funded therapy
- Find a therapist who offers sliding scale payments so you can pay what you can afford
- You can use an FSA or HSA account to pay. These are pre-tax accounts for healthcare expenses
- If your therapist okays it, you could arrange to go every other month, or once a month instead of every week
- And last, you can budget for it by cutting back on other expenses if possible
- If you are a student, ask your school’s guidance counselor if there are any onsite mental health resources
Are there any downfalls to therapy?
There aren't any known downfalls to therapy. Since there are many different styles of therapy, it's most important that you find the right therapist who is a good fit for you. We recommend “dating” your therapist and keep meeting new therapists until you find the right fit.
Bottom line: therapy is scientifically proven to help
Therapy has many proven scientific benefits. According to Mental Health America, psychotherapy:
- Improves work functioning
- Leads to fewer relapses of anxiety and mild-to-moderate depression than medication use alone
- Provides long-term benefits. For example, a study found that PTSD patients displayed less severe symptoms two years after treatment ended, compared to six months after treatment ended.
- Reduces disability, morbidity, and mortality
- Decreases psychiatric hospitalization
- Leads to significantly fewer incidents of self-injury, suicide attempts, and days hospitalized
These are incredible results for simply meeting with a professional and talking. If you haven't tried therapy yet, but are curious, it doesn't hurt to try it. We hope the information in this article helps you on your journey. For more free content like this, subscribe to our newsletter.
Touchy Feely does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this company is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your physical or mental health.