When I was struggling with my eating disorder, I’d have particularly awful days. Often, it involved me crying into my carpet and wishing I didn’t exist. In those moments, when life was heavy and pressing, I was willing to reach out for help, but I didn’t know where to begin.
My eating disorder was a shameful secret, so naturally I didn’t want to elaborate to the random secretary who answered the phone. I did leave an awkward message or two on a voicemail.
If you’ve had an eating disorder, you know how deceitful the disorder is. By the time the therapist returned my call, a day or two later, the eating disorder had convinced me that I didn’t need help and I was stupid to call.
A cycle was born: There would be a brief, fleeting pocket of time where I was able to see clearly that I wasn’t healthy. If no one called me back in that pocket, then I was once again closed, and distant to the help I desperately needed.
Perhaps you’ve seen a therapist and he or she didn’t feel like the right match. When I first went to therapy I was scared and elated, thinking the therapist was finally going to heal me. I soon realized I didn’t like her, at all, and the feeling overwhelmed me. My eating disorder laughed and said, “See, she can’t help you. I’m here to stay, for good.”
Now I am recovered and free. Recently, a struggling friend called me. When I asked if they were open to seeing a therapist, they said they’d been trying, but they couldn’t find anyone. I remember feeling the same way, but suddenly I realized that I knew what to tell them.
Below are the easy steps I used to find my amazing therapist. They can help you, too.
- Technology is your friend. Friends can give you great referrals, so ask around. However, if you’re starting from nothing, begin by doing a quick Google search for “Therapists in (your area).” Psychology Today is a helpful site. Psych Central also has a therapist finder section.
- Snoop around therapist profiles. In your Google search, a list of therapist profiles will pop up. Click into the person’s profile and read their little blurb. You can learn about them and their specialty. Ideally you want someone who specializes in your issue.
- Go with your gut. Make a list of therapists you think may be a good fit. List their name, specialty, and contact info.
- Call them at night. Your call will go straight to voicemail. This is a great thing because you get to hear their voice. Think about it. This is the person that you are going to be telling your most intimate secrets to. Is this a voice that you want to talk to, or trust?I remember making one such call and in the first two words the person said my gut said “nope.” So I hung up and moved on to the next name.
- Leave a message.Yay. You call and find someone you want to talk to. Leave a message, such as …“Hi Ms. Smith. My name is Z Zoccolante and I’m looking for a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. I was wondering if you’re currently accepting clients. Will you please call me back at (your phone number — say it slowly and clearly. Pretend you’re writing it down). You can leave a message at this number, as it’s my private cell phone. Once again my number is (your phone number) and my name is Z Zoccolante. Thank you and I look forward to speaking with you.”
Often therapists are careful when they leave messages because they’re not sure who’s checking the voicemail. It’s nice to let them know that they can leave a message with details that may identify them.
- Tell someone you trust that you called a therapist. Ask him or her to follow up with you over the next week. This will keep you supported and moving forward.
- Make a robbery list. Make a list of reasons why you’re seeking help. What has the eating disorder robbed you of? When the eating disorder tries to convince you that you’re OK on your own, you then have a list to remind you that the eating disorder lies.
When a therapist calls you back, thank them for returning your call. Then, if they are not accepting new clients, ask them for a referral to a colleague. Ask for the colleague’s name and number. If they are accepting new clients, here are the five important questions to ask.
- I have X insurance. Do you accept that fully or is there a copay? If so, how much? Ideally you want someone who accepts X insurance fully, unless you really like them and can afford a copay.
- What is your experience dealing with (your issue)?
- What type of therapy do you offer? (Most therapists offer cognitive-behavioral therapy.)
- Ask them any other questions or concerns you may have. Remember, this will be the person you’ll be talking to.
- Ask to schedule an appointment.
If you’re ready to schedule an appointment, do it now. Hang up and review your robbery list. You are brave and strong. You will recover.
Finding a therapist you love is a lot like finding a good relationship. It’s a person who will truly listen, ask you the right questions, call you on your bluffs, and guide you on the road to healing and recovery. There are a tremendous number of therapists out there.
As you move forward, keep in mind that you can always make a different choice and change therapists. However, if you follow the steps above, you have a vastly greater chance of finding a therapist that you love.