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How To Start Therapy: The Ultimate Guide

Want to know how to start therapy? Our guide can help.

The decision to start therapy is a courageous one. Despite its many proven benefits, the negative stigma around therapy is still strong. It isn’t easy to reach out for help, even though we all need help from time to time. Therapy is a place where you can grow stronger, happier, and healthier while meeting your goals and preparing for a brighter future.

Still, therapy can be an overwhelming process. There’s so much information out there about how to get a therapist, how to sign up for therapy, when to go to therapy, and how much therapy costs that it’s hard to know what’s true. 

This comprehensive guide will walk you through how to start seeing a therapist step-by-step. The key is to do whatever is right for you. Mental health therapy is not one-size-fits-all, so what works for someone else may not work with you. It’s important to be honest with yourself about your needs, goals, and wants. 

Ready? Let’s start down the path of greater mental health together. 

How to Start Therapy: 10 Easy Step

How to start therapy

Step 1: Acknowledge Stigmas

Before starting therapy, it’s important to acknowledge any stigmas you hold about the process. A stigma is a negative or unfair belief about a person, idea, or process. They are usually perpetuated by society and taught to us from a young age. Understanding the common stigmas around mental health therapy will help you understand your own beliefs and expectations about it.

It’s okay if you’re hesitant about starting therapy. It’s kind of a strange process! Sitting with a stranger and talking about your concerns isn’t always comfortable, but the right therapist will be able to guide you through the discomfort with empathy and understanding, so long as you have an open mind about the process. 

Common stigmas about mental health include: 

  • You’re “crazy” if you go to therapy: We all deal with mental health issues at some point; you’re not crazy for wanting things to be a little better. Diagnoses like depression, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, or bipolar help raise understanding and guide us to a treatment plan that is best suited for your symptoms and will get you feeling better quicker. 
  • You’re weak if you go to therapy: Seeing a therapist is a mark of strength, not weakness. It takes strength to want to change and courage to open up to someone. Implementing the skills you learn in therapy and doing the work to change your life is powerful.
  • Therapy is only for people with mental health disorders: Plenty of people go to therapy for normal stresses like changing jobs, moving, relationship pressure, or having a kid. Life is hard, and we could all use a helping hand. 
  • Therapy is forever: The goal of therapy is to provide you with the tools you need to stand strongly on your own. Our counselors honestly hope you stop therapy and won’t ever need it again! 

Don’t let the untrue stigmas about therapy keep you from getting help. It’s okay if you’re still a little nervous. Be open with the process and communicate your worries with your therapist.

Step 2: Know Your Why

Although there’s nothing wrong with showing up for your first therapy session without knowing what you want out of therapy, it can help both you and your counselor if you have a general idea of why you want to see a therapist. This will help guide the conversation and inform the therapist on the best treatment modalities (which we’ll explore in a little bit).

Why should you see a therapist? A few of the most common reasons include:

  • You’re feeling depressed or have no energy to engage fully in life.
  • Anxiety and stress are stopping you from living the life you want to lead.
  • You experienced a traumatic event that is haunting your mind. 
  • Your relationship is struggling or not where you’d like it to be.
  • You’ve experienced a loss and are having difficulty coping with the grief

You may also see a therapist if you suspect you are struggling with one of the following mental health issues:

Finally, you can see a therapist for self-improvement goals such as: 

  • Improved emotional regulation 
  • Increased social skills or a support system 
  • Developing coping strategies to deal with life’s challenges
  • Career counseling
  • Communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Mindfulness and stress management
  • Emotional regulation 

The goal of therapy is to help you improve, whatever that looks like for you. Using these lists, write down a few areas that you would like to focus on during a therapy session. Don’t worry, you can change your answer whenever you’d like, adding or taking away things you’d like to talk about. Therapy can be personalized to look like whatever you need it to be.

Step 3: Learn Your Style

After you know why you want to start therapy and what you want to work on, you have to ask yourself what style of therapy you want to try. When most people are told to think about therapy, they will picture a client laying on a couch while a therapist psychoanalyzes them. However, this is a dated and untrue representation of therapy. 

Therapy is first and foremost collaborative, and you’ll have an active role in it. There are also many types of therapy styles, each one uniquely suited for different situations. 

Most therapists will include a list of specialties or approaches in their bios. It’s important to choose one you think will best fit your needs. Common counseling approaches include:

There are many other counseling approaches out there. If you find a therapist you like but they don’t list your preferred counseling approach, reach out to ask them if they are familiar with it. Sometimes therapists will only list their preferred counseling styles but will be happy to adapt to meet their client’s needs.

Step 4: Find Your First Therapist

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of what you want out of therapy, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty: choosing your therapist. While it may seem like a simple task, sorting through the hundreds of therapists near you can be a daunting task.

It can help to narrow down who you want your therapist to be. It’s okay to be picky; in fact, we encourage it! Try to pick a therapist that most closely aligns with you and who you will be most comfortable with. The client-therapist relationship is one of the most important parts of successful therapy, so take your time with this. Feel free to ask them questions before you schedule, too. 

Some factors to consider when choosing a therapist include:

  • Gender identity 
  • Sexual Orientation 
  • Race or ethnicity 
  • Languages spoken 
  • Religion 
  • Age
  • Years practicing therapy

If you meet with your therapist a few times and decide it’s not working out, that’s okay! You can “break up” with your therapist and they will provide you with references for other counselors that will be better suited for you.

Step 5: Consider Therapy Costs

The next thing you’ll want to consider is therapy costs. There are three common payment methods for therapy:

  • Insurance: Your insurance will cover all or part of your therapy bill.
  • Self-pay: Normal rates without insurance, you pay full amount. 
  • Sliding scale: Adjusted rate based on your income and need. 

The average price for therapy is:

  • Insurance copay: $30-$50
  • Self-pay: Between $130-$200
  • Sliding Scale: Between $0-$30

Most therapists will list the payment methods they take. If they work for a larger group project, like Lifebulb, there will be a page detailing what insurance their therapists take.

Most insurances are not required to cover mental health therapy in similar ways to physical medical health. Check with your insurance to understand the ins and outs of your coverage, or give our team a call and we will be happy to verify your benefits for you.

Step 6: Choose Online or In-Person

The next step is to decide if you’d like online or in-person therapy. There are pros and cons to both, although it has been well-documented that both provide substantial benefits and are equally effective. 

Online therapy is a great choice for people who don’t want or can’t commute to a therapy office. It is easier for those with children as you don’t have to pay for childcare, and it can be cheaper because you don’t have to pay for gas or parking.

The licensing requirements for online therapists are the same as in-person therapists, so you should be receiving the same quality of care. 

Online therapy can also be more effective for some people as you can do it anywhere. If you have an internet connection and privacy, you can receive counseling services. This convenience and comfortability make it easier for people to be vulnerable during therapy, which improves its effectiveness.

Step 6: Prepare for Therapy

The day is finally here. You’ve done your research, chosen a therapist that meets your needs, and set an affordable appointment. Now what? 

Although all you really need for therapy is yourself and a willingness to grow, it can help to come prepared. To prepare for therapy, practice these steps:

  • Write down your symptoms. The first session with a new therapist can be stressful. You’re talking about personal things with a stranger, so it’s normal to feel nervous. To help you remember what you wanted to talk about, write down a list of all your concerns. You can add symptoms, thoughts, emotions, patterns, and goals. 
  • Get yourself comfortable: If doing online therapy, take some time to clear your desk, bed, or chair. Get a drink if you’d like and make sure you tell any housemates that you’ll be in therapy (or in a meeting if you don’t want them to know). Try to wear headphones to protect your privacy.
  • Check in with yourself: A few minutes before you start therapy, check in with your thoughts and emotions. What are you feeling? What are the thoughts connected with those emotions? Don't try to change them, just note them and write them down to discuss. 

Your therapist will lead the session. Don’t worry about not having enough to talk about or having perfectly succinct answers. Your therapist is trained to manage these conversations and lead you. Try to relax and let yourself be open to the process.

Step 7: Practice What You’re Learning

Therapy doesn’t stop when the session ends. Sometimes your therapist will give you exercises to help manage your symptoms and encourage greater self-awareness and growth. These might include breathing exercises, thought exercises, habit training, journaling, communication exercises, or small challenges that will help you grow toward your goal.

Step 8: Move On if You Don’t Like Your Therapist

After a few sessions, you’ll be able to tell if your therapist is right for you or not. Remember that the client-therapist relationship is one of the most important aspects of successful therapy. If you aren’t clicking with your therapist or don’t like their style, bring it up with them. They should be professional and understanding about the issue and can refer you to a therapist who will be better fit for your needs.

Don’t Wait: Reach out For Help Today

Mental health issues only compound with the years and can get worse over time. Habits become stuck in their ways and thought patterns become stronger. Therapy is a tool that you can use to further your own happiness and satisfaction. Whatever life you dream of, therapy can help you get there. So don’t wait to pursue mental wellness. Start your journey today. 

If you have any questions, reach out to our team at Lifebulb. We will be happy to answer any questions you have or assist you in finding the perfect therapist for your goals and needs.

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Frequently Asked Questions

 Therapy is a professional and confidential process where you work with a trained therapist to address emotional or mental health challenges. Together, you explore your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to find healing and develop coping strategies.

 It's a good idea to consider therapy when you're experiencing difficulties that affect your daily life, relationships, or overall well-being. Whether you're struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, or any other mental health concerns, therapy can provide the support you need.

 Therapists help by providing a compassionate, non-judgmental space to explore your concerns. They offer guidance, tools, and evidence-based techniques to help you better understand yourself, manage emotions, improve relationships, and develop strategies for personal growth and healing.

 Preparing for therapy involves reflecting on your personal goals, identifying specific challenges or symptoms you want to address, and thinking about what you hope to achieve from therapy. It's also helpful to approach therapy with an open mind and a willingness to actively participate in the process.

 Finding the right therapist is crucial for your therapeutic journey. Start by considering your needs, preferences, and goals. You can ask for recommendations from friends, family, or your healthcare provider. Online directories and therapy platforms, like Lifebulb, can also connect you with qualified therapists who specialize in your specific concerns.

 To get therapy, simply reach out to a therapist or a therapy platform. You can either schedule an appointment directly or go through an initial consultation to ensure the therapist is the right fit for you. Online therapy has made accessing therapy more convenient, allowing you to engage in sessions from the comfort of your own home or wherever you feel most comfortable. Remember, taking this step is an important investment in your well-being and a powerful way to live your brightest life.

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