I know. You came here to schedule an appointment, but you saw I had a waiting list. You got yourself pumped up for starting therapy and were disappointed. I sincerely apologize. I created a waiting list so I know who to reach out to when an appointment opens up. I do not encourage rushing people through their therapeutic process, so as I help my current clients, I will try to leave you with some ideas on how to utilize your time and start the therapy process before your first appointment!
One way to document your emotions, events in your life, or just ideas and to-do lists is by keeping a daily or weekly journal. The first question I ask all my clients is, “what brings you into therapy?” If you keep a record of how you have been feeling, you will have collected all the data necessary to answer this question. The therapeutic process would have started before you even walk in the door, and you’ll feel prepared for the work that happens in the therapy room.
Do some Self Care
If you are willing to dedicate an hour a week to therapy that means you have an hour in your schedule already to do some self care. Take that time now to schedule something just for you. Self care can look like taking a walk around the park, lake, or by the beach. It could be spending some time doing something creative like painting, coloring, or knitting. It could mean practicing mindfulness or meditation in a peaceful setting you create just for yourself (candles, mood lights, and white noise machines welcome!). Self care could also look like setting up a coffee date with some of your favorite people every week. Whatever you choose to do with your time make it all about self love!
Talk to your Support Network
Maybe you can’t grab coffee every week, but maybe you can incorporate some other form of communication. Write a letter to an old friend or to someone you never got to say how you really feel too. Call up a sibling and laugh about old shenanigans or vent about your crazy parents. Join a book club or support group that helps you learn how to open up about your thoughts. Or just carve out time for you and your partner to connect every week. Who ever you give that time to, make sure it is spent with those that will add to your life instead of take away from it.
Try Something New
You thought therapy would be a new adventure for you to take. Why not try something else new and different from your normal routine? Being uncomfortable is a skill you will definitely utilize in therapy, so might as well practice now. Whether that is a new restaurant in town or a new hobby, get outside of your comfort zone and try something that the new you could really dive into!
Reach out to one of the Referrals Provided
If waiting isn’t something you are open to, please utilize one of the referrals emailed to you after adding your name to the waiting list. You could also call the following numbers to get resources more quickly!
Mental Health Resources: 2-1-1
Access & Crisis Line (San Diego): 1-888-724-7240
Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
I hope to see you soon along your path to wellness!
The first step in any therapeutic journey is recognizing you need a professional ear to listen to your story and then seeking out the therapist that seems to be a good fit for your unique journey. The second step (and arguably the hardest) is showing up to the first session willing to start the work necessary to make the changes you want to see in your life actually happen.
I’m here to dispel some of the anxieties around that first session and tell you about the six main elements of an initial consultation you should expect and prep for.
Every initial consultation will start with some key documents to be filled out. The most important one is your consent for treatment. You sign this document to basically say that you know you are about to take a ride on an emotional roller coaster and you aren’t going to sue your therapist for making you cry. Whether you are a crier or not…at some point down the line you are going to cry and you aren’t going to like it. Just remember you signed that paper saying you were okay with that.
There will also be some paperwork outlining your fee, an agreement stating that you aren’t seeing more than one therapist, an explanation of confidentiality, and various other regular document stuff that you would see on paperwork in any doctor’s office.
#2 Have Some Questions
Having some questions for your therapist is important because you should know that the person you are about to tell all your dirty laundry too is actually going to help you wash it and put it away. These questions help you decipher if the therapist is the right fit for your specific needs. Some basic questions that any therapist should be able to answer are:
What theoretical approach do you use?
Where did you get your degree? What is your degree in?
Do you normally work with individuals, couples, kids, teens, and/or families?
How long have you been seeing clients?
#3 What Should The Therapist Know About You
The therapist you see is going to ask you a lot of “get to know you” questions in that first session because…well…they are trying to get to know you. What they ask and how they ask it may differ, but they are looking for key ingredients that contribute to why you are coming into session. This aspect of the initial consultation often continues throughout the first 3-6 sessions because every individual has unique backgrounds that contribute to their story. Finding out how every piece fits into the puzzle can take a good amount of time. Which reminds me…go at your own pace. Some clients spill their guts in the first session because they just want to get it out and over with. Others don’t reveal key ingredients until 3 months in when they feel like they have made progress on some small goals and now want to battle the big underlying reason they are coming to therapy. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, let your therapist know in your own way how much you feel comfortable sharing.
There are going to be feelings and emotions galore. You may cry for the first time in weeks or maybe you’ll finally exhale that deep breathe you’ve been holding in for so long. Whatever emotions you have been holding onto will come out in that session, and that is okay! Don’t apologize for being a human being. Honestly, you letting your feelings out makes our job a thousand times easier. Therapists welcome any and all feelings in the therapy room whether it is the first session or the last. So get use to letting them out, and stop telling yourself that showing emotions is a negative thing.
#5 Building Trust
You’ll often hear therapists say they are “building rapport”. This means they are gaining your trust. If you are going to be open and vulnerable with this person you are going to have to be able to trust them. This takes time, but you can often feel by the end of the first session if you are going to be comfortable talking to this person for an hour each week. If the therapist makes you feel uneasy in anyway or you feel they are quite a good fit for your needs, let them know. Therapists hate when you ghost us just as much as the next person. So let us know that you aren’t feeling that it is a good fit, and ask for any possible referrals to other local therapists. I promise not to take offense.
Therapy is a long term commitment. This is the one way that mental health isn’t like physical health. You can’t take a pill twice a day for a week, and expect all the baggage you’re carrying to disappear. Even when medication is necessary, it often takes a month or more for you to start seeing the benefits. That is why I always remind my clients that therapy is something to settle into. Whether it takes 3 months or 3 years is up to you and what you are willing to work on, but at the end of the first session, you probably won’t have all the magical answer to fix your problems. Some therapists even believe things will get worst before they get better. That is the process however. It is a lot of hard work to get your mental health to a good place, especially if you haven’t tended to it before. So get comfortable, locate the closest tissue box in the room, and get ready to learn somethings about yourself that you never knew before.
Oh, the glorious teenage years. Seven years of raging hormones, testing boundaries, discovering who you are, and deciding who you don’t want to be. Working with teenagers has reminded me about all the ups and downs that the average teen goes through, and also reminded me that being an adult with coping skills and real life experience is something I shouldn’t take for granted. Parents of today’s teenage generation should be applauded, but they should also be reminded that the average high school graduate this year was born in 2000…just think about that. They were practically born with a smartphone in their hand.
I not only applaud the parents, but I applaud the teens that make it through this time with limited drama. Being a teenager is hard. Living with a teenager is even harder. That’s why I want to discuss the 7 things you do and don’t remember about being an adolescent.
This is a lot of parents’ first excuse for any bad behavior portrayed by their teenage child. This is one thing that a lot of us do actually remember. Being horny, irritated, angsty, defiant, hormonal teenagers. It is true. Teens are going through arguably the most hormonal-ly, disfunctional time in their adult lives. This isn’t necessarily a good excuse to let them slide on any and everything however. This is a good time however to talk with your teen about managing their emotions and developing useful coping skills for when they are feeling anxious, depressed, or just annoyed. Good coping skills can look like practicing “self care” with your teen. Go get your nails done together (mom or dad), share a journal and write about the highs and lows of your week, or just try teaching a healthy way to give space and check in when appropriate. Helping your teen gain these skills now will save them a lot of money from not having to go to therapy later in life.
Figuring out how to be an independent person and thinker is something a lot of us adults don’t remember. We’ve been thinking for ourselves for so long, we can’t even imagine what it’s like to not have your own individual thought process. Adolescents are just developing this however. Adolescents spend a large portion of those 7 years figuring out how to form their own opinion and how to view themselves as a unique individual instead of a small portion of a family unit. That’s why your teen never wants to do anything with you, because being seen with you makes them your child instead of solo, independent, autonomous, whomever. That is why giving your teenager space at this age and room to make decisions on their own is so important.
One of my favorite quotes from my anti-helicopter parent father is, “I give you enough rope to hang yourself.” This sounds dark and twisted, but really all he is trying to say is, “I’m giving you enough space to make your own decisions, whether those are good or bad decisions is up to you.” As a teen I totally didn’t get this, but looking back it worked like a charm. I had plenty of opportunities to get into a whole lot of trouble (and there were definitely times I did make poor choices), but I rarely went to “the end of my rope”. I was one of those teens with no curfew and no real clear restrictions on what I could and couldn’t do. My parents always reasoned with me though, so I knew that coming home by midnight on a Saturday may fly, but anything past 9:30pm during the week was pushing it. Instill good boundaries, but let them roam.
Bullying and peer pressure is something that we all remember either participating in or being drug into. Unfortunately, although we may remember what this looked like for us in high school, bullying and peer pressure look very different for our teens now. What use to stop at the end of the school day, now continues 24/7 online. And what use to be pressures to drink or smoke cigarettes, now looks like pressures to vape, eat edibles, and all sorts of other stuff that I don’t want to scare you with listing. Talking to your kids on a regular basis not only allows you to know what’s going on, but it gives you a baseline for determining when something is a little off with them. Being able to pick up on those cues (such as shorter responses, more time in their room, less time hanging out with friends, amongst various other things) can help you know when you need to intervene or start asking the harder questions. Provide your support and be involved. They may resist at first, but they will eventually share if you are consistently providing the opportunity for them too.
Self-Esteem, or Lack There of
Teens are so consumed with themselves it seems crazy. Selfies, updating bios, obsessing over outfits and makeup and hair cuts, oh my! This self-obsession ties into that autonomy I spoke about earlier. Adolescents truly believe that everyone is paying attention to everything they do, when really they are all to obsessed with themselves to notice anyone else. This time of experimenting with their identity is so important to building their self-esteem. Make sure you are supporting their identity (whether good or bad) and practicing self love yourself as a good example.
I will never forget the day my mother called by best friend fat. 🤦🏾♀️ Okay, she didn’t actually say that, what she did do was comment on the fact that she wasn’t looking super tiny anymore after coming back from summer vacation. My mom thought it was a good thing that she gained a couple pounds…my friend on the other hand spent the next week obsessing over the fact that she “looked fat” because that is how she interpreted the comment. What started off as a harmless comment, turned into a teen’s obsession with her weight and a dig at her self-esteem. So be mindful about how you speak to your adolescent (and their friends), and reinforce the fact that every teen has their unique, positive qualities.
Your First [Fill in the Blank]
Something we all may remember is the “firsts” we experienced as teenagers. Our first kiss, our first dance, our first date, our first…whatever. It’s probably been awhile since the last time we had a “first” of anything, but it is something that teens are dealing with pretty regularly at this age. Everything is new, and though we may want to talk about our experiences and convince them that hearing a story from 20+ years ago is a suitable replacement for them actually experiencing it themselves, that is not how teens usually “learn their lesson”. Now I am not saying to hold back any advice you wish someone had given you in your younger years, but I am saying that you have to expect teens to fail and make mistakes for themselves still. Some advice will stick and some won’t.
One way to make giving advice a little easier is to ask your teen what questions they have about certain topics before just dishing out whatever it is you know. Validate any concerns they may have and normalize their experiences…okay these are my therapy words. By “validate” and “normalize” I mean use phrases like, “That does sound really tough to deal with.” or “It may feel like you’re the only one experiencing that, but a lot of your peers probably are too.” or “I went through that when I was your age.” or “Your older sibling asked me the same thing.” or any variation of these phrases. The important part of this whole thing is making your teen feel heard and understood, and creating a safe place for them to ask about these “firsts”.
Let’s be honest. If you have a teenager right now, you did not have social media growing up. For parents today, social media is something that is new and maybe a little scary. Your child probably has at least 4 or 5 different profiles on different platforms, and maybe 1 or 2 on platforms you didn’t even know existed. This is one area that the old, “I remember being a teenager.” line does not apply to. Although you may not have a social media account or know how to use one that doesn’t mean you can’t support your teen in making good decisions while on these platforms. Some things you can do is encourage them to set their accounts to “Private” so they aren’t easily accessible to “strangers”, and educating them about scams, predators, laws, and the permanency of online content.
Things NOT to do when it comes to your teen’s Social Media Usage:
Make a fake profile to stalk them. No. Don’t do it.
Ignore the fact that they have been locked in their room for 5+ hours online
Encourage them to be “InstaFamous”
Hover over their shoulder asking for passwords
Give them a phone, tablet, laptop, etc. with no rules or regulations attached. Examples of Good Boundary Setting Rules: Electronics off by bed time, No phones at the dinner table, Bad grades = electronics taken away, One household member must be following you on all platforms (an older sibling may be a good choice for this one)
Not Quite Being an Adult
Being a teenager is one extra long, awkward dance between being a kid and being an adult. Bringing together the hormones, autonomy, peer pressures, self-esteem, “firsts”, and social media is a wicked concoction. This is a gray area where certain things are okay and certain others are (for lack of better terms) illegal. It is important to have these conversations with your teens and also expose them to what being an adult is really like. Teaching them useful skills that aren’t taught in school anymore like how bills work, how to cook, how to do their laundry, how to budget, and other tasks that you may remember thinking, “How the heck does this work?” when you were their age. This is the perfect time for them to start practicing how to be an adult. With your assistance, dedication, and openness this can be a really fruitful time of growth. As much as this is a time of finding balance for your teens, it is also a time of finding balance as a parent. And when all else fails…go to therapy. 😉
Finding a therapist can be one of the most daunting tasks after deciding you want to start your therapeutic journey. Between referrals from friends, Psychology Today profiles, and insurance network requirements, you can get lost in the lists of names, specialties, and areas of so called “expertise”. Speaking from personal experience, I didn’t know where to start to find a therapist that seemed like a good fit for me (yes, therapists have therapists). Even after checking off little boxes of preferences to “filter results”, I was still left with a laundry list of therapists in my area that supposedly had all the qualities I was looking for.
So here are my suggestions for finding a therapist that fits your specific needs…
1. Look into the Therapist’s Preferences
This may sound like the opposite of what you should be doing to find a therapist, but it is often the best indicator of if they’ll be the best fit. Exploring a therapist’s website, Instagram, and business profiles will often show you what population the therapist prefers working with.
For example, I love working with minority couples and interracial couples in the early stages of their relationships. Although I work with all types of couples at various stages of their relationships as well as individuals and families, this specific population I just find the most fun and really find it rewarding to work with. Being in a therapist’s preferred population usually leads to building rapport faster, meeting goals quicker, and an overall stronger therapeutic relationship. It also pretty much guarantees that your therapist has more experience with that specific population.
2. Base Your Search on Your Values
It is often beneficial to share similar values with your therapist (unless you are questioning your values, in which case it may be beneficial to choose a therapist with opposite beliefs, so as they will hopefully challenge those beliefs). Having similar values means a mutual understanding of what is important to you, and what aspects of your beliefs may be a strength or barrier in a therapeutic setting.
For example, for a LGBTQ couple it would be very important to find a therapist that is open to discussing and well versed in LGBTQ issues. This may mean finding a therapist that identifies as being a part of the LGBTQ community, or just finding someone who is a LGBTQ ally. I’ll let you in on a secret though, checking off “Gay”, “Lesbian”, or “Bisexual” under the sexuality preference on Psychology Today, is not going to necessarily find you a therapist that identifies as “Gay”, “Lesbian”, or “Bisexual”. Therapists often use this indicator to show that they are open to working with the LGBTQ+ community or that they specialize in LGBTQ+ issues. Finding a therapist that specializes in trauma, eating disorders, relational issues, or whatever issue you are facing doesn’t necessarily also require them to be experts in sexual orientations, as that may not be relevant to the issue at hand. Which brings me to…
3. Do Your Research on Evidenced-Based Theories
Most, if not all, therapists have a theory that they follow that structures how they proceed through the therapeutic process with you. Depending on the issue you are hoping to work through in therapy, there are various theoretical approaches that may work best or at least better than others. Some of the most common Evidence Based Theory include Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, EMDR, Dialectical-Behavior Therapy (all of these are often used with trauma issues), Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, Narrative Therapy, or Emotion-Focused Therapy among others.
In my work with clients, I use a combination of Narrative Therapy and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy to create a space where the client is the expert in the room and ultimately knows how to use goal setting and exploring solutions to help them “re-write” their personal story. Therapists often use a combination of theoretical approaches to best fit the needs of their clients. So asking a therapist which theoretical approach they are most familiar with or use the most often can give you some insight into the type of therapeutic setting you’ll be stepping into.
4. Be Okay with Shopping Around
One of the single best ways to decide if a therapist is a good fit for your specific needs is to sit in session with them. If a therapist offers a FREE initial consultation either by phone or in person, I would definitely take it! This person will be the one that you share some of your deepest emotional concerns and biggest secrets with, so make sure it is someone you feel that you can trust. Although not all therapists offer free consultations, even if you pay for a first session, don’t hesitate to let the therapist know that the relationship isn’t clicking and you will be continuing your search for the therapist that is best for you. Any decent therapist will respect this decision, and it is more common than you think. Don’t settle in just because you’ve started the process with them. Therapy is something that you have to make a long term commitment to, so make sure it is a relationship you are willing to invest your time and money into.
Overall, therapy is a unique journey for each individual person. Do your research and take your time finding someone to start that journey with.
If you are interested in working with a culturally-competent, solution focused therapist in the San Diego area…contact me at 619-363-3127 or request an appointment here. I look forward to hearing from you and learning more about your story!