Once upon a time, before I got married, before having babies, I was a serial dater. I didn’t set out to be one. But there I was, 25 and freshly single from a 4-year relationship and all I wanted was to get out there and have fun. And it was fun...but it was also a bit exhausting. Fast forward six years into the future and I am now doing a different sort of dating: I’m on the hunt for the perfect therapist. For so many people, are innumerable benefits of having a therapist: It can help them make amends with past situations, help them to reduce stress in their lives, or improve relationships. Personally, I’m in need of regular therapy mainly to resolve the PTSD and anxiety following the death of my daughter and the traumatic birth and first few months of my son’s life. So clearly, finding the right person to work with on these issues is vitally important, as I'm sure it is for anyone who's seeking a new therapist for any reason.
Finding the right therapist isn’t as easy as simply making an appointment. For therapy to work, you need to find someone whom you feel you can trust and open up to. I recently had a terrible experience with a therapist who thought it was somehow OK to victim blame, so now I’m a bit more gun-shy than before about the next one I visit. In this process of “trying on” therapists, I can’t help but be reminded of what it's like to put yourself out there in the dating world, trusting someone you don’t even know with your time, your thoughts, and possibly your heart. Entering the dating scene and returning to the world of therapy, when you think about it, really do have a lot of similarities.
First, You’ll Search High And Low For Your New Therapist, Consulting As Many Sources As Possible
Sure, sometimes you just go with the first one the insurance company referred you to, but then you realize you might need second or third options, so you start navigating the Internet for backups. It can be a bit stressful (which is unfortunate if you’re needing therapy to reduce stress…)
Then You’ll Have To Schedule Your Session In Advance
Finding a new therapist is actually a bit more cumbersome than dating, largely because therapist’s schedules are often much more difficult to navigate than that cute girl who works at the library or your bestie’s cousin who’s in town for the summer. But just like most dates require at least 24 hours notice, so too will your therapist.
You Might Ask Others What They’re Like
If you’ve been referred to this potential new therapist, you’ll probably have a million (or at least a couple) questions for the person doing the referring, just like you’d ask your friend about the guy they’re setting you up on a blind date with. You need to know! Were they easy to talk to? What was their office like? How long are the sessions? Did they give good advice?
You’ll Often Prepare What You’ll Say In Advance
If you’re psyched about a date, you might preemptively come up with some topics of conversation to make sure there aren’t too many uncomfortable silences. And if you’re heading to see a new therapist, you’ll want to get the most bang for your buck, so you’ll probably try to figure out some bullet points on what issues are most pressing for your mental health.
You Google The Hell Out Of Them To Find Out As Much Info As Possible
What did we ever do before Google? Just wing it? Yeah, that sounds awful. I need to know as much about a person as possible before I commit to spending an hour (or more) with them.
You Wonder What They'll Look Like
I hate to be so superficial and judgmental, but much like before a date with someone who's OKCupid profile could totally be filled with photographic lies, I do often wonder what each new therapist is going to look like. Will they be conservatively hot like Dr. Melfi on The Sopranos; kind-eyed and a bit dreamy, like Dr. Huang on Law & Order: SVU; or just another uptight, old, white dude like Dr. Bellows on I Dream of Jeannie?
...And More Importantly, Whether You’ll Hit It Off
This is just as important to a good date as it is to a good therapy session. You really need to click with this person for anything to work, Like, you really need to be able to be yourself around them. Sure, sometimes it takes time but first impressions are a paramount when it comes to seeking a therapist. You can have done all the research in the world, but if you don't just ~feel it~ when you meet them, all the good-on-paper details won't really amount to much.
If This Isn’t Your First Therapist, You’ll Compare Them To Your Exes
Every time I go to a new therapist, I compare them to my first awesome therapist (who was this woman who worked on my college campus and was just incredible). I wish I could go back to her. She’s totally the one that got away (when it comes to therapy, anyway).
At The End Of Your Session, You’ll Already Know Whether Or Not There’s Chance For A Second Session
Just like you know whether you’ll want a second date or not by the end of the first one, same holds true for therapy. But instead of asking, “Will I see you again?” you’ll just make an appointment with their secretary (or, ya know...not).
You’ll Go Home Wondering What That Thing They Said Really Meant
After a session, you always go home thinking about all that was said (and not said), not to mention all the faces and reactions they had to you spilling your guts. And what the hell were they writing down on their damn pad/who were they texting when you came back from the bathroom?!
If You Like Them, You’ll Probably Want To Call Them Way Too Quickly
Except instead of looking potentially needy, you might just get billed for extra session hours. Neither is good.
And If You Hate Them You’ll Probably Vent To Your Friends, Or Even Write A Telling Review
If only there were a Yelp for dating. At least medical professionals have sites like HealthGrades.
And If You Really Hate Them, You’ll Swear Off Them For Good...Until A Better One Comes Around.
“Pft, I’m never going back to therapy again!” you exclaim...until your next panic attack. And then it’s back to square one.