Therapy is like dating.
To be more specific, finding a suitable therapist is like finding a suitable significant other.
In both cases, you do lots of research. Insurance websites and doctor rating sites aren’t so different from dating apps and social media stalking. Do they look normal? Are they accomplished? Where are they from? Where’d they go to school? Would the commute to their neighborhood be worthwhile?
Once you finally filter through the muck that’s out there, you narrow it down to a few potential “suitors” and reach out. Here, you have to decide how much effort you want to put in. Do you want to just click on the link on the therapist’s website that says, “request an appointment” and let them follow up, or do you want to be proactive and call to set up an appointment yourself? In the dating app world, this translates to whether you want to throw them a “like” and hope they do the other ¾ of the work, or whether you want to come up with some witty opening line and initiate the convo yourself.
Ok, so now you’ve made an appointment/date. But inevitably, you’ll both have conflicting schedules and have to change it around about four times. Now you’re annoyed, even if you’re the one changing the plan. Do I really care enough to keep at this?
Alright, you’ve decided you’ve come this far…plus, you definitely need to find a good therapist/significant other before it gets too late. Now it’s time to show up. You’re sprinting to the doctor’s office/restaurant. You tried to make the timing perfect with work and your commute, but something always hits a snag. Now you’re going to get there and look like a sweaty, unorganized mess. That’s not the first impression you wanted to give!
But, alas, you’re left waiting for them, anyway. You sit there, fidgety and nervous. What if they’re totally weird? What if they’re kind of a douche? What if there are unforeseen financial obstacles, like extra copays/your date orders something expensive and you end up splitting the cost? You also feel like everyone else in the waiting room/restaurant is sizing you up. “How crazy is she?” they seem to ask. “Is this her first time here/first date?”
After trying to keep yourself busy on your phone without also looking like a basic millennial, your suitor finally shows. You make awkward, fleeting eye contact as they gesture to you. “Haley?” We both know, of course, that I am Haley. We did schedule this in advance, after all. You smile awkwardly—not too big but no resting bitch face, either—and stand up, careful not to drop all of your belongings.
Now it’s game time. You guys take your seats. There are too many seating options, so you try to figure out which is the least awkward for you to choose. You try to make yourself comfortable without looking slouchy or too at home. You wait, with that same awkward, slight smile on your face. Who will speak first?
He starts. “So, tell me about yourself.” UGH. Not thattttt question. You skim the surface, talking about where you live, what you do for work, where you went to school. All of the things that he definitely already read in your paperwork/online dating profile. Why are we pretending we didn’t stalk each other?
After a few minutes, he tries to go deeper. “What is it that you’re looking to get out of this?” Well, if you have to ask, I feel like we might not be on the same page, buddy.
He asks about your upbringing. You don’t want to sound like the most privileged girl in America, but your parents are still together, you’re upper middle class, and you’re close with your siblings. You actually like your family. A lot. Are they going to think it’s weird that you rely so much on your parents for advice and direction? That you talk to your mom on the phone at least once a day? Is it too soon to admit that? Or is it good to paint a picture of a woman that has her shit together and values family?
Then comes the job talk. “Do you like your job?” I don’t even know…do I? Does he really want me to delve into this right now, or is he looking for a quick, standardized answer? You give him something in the middle.
Finally, the big one. “Tell me about your past experiences doing this.” Should I make it seem like I haven’t gone through many therapists/guys because it makes me seem less crazy? Or do I admit that I’ve been through several and haven’t found a match, which might make me seem hard to deal with? You go for an attempt at quirky-cute: “I’ve had a few experiences, but guess I never found the one.” He’ll either fake chuckle with you or stare blankly at his notebook/plate of food.
The bill comes, and with it comes more awkwardness. It’s more expensive than you anticipated, but there’s not much you can do about it at this point. The damage is done. Is insurance/the date going to cover it, or are you? Or will it be a combo? Receipts are signed, and you start to say your goodbyes.
“Should we do this again?” he asks. “Oh, totally!” you say, whether you mean it or not. And in most cases, you’re not sure if you mean it. It wasn’t life-changing but it wasn’t miserable. It was…fine.
You decide you’ll just get something on the books…
You can always cancel later.