Finding a therapist is often the hardest part about therapy itself. I have been in therapy before I came to NYC. I went a few times in high school. I had my breakthrough about my depression in college and had a great therapist from the school’s therapy center. When I graduated and moved back to my hometown, I had a therapist I didn’t really like. Each of these therapists had journeys to find them. Some more difficult than others.
When I came to New York, I didn’t get a therapist until 8 months after I moved. Yes, it took 8 months after I made a huge leap and moved to a city I had only been to once before to see a therapist. At first, I was fine. I was so caught up in exploring my new life and working hard that I barely noticed the first warning signs of depression. I didn’t notice the crippling anxiety I felt on packed subways. But then winter hit. And it got worse. And then spring hit. And it should have gotten better, but it didn’t. I gained 30 pounds since moving to the city, I hadn’t seen my friends in months, I was working 12 hour days because I told myself I had to, and I hadn’t been to the gym since October. I was genuinely unhappy. In May, I had a breakdown.
I was flying home from a long weekend in Charleston, and I felt so defeated. I was crying in my terminal. I didn’t want to board the plane to come back to NYC. That day, I vented to my roomies, and they suggested finding a psychiatrist to work through my emotions and adjust my meds.
On one hand, I felt so thankful for this solution. I was going to get better. The suggestion felt right. But I had to put in so much work to find a psychiatrist. I had health insurance, but I had no idea where to start. I hadn’t even been to a doctor since I’d lived in NYC.
After journaling my anxieties, crying out my fears, and sleeping restlessly, I cracked my knuckles and got to work. I had no idea what Zocdoc was (I’m from a small town, ok?!), so I used the search in my insurance site and good ol’ Google. I called 9 psychiatrists. No answer, so I left voicemails. I called 4 therapists. No answers. The ones that did answer didn’t take my insurance. I found out the insurance search page was outdated. I came home that day feeling so defeated. I was almost certain I was never going to find help.
But the next day, I got a few returned calls. Some saying they didn’t take my insurance. But there was one call. I found a psychiatrist. She didn’t have time in her schedule to take me on as a therapy patient, but she could see me for meds. I really need to talk with someone, I thought, but I’ll take what I can get.
A few days after my initial inquiries, I got another call. I found a potential therapist. She was young and spoke in a caring and calm tone, but with strength and resolution. I felt relieved even just speaking with her on the phone. We set up a meeting.
There were two mind-blowing things about this process that I now see as signs from the heavens above:
- The therapist’s office was the building right behind my office building. Like, turn the corner and I’m there.
- Months before, I had chosen the best insurance plan my work provided. My mental health coverage was… free. A $0 copay.
I had these resources the entire time, literally right around the corner, and I didn’t even know.
It’s been almost a full year with my home girl, and I thank God for her every day. Honestly, I want her to be my bestie. She’s helped me stand on my own two feet and see how amazing and capable I am. I’ve sat on her couch and processed what I never thought I could. I’ve shared with her the darkest parts of me, which has let me break free of my constraints and be who I am destined to be. I sound like a hippie, whatever. The point is, therapy changed my life.
Therapy has always helped me, in some form or another. But damn, was it hard to find.
I think part of the reason it’s difficult to find a therapist is that it’s still taboo. You can reach out to your friend and be like, “Hey, who is your primary care doctor?” but it would feel invasive to ask who their therapist is. Society talks in hushed tones about therapy. It feels weird to schedule time to cry and talk about feelings for an hour. I get that. But it’s so, so important. It’s primary care for your mental health.
Don’t give up. Finding a therapist is hard. I know the unanswered calls are heartbreaking. I know the rings while waiting feel like your heart thumping rapidly in your chest. I know after a day of no returned calls, you feel like you aren’t worth therapy. But you ARE. You are worth processing emotions. You are worth overcoming trauma. You are worth a licensed therapist.
Some therapists operate on a sliding scale if you don’t have insurance. Some insurance plans have low mental health copays. Others may recommend better options for you. If therapy is something you know you could really benefit from, don’t give up before it’s begun. Finding a good therapist is the first battle. Once you’ve accomplished that, the rest of the battle begins on the couch in the room.
I know I was in a unique spot, as my therapy is essentially free and the location was ideal. But I’ve also had to pay a ton of money for a not-so-great therapist, and it still helped. You have to prioritize your mental health. How much is your peace of mind worth to you? $50? $75? If you need help, make it a priority. You are strong enough to do this. You are worthy of doing this.