Question from a high school student after one of my presentations
This is a valid concern and I can understand the apprehension a teen would have for seeing a therapist. I think the first step is to adopt an attitude of trying things that are outside your comfort zone. That includes believing you will find a good therapist and then setting the right expectations.
If you go to see a therapist expecting someone to “fix” all your problems and not doing any work on yourself, you will be disappointed. That “I’m not giving up,” attitude is critical to success. I know that’s hard to find when you are depressed. So acknowledging that you might need help to find the right individual is also crucial. That help might come from a friend, parent, school counselor, coach or youth minister.
The part about finding a good fit in regards to a therapist is a royal pain. But I’ve told a lot of people that one of the best ways is to choose ones online that focus on the issues you have or your age group (if you know what they are) and calling the receptionist. Word-of-mouth referral is also a good way but sometimes difficult. Tell the receptionist the kind of person you are and ask her if there is a good match. You’d be surprised at how straight up the admin will be.
For example, a friend of mine wanted a therapist who worked with patients who had depression and had Saturday appointments in a particular county. She also wanted someone who would give her bullet points of things to work on. So she did what I suggested and found the right person right away.
Once you do find someone with whom you click, it can be very rewarding. The idea of therapy is to help you help yourself, giving you the tools to cope.
Another option is a support group. NAMI, National Alliance of Mental Illness, has chapters across the country and local and online support groups. A lot of people have both a support group and a counselor. And many people find their counselor through their support group.
And no, support groups are not groups of people sitting around singing kumbaya. They are real people dealing with the same issues you are and that connection is helpful to working your way through your issues.
Like any profession, there are good and bad counselors and ones in between. So keep at it.