This is the first installment of How I Found My Therapist, a series about how people found the right mental health care for them. If you’d like to share your story, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lives in: Austin, Texas
Profession: Clinical psychologist
I grew up in a home where we didn’t talk about therapy, and we didn’t speak about a lot of the things that went on in the house. When I got to college, I decided to study mental health. But it wasn’t until I went through a pretty severe bout of depression that I began to connect what I was learning to my own life. After a turning point where I attempted suicide, I realized that I needed to get myself figured out if I ever wanted to give advice to others. I spent the next decade trying to figure out—being a Black woman and coming from a military family—all the things that had been hard for me to articulate.
My first therapy session was after my suicide attempt, when I was around 19. The moment I walked in, I didn’t trust it. But that had a lot to do with the fact that I wasn’t open to the process yet. My second therapist was actually my mom’s therapist. I jumped into a couple of my mom’s sessions, and that was when I had my first taste of, “Oh, there’s value in this.” When I went back to school for my master’s, I saw my third therapist. That one lasted four to five months, but I was miserable, not because I didn’t want to go, but because it wasn’t a good fit.
It took a long time for me to go back to therapy after that. I thought it didn’t work for me. The thing that really changed for me was knowledge—knowledge about my needs and the different types of therapy out there. For a long time, I thought, “I’m failing at therapy,” instead of, “Wait, this therapist just isn’t a good fit for me.” The therapists that really worked for me were the ones that allowed me to see them as humans. It took a little bit for me to figure that out. I learned to start interviewing therapists. If they offered a free consultation, I’d ask them about their style, what their sessions looked like, if they gave homework, what parts of identity they’re comfortable dealing with. I would look at whether it felt like I got to see who they were, but I still got a lot of space for myself. I also loved clinicians who taught me how to sit in my feelings. The couples therapists that I saw when I was getting my doctoral degree went really well, and then I saw a personal therapist, who I stayed with for about a year and a half. Once I knew what I was looking for, I got to do great work that was very reflective.
Find a therapist who speaks your language, who makes you feel heard. Funnily, the first time I felt that way was with my mom’s therapist. That’s why I was going back. I don’t think being ready to disclose or talk is the most important thing—it’s more the feeling of, “I like this space, even if it’s not easy, and I feel okay coming back.”
Jasmonae’s recommended resources:
- Psychology Today
- Inclusive Therapists
- Asking people you know for referrals
- Looking up “psychology” on LinkedIn or social media sites
- Calling a university’s graduate department for counseling or psychology and asking if they have a clinic that’s open to the public (these are more likely to provide services on a sliding scale)
If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or self-harm or is anxious, depressed, upset, or needs to talk, call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. For international resources, here is a good place to begin.