Like most people who live with a mental illness, I’ve been through a number of therapists. I’ve seen most types you can think of: old, young, men, women, psychologists and psychiatrists. Some I’ve clicked with, others I’ve disliked greatly, and some I just couldn’t get a read on. Feeling a bit frustrated by the amount of time I was spending traveling to visit various therapists, I decided to try an online therapy solution: BetterHelp, which allowed me to have video and text message sessions with a licensed therapist.
Determined to make online therapy work for me, so I could work on finding balance from the comfort of my home and save money, I decided to do something different compared to all the other times I met with a therapist in person... I prepared. As I’d seen throughout my entire life, whether it be an exam, a presentation at work, my wedding, the difference between mediocre and great was the amount of time I spent preparing. Knowing that what I put in, I’d get back out, I spent time jotting down everything that came to mind. Boiling down my notes, I came to my first BetterHelp session with these core categories. I hope it will be as helpful for you, as it has been for me in matching with the perfect online therapist to give me the flexibility I need to talk when I want, from the comfort of my home and save money. Investing time time to make online therapy work for you is worth it. So make it count!
1. Goals - Visualize what you want. Make it as detailed as you can. For me, I wanted to be able to walk into a room full of people and not be crippled by anxiety. I wanted confidence. By giving your therapist a clear goal of what you want, you can help her form a customized strategy for you. And not to be cliche, but to quote the great Wayne Gretzky, “without a goal, you can’t score."
2. Mental Health History - I jotted down what I liked and what I disliked about my previous therapist. Every therapist is going to be unique, but being clear about your triggers and what a safe, comfortable environment feels like to you is key.
3. Important Life Events - What are the events (good and bad) in your life that tell your story and define the person you have become. I had an amazing childhood, but started descending quickly into symptoms of strong depression and anxiety in college. Sharing the events that led up to this and the events that followed helped my online therapist get an accurate picture of who I am without me wasting time searching and thinking back.
4. Key People in your Life - This is critical. Family means everything to me. Providing thoughtful responses about who your loved ones are and the extent of their knowledge of your mental illness is going to help your therapist realize who matters most to you and the support network you have or do not have in your life.
5. Schedule - This one might sound simple, but having your calendar out in front of you is going to give you the confidence you need to schedule appointments, share with your therapists the time you’ll likely need her most, and give them a good indication of how you spend your day.
Online therapy can be a Godsend. It is more affordable, it is private, and you can access your therapist from the comfort of your home. If you want to make online therapy work, you need to put in the work to help your therapist give you the support you need and deserve. Because if you can make it work like I have, you’ll never turn back. I’ve been with the same therapist on BetterHelp for over a year now. She’s seen me mature, helped me as I transitioned jobs, and even seen my family expand as we had our second son in the spring. I’m thankful I put in the work to make online therapy work for me. I hope these tips will be helpful for you as you prepare for your first session. Good luck!