Finding Help

Finding help can be tricky business, but so is staying stuck. First of all, we people with anxiety are not usually all that vocal about what we’re going through. Finding help has to begin by reaching out and telling someone what’s going on. Yes, you can just hang out on the internet searching symptom checkers and reading blogs, but your best bet on feeling better includes interacting with a live person in real time.

Are you ready?

  1. The best way to start is by making an appointment with your primary physician. It’s important to rule out any physical conditions that could be causing anxiety and panic.
  2. Before the appointment, jot down some notes about symptoms you’ve been experiencing, both physical and emotional, and for how long. It’s easy to forget what we want to discuss when someone in a white coat enters the room.
  3. We all hope that our anxiety is just something physical like a thyroid condition that can be cured with medication. For some people this is the case. But for the vast majority, we will be given a clean bill of health and the green light to go forth and find a therapist.
  4. Finding the right therapist is hard work and takes time but it is worth the effort.
  5. You can look at sites like the ADAA and ABCT but I’ve found them to only generate a few names and never the names of people I know to be amazing clinicians. Still it can be a good place to begin.
  6. Asking family and friends for therapist referrals is a good next step. You’d be surprised at how many people have seen or are seeing a therapist or they’ve heard friends rave about someone who is excellent.
  7. Once you have a few names and numbers, it’s time to be brave and make some phone calls. Think of it as shopping around for a therapist. Ask lots of questions. What is their professional background? Area of expertise? Thoughts on medication? Theory base?  How long do people typically come to see them? Do they assign homework between sessions to keep up the work and momentum? What’s your gut feeling after talking to them? For anxiety, you want your therapist to have experience with and a thorough understanding of cognitive behavioral therapy, the gold standard for anxiety. I would also ask about experience helping clients with exposure therapy. Lots of therapists say they treat anxiety, but make sure it’s their area of expertise.
  8. Schedule an appointment and show up. Expect to feel nervous and show up anyways, just like exposure work.  Give the therapist a few sessions and see how you all connect. If it’s not a good fit, move on and keep trying until you find the right person.
  9. Once you’ve found a great therapist, remember you have to do the work to create actual change.
  10. For further reading, check out a few links:  Wall Street Journal, Anxiety Coach, Huff Post, Oprah.

*More of a self help/support group kinda person? Read this. And check out these good reads.