Anonymous said: All right - I've got a job and good health insurance, but know nothing about how to use it for mental health issues. Assume I want to see a therapist for the first time because I feel like something's not right. How do I even start?

First of all, good for you for seeing a therapist instead of the vast array of less healthy ways you could deal with feeling like something’s not right. This is a really good, healthy, and brave step to take (and I don’t know who you are, obvs, but if you know me in person I’m happy to help you with this process in real life too).

So, you have insurance. That’s excellent. You’ll probably want to check out your insurance documentation to figure out what kind of coverage you get: a lot of insurance offers an EAP to deal with mental health issues in a short-term way. When I used my EAP, I had to call the insurance company to get a preauthorization to see an in-network therapist. They gave me a preauthorization code, I took it to the therapist I found in the insurance company’s directory, and the insurance paid. Cool.

There was a limit on the number of sessions I could use before I had to start paying down my deductible, though, and I did not stop having anxiety in my brain in a limited time. I sort of convinced myself that I was doing good enough, though, and I stopped going, because I am very cheap. I do not recommend being very cheap, or stopping therapy when you still feel like you don’t have a healthy framework for dealing with the things that bother you.

What I do recommend is taking the time to find a therapist you’ll actually like. Part of why I quit going to my previous therapists is that we didn’t quite click personality-wise: don’t feel bad about asking for a referral to someone else if you feel like the first therapist you find isn’t cutting it. Therapists know each other and are good judges of each other’s skills. Talk to them on the phone before you go in person: tell them what you want to accomplish in therapy, and ask a bunch of questions about their approach and background.

I currently see an art therapist that I found in the Psychology Today directory. I highly recommend that as a way to find a therapist who fits your needs: you can search by location, insurance, and therapy style, and you can see little biographies of them. My therapist is completely rad, and I am happy to refer you to her if we know each other IRL. Although she doesn’t take my insurance, she offered me a reduced rate: I pay $40 a session. This is another thing to keep in mind— a lot of therapists offer sliding scales according to your ability to pay, regardless of your insurance situation, you just have to ask about it.

There was a much more detailed article on how to find a therapist on Rookie recently, which I would highly recommend as a companion guide to my advice here. Even though that site is ostensibly for teenage girls, they have some really smart people saying Correct Opinions all over the place there. Check it out. And best of luck in your foray into improved mental health; I hope you feel like everything’s all right for you soon.