Guest Post: Starting Therapy, A Helpful Guide

February 23 2023
starting therapy

Mental Health Matters. A Guide To Starting Therapy.



That’s why Clearwater Benefits has partnered with Talkspace, the #1 rated online therapy platform, for mental health coverage. Access to Talkspace is included in all of the plans Clearwater offers.

In addition to connecting you with a dedicated, licensed provider to provide personalized therapy sessions, Talkspace offers access to a full library of online mental health content, available here. You can watch videos, listen to podcasts, and read articles about topics ranging from mindfulness to managing anxiety and working on trust issues.

New to therapy?  Talkspace can help you get started. That’s the topic of our first Talkspace guest post: “Starting Therapy: Your Helpful Guide.”



A picture of a therapist helping a patient.
Therapy can provide great health benefits that improve your quality of life.



Starting Therapy Can Provide Great Benefits



Getting started in therapy isn't always easy, though



That doesn’t mean the process is always easy in the beginning. If you’ve never done it before, knowing how to start therapy can feel overwhelming. Still, the end result can be so rewarding and life-changing that most people agree therapy is worth it.

Research done by the American Psychological Association (APA) shows that not only is psychotherapy effective, but it might offer long-term health benefits and reduce the need for other mental health services in the long run.

This guide will help you with every step of the process in starting therapy. From finding the right therapist to understanding which type of therapy might work best for you, to preparing and committing to the process…we’ve got it all here for you. Keep reading to learn more about how you can get started with in-person or online therapy.



Let your guard down and don't let stigmas get in the way



One of the biggest hindrances to knowing how to start therapy can often be letting go of the perception you have of therapy in the first place. 

Our society often makes it seem like asking for help with mental health issues is a bad thing. 

The reality though is that taking the plunge and deciding that you’re ready to start living your best life, and then actually doing the work, is one of the best things you can do. In fact, mental health treatment can be a huge act of self-care.

Let’s walk through the steps of how to start your journey to use therapy to improve your mental, emotional, and psychological health.



Find the right therapist



One of the most important parts of the entire therapy process is going to be finding the right therapist for mental health services. The role of a therapist is unique. They need to be someone you can trust, are comfortable opening up to, and who you respect. You also need to feel confident in their ability to help you. 

So, what kind of therapist do you need?

Make sure that as you look for a therapist, you ask about specialties, qualifications, and experience. This can be particularly important if you’re hoping to reach a specific goal. 

For example, if you’re grieving, find a therapist with extensive experience in the stages of grief and overcoming trauma or loss. This will be hugely beneficial in terms of how much growth and progress you make in therapy. 

This is the same for finding therapists who specialize in anxiety, depression, or other conditions.



Tips for finding the right therapist:



  • Get a recommendation from a friend or family member you trust
  • Look online and read biographies or other client reviews
  • Ask your family doctor or primary care provider
  • Check your health plan for a list of in-network therapists you can choose from


Consider the type of therapy you need



Not all therapy is equal. 

It’s important to understand some of the major types of therapy techniques. This way, you can determine which one might be best for your goals and needs. 

Deciding what you want to get out of therapy up front can help you focus and work towards healing.

Some types of therapy to consider:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A type of psychotherapy that looks at how the way you think and feel affects your behavior. By changing your thought patterns, you can change your responses to specific, often difficult, situations.
  • Behavior therapy: While it can be used in a variety of therapeutic settings, behavior therapy is often beneficial for parents and children. It’s a way to highlight behaviors that are desirable while discouraging unwanted ones.
  • Psychoanalytic psychotherapy: The talk therapy known as psychoanalytic psychotherapy is used to reveal unconscious feelings and thoughts in your psyche. It’s based on Freud‘s theories of psychoanalysis. By exploring your unconscious mind and looking at how it influences your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, you can become aware of the unconscious material and begin to enhance how your ego functions. 
  • Mentalization Therapy: This type of psychodynamic therapy focuses on how one’s behavior is linked to one’s thoughts, wishes, desires, and feelings.
  • Emotion Focused Therapy: This form of psychotherapy focuses on the link between emotions and identity and how it affects decision making. It helps individuals improve bonding and attachment in relationships.
  • Humanistic Therapy: Humanistic therapy focuses on personal understandings of the individual as a person. Its emphasis is to help an individual be their true selves and lead to a fulfilling life by understanding one’s worldview and self.


Some keys to success



Finding a Good Fit

Finding a potential therapist who fits your personality and who you can be comfortable with is important. Even if the first person you find ends up not working out, don’t give up. It’s OK to look for a new therapist. 

The last thing you need is to get stuck with a bad therapist

The important thing is that you stick with your commitment to getting the individual therapy you need.

Preparing for Therapy

There isn’t much you need to do to prepare for your first therapy session. A good therapist will guide you every step of the way.

You’ll likely have to fill out some basic paperwork with your personal information and your insurance details. You may be asked to complete a brief questionnaire or write a short explanation about why you’re seeking therapy.

Beyond that, there really won’t be much a therapist asks you to do before your first session together. One thing you can work on before you actually go into the first session is attempt to create an elevator pitch of your reasons for seeking therapy. Try to come up with a succinct, clear, simple explanation that expresses your ultimate goals.

Have an idea of what to expect

Your first therapy session will primarily consist of you giving background information to the therapist. You’ll go over why you want therapy and what your goals are. 

The therapist will explain their philosophy, their process, and other expectations they have for your work together. They’ll probably handle some housekeeping items like their payment process and what their cancellation policy is.

Decide how often you plan to meet

Often, therapy sessions are once a week for an hour at a time. But depending on the severity of your needs, your budget, the style of therapy you go with, and what the therapist suggests, you may agree to work together more often or decide to space appointments further out. 

For example, you might discover that bi-weekly or weekly sessions work best for you.

Commit to the Process

For therapy to be successful, you need to be as open and dedicated as possible to the process. The more you put into it, the more benefits of therapy you’ll experience. There can, and likely will be, tough times along the way, but the reward is well worth everything you put into your healing process.

Be open and vulnerable

Make sure that you come to your therapy sessions as open and vulnerable as your comfort level will allow. 

It’s natural to feel like you’re stepping way outside your comfort zone, but part of becoming mentally and emotionally healthy is working through things that you’ve probably pushed down or been afraid or unwilling to face for quite some time. 

The more vulnerable you can be, the more quickly you’ll see results and feel the changes therapy can offer.

Don’t expect your therapist to have all of the answers

Therapists are educated and skilled in their profession, and the good ones can seem like they are miracle workers, but remember that they’re human. They won’t be able to give you all the answers, and truthfully that’s not something that would benefit you anyway.

Think of your therapist as a guide. They’ll walk with you throughout the process and help you make better choices and healthier decisions. At the end of the proverbial day, your therapy is yours. You make the choices. You make the decisions. You are the one who’ll grow — and it will be worth it.

Don’t rush the process

Some therapy techniques are intended to be short-term processes. That said, you can’t rush through the process. If you’re hoping to get the most effective results, it’s wise to let the process work for you, in the time that it should naturally take.

If you’re even thinking about how to start therapy, you’ve already taken a huge step. Take pride in the fact that you’re willing to look for mental health care when you need it. You are a strong person, and you deserve it.

Maintaining positive mental health is a key to increasing productivity, improving relationships, enhancing our self-images and achieving happiness. Clearwater recognizes this, and includes Talkspace with all the plans we offer. If you have questions about our Talkspace partnership or want to learn more about the plans in general, schedule a call today.








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