Contacting a therapist: Practical tips on how-to

When you’ve decided to seek help for your mental health concerns, and are looking for a therapist, the first step is making contact with them.

Getting to this point of seeking help can already be daunting, and thinking about what you’re going to say can be confusing. That’s understandable. A lot is always going on it our lives, and at the times we reach out for help, even more is going on. Here are some tips and ideas that might help.

Initial Contact:

Try not to directly call the therapist. An email or text is preferable. This is not only professional, but gives us an initial space to organize our thoughts and emotions before sharing them. This is not about first impressions, but really about being able to communicate to the therapist why you need their services. They too need this information to decide if and how they can help you.

Don’t feel the pressure to be precise or detailed. Just a hint at the concern is more than sufficient for the initial text or email. For instance,

Dear Ms X, I’ve been experiencing some anxiety about the recent changes in my life circumstances, and would like to explore therapy with you. Are you available for a call or to meet so I can explain further?

Or

Dear Mr Y, My wife and I would like to seek couples counseling to resolve some issues we’re facing. Would you have time in your calendar to see us?

You can also mention details like, “My friend, abc, referred us to you.” And don’t forget to write your name at the end!

In case you’re emailing, perhaps additional details can be added in a line or two, but I would recommend doing that after the therapist responds to this initial contact. Once the therapist has responded, you’ll most likely set up a time to call, or perhaps they’ll ask you to provide some details in an intake email or form (not too common a practice; most will set up a call).

The first call:

For this, simply try and answer the question: Why do I need therapy today?

Assume that the call will be a short one, say about 10-15 minutes. Since there are many things that are always happening in our lives, answering this question will help organize and prioritize what you’d like to convey to the professional in the very first call and also in your own mind.

Also note down a list of questions that you might have for them. For instance, how much do they charge? How long will the first session be? And any other basic curiosities you might have. In fact, it is likely that the therapist, after listening to you, will tell you a line or two about themselves, like what they charge, their cancellation policy and maybe even their style of practice.

Try to postpone complex and personal curiosities for later. For instance, a question on our minds often is, can I get better? What do you think about my condition? These are questions that the therapist cannot answer in an introductory phone call.

Then:

The conversation will hopefully end with the setting up of an appointment. It could also of course end with you or the therapist declining any further steps. Maybe they don’t have a slot available; maybe you didn’t feel comfortable talking to them.

If you do set up an appointment, don’t be surprised if the therapist asks you for a deposit of some sort. This is not to ensure that you feel forced into going to them, but because many people book a session and don’t go. But the therapist has that slot booked and is waiting to meet you. So the deposit is a token, a recognition that shows your respect for their time. Once therapy begins, this will most likely be discussed and turn into a system where you pay after one or many sessions; that is, it becomes more trust based.

Remember to try therapy for at least a few sessions before making a final decision. However, if you feel your therapist isn’t right for you, discuss that with them. They might refer you to a colleague, or you can always reach out to other professionals on your own.

That’s it. Hopefully, you feel more ready to take the first steps towards getting help. Even if you’re considering therapy, you could benefit from following these steps and having that first conversation and meeting with one or more therapists. This process may help answer some questions that can help you decide if therapy is right for you or not, especially therapy with that particular therapist.

If you have any particular questions or curiosities about the process or would like to share your experiences on contacting or finding a therapist, please feel free to write in to us: writein@theshrinkingcouch.com