Advice | Carolyn Hax: Last therapist said cold-calling her office was ‘weird.’ Now what?

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I’m working up my nerve to seek therapy. Your “What is therapy like?” column really helped. I would like a reality check on one thing.

I’m lucky enough to have insurance. The last time I sought therapy, I did what my friends suggested and called a therapist who was near me and on my insurance plan, and I asked her if she was taking new patients.

She said she was open to new patients, but — did I know someone who was a client of hers? Because if I didn’t, if I was just calling her out of the blue, well, “that’s kind of weird.”

I did end up having a few sessions with her. Long story long, it was not good. I ended up feeling a lot worse and found it impossible to start trying to find someone else to talk to.

Was that a weird way to find a therapist? Should I be going about this a different way? The only person I know who’s local to me and in therapy is my 24-year-old. Their therapist is absolutely wonderful — my spouse and I helped our kiddo find her when kiddo was a teenager — but I’m hesitant to see her because I’m worried about boundaries. Plus, I think she’s not on our plan anymore and money is definitely an issue.

50-something Female: 1. The weirdest thing about the first therapist was her uncalled-for comment. Not okay at all.

2. It is okay to rule out a therapist for saying something to make you uncomfortable like that. Live and learn. Either speak up about it first — “Making this call was difficult for me, and saying I did something ‘weird’ is not helpful” — or just decline to make an appointment and restart your search. Fit really matters.

3. It can be helpful to get a therapist recommendation from someone you trust — friend, doctor, school counselor, clergy — but, no, looking up someone through your insurance is not “weird.” The baseline thing to expect from a provider is a supportive welcome to their practice. Yeesh. And finding someone is hard!

4. I doubt your child’s wonderful therapist would even agree to treat you, given the potential conflict of interest. But you can ask her for names of other therapists she respects. Then see if any are in your plan, and voilà.

But still say “no thanks” if one of those recommended therapists says something to put you off. Finding that good fit — therapist, friends, career, neighborhood, partner, pants — is rarely a quick process and rarely not worth the effort.

· I’m a therapist, and I get at least a dozen such calls and emails every week. They’re not weird or unusual; people are directed my way by their insurance company listings, by web searches (notably the Psychology Today website) or by taking notice of the little sign with my name on it outside my office door.

The fact is, the ranks of therapists include a percentage of less-than-capable individuals, same as auto mechanics, financial advisers, lawyers or [insert your favorite example here]. If you feel a need to talk with someone, stick with it until you find someone with whom you’re comfortable.

· The therapist who called cold-calling weird is … weird.

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