New Therapist, New Me

Not too long ago, I began contemplating whether I needed to continue going to therapy. After a harmful situation with a therapist where I lost trust in the process, I took a hiatus exploring peer support groups and other self-care activities to maintain my wellbeing. Homebound while postpartum in a global pandemic, I re-established my baseline. On top of successfully walking a tightrope so as not to fall into mania or depression, I received an additional diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I experienced a drastic mental shift when I started taking medication for anxiety along with my mood stabilizer. All of sudden my thoughts slowed down, the nervous energy subsided, and I was able to live more of my hours in the present rather than in the future. One would think that a dual diagnosis of bipolar and GAD is overkill, but it significantly improved my self-knowledge and quality of life. I realized that even when the bipolar is under control, I can still be a victim of my anxious mind that never ceases to spin.

Aware of my need to address cognitive distortions induced by my anxiety, I began looking for a therapist. It took me three tries over three years to find the right person. After taking breaks between two disappointments, I am happy to admit that I really like my current therapist. It took time to find a Black woman who takes my insurance and had room on her busy pandemic schedule, but it was worth the wait. On top of all of the personal growth (which I will share in a moment), I knew I found a good fit when I found myself asking my therapist where she gets her locs done and then she proceeded to find me a good referral for a loctician in my area. That’s what I call a Win-Win-Win.

One of the things that dissuaded me from looking for a new therapist was the intake process. Most therapists that I’ve worked with had an excruciatingly lengthy and thorough intake process lasting several weeks. They extracted my life history and past traumas during sessions that would leave me feeling physically depleted and emotionally activated. The worst part was getting through and paying for 6-8 weeks of intake sessions only to realize that the therapist is unprofessional, unreliable, and not a good fit. Thankfully, this was not the situation with my current therapist. Not only did she not make me go through a grueling intake process, but she does not require me to talk about my past or my trauma during sessions if that’s not where I want to focus my energy.

This is such an important piece to consider because if you are someone like me who has been in therapy for a decade, rehashing trauma can be unproductive. I am a different person than the 18 year old who was first diagnosed with bipolar. My relationships with family and friends have changed, I understand my childhood differently, and I have revolutionized my worldview and spiritual beliefs. Thankfully, I have gotten to a place where I am focused on the present and the future and not so much on the pains of the past. That is why I was so relieved that my new therapist approached the intake process with a few efficient multiple choice questionnaires (like the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) quiz) to get a sense for my past struggles and began our first session in the here and now.

Every week, my therapist starts our session by asking me to share my challenges and victories from the week and then we delve into eclectic topics, like how much I identify with Erik Erikson’s stages of psychological development or the results from my Love Languages quiz or Personality Type test. For the first time in all my years in therapy, I feel like the therapeutic process is not to repair something that broke me in my past, but to refine who I am and who I want to be today. Since I am in the maintenance phase of my journey, I am not focused on navigating mood symptoms, but instead on strengthening my boundaries, amplifying my voice in instances where I have tendencies to be avoidant, reframing situations, and managing expectations.

I almost feel like I have a life coach who checks in with me on a weekly basis to listen as well as provide perspective, guidance, and encouragement. Instead of waiting for me to “figure it out” she’ll call me out of my bullsh*t so I become aware of my unhealthy patterns and I can course correct. I love that! When I go to therapy now, I feel like I leave the session with a clearer picture of where I’m at and what I need to work on to keep growing as a person. That’s the perfect situation for someone like me who constantly needs to be challenged so as not to get bored, complacent, and erroneously believing that I’ve climbed the summit of the proverbial mountain.

I am celebrating because finding a good, affordable therapist is no easy feat! Thankfully I found the right one and I am a better person for it. If you’d like to share, I’d love to read about your experiences with therapy in the comments below!

Image Description: Two left hands each holding a celebratory sparkle stick against the blurry backdrop of building silhouettes and a sunset sky.

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