How the power of choice helped me learn to love therapy
by Maggie Jordan
I’ve been in and out of therapy most of my life, and to be honest, most of my therapy experiences have not been great. By the time I reached college, I felt as if I could take better care of myself (and my family, friends, and teammates) than most of the professionals I’d seen﹘ an enormous burden for an 18-year-old to shoulder.
I never liked therapy. I dreaded the 50-minute sessions that my mom dragged me to throughout high school and would say as little as humanly possible, which somehow made them seem to last even longer. I felt awkward and defensive, as if my presence in that room with the permanently-shut curtains meant that there was something deeply wrong with me.
The adjustment to college was really difficult for me, and I went to therapy sessions on- and off-campus a smattering of times in the first two years. My therapy sessions were always in response to an immediate crisis: I was having increasingly frequent panic attacks or had just experienced a traumatic event. I never had the luxury of time to look for a therapist I connected with; I just showed up at my college counseling center and dutifully called the list of off-campus providers I was handed.
This led me to become a serial “therapist shopper” throughout college, but unfortunately, I also HATED intake sessions. I would suffer through a long list of questions about every terrible thing that had ever happened to me and then be too triggered to return for another session. Three months later, when a difficult event prompted me to want to seek therapy again, I’d repeat the arduous process with another therapist.
It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I seriously thought about going to therapy on a consistent basis. My girlfriend is one of the biggest fans of therapy in the world and helped me see that events from my past were really affecting my daily life. She raved constantly about her relationship with her therapist, and I could plainly see the coping skills she gained and how therapy helped her navigate challenges more effectively. It opened my eyes to the possibility that therapy can really change your life when you find the right provider.
In my work at Zencare, I get to help people connect with outstanding therapists every day. Still, it took several months of helping others find therapists for me to begin therapy myself. But this time around is different. Because I wasn’t in a state of crisis when I started looking for a therapist, I was able to take time to reflect on my goals for therapy and find a provider who would help me accomplish them.
I took initial calls with six different therapists and went to three intake sessions before settling on my provider. I knew it was the right fit when, despite my continued loathing of intakes, I actually felt better after the first appointment. When I got home that night, I told my partner, “I think she is going to be able to help me.” And slowly but surely, my therapist has helped me, thanks to a powerful combination of a secure relationship, the willingness to gently push me beyond my comfort zone, and an unfailing emphasis on what is good.
Since starting weekly therapy, I’ve become more capable of coping with stressful situations, improved my relationship communication skills, increased self-confidence at work, and started to explore how early events impacted my personal development. More importantly, I’ve learned that therapy can and does work, and that there are mental health professionals for a reason; you just need to find the right one.
Maggie Jordan is Zencare's Therapist Success Manager. She is deeply committed to increasing access to care by streamlining the therapist search process, and particularly enjoys connecting LGBTQ+ folks with culturally competent therapists. She is a graduate of Brown University where she competed as a varsity swimmer.