My answer to "Can you recommend a therapist to help with my anxiety?"

Lucy Peanuts therapist

Last weekend, I got the following text from a friend of mine. She had recently moved in with her boyfriend of a year and she needed advice:

"[Boyfriend} I talked about his anxiety. We both think it’s time for him to start talking to someone. Any suggestions on a therapist? Need advice."

What a challenge!

Though I’m honored when people reach out in a pivotal moment, I feel extremely ambivalent about recommending therapists. It's so easy to find the wrong one. (As I've written about before, I went to numerous therapists who never diagnosed me with anxiety.) It's not that I'm against therapy. It's just that I think it's only one part of the equation.

on the one hand on the other hand hands

So before I continuing down the therapy route, I started with this question to get her thinking:

"Does {Boyfriend} have neck or back pain? Is he weird about schedules and a little Type A?"

She said, "Not sure. Yes. Yes. How did you know?"

I told her that his symptoms sounded very familiar. I suspected he was a fellow member of the overthinking tribe.

I told my friend: "Getting to know the self you’ve been pushing away is an uncomfortable, messy process. If seeing a therapist feels like it can help with clarity, your boyfriend should do it. But therapy is one of many changes that will probably need to happen, and it might not even be the most important one." I told her that he should focus on finding a cognitive behavioral therapist who, sadly, tend to be even more expensive than regular therapists. 

Then I shared this reading list with my friend, as well as an in-depth interview from Like-Minded Magazine that described my early path to anxiety awareness to help spark her thinking. I told her that she and her boyfriend were embarking on a new journey together that would take many forms. Medication, meditation, and communication were the treatments I found that worked best for me right now. Here was my list of action items:

  • explore meditation immediately
  • begin reading the book on the list that appealed to him
  • experiment with trying to describe what he was feeling in simple sentences to her. Anxiety makes us even worse at it than humans normally are.
  • research cognitive behavioral therapy and see what he thought
  • accept the following, because it's true:
the only answers are within

"Finally, I want to share the good part of this news," I said to my friend. "By realizing something’s wrong — by knowing there’s a disconnect — your guy is already partway there."

"And he’s very lucky to have you at his side."

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