How I Found the Right Therapist
So one day, after I once again catch myself looking for ways to win disagreements from weeks (okay, years) earlier, I decide to try again. The difference this time is that instead of just plopping down in front of a name on the HMO provider list, I'm going to do what any therapist would recommend: speed date. A consultation here, an intake meeting there, and I might just find someone with whom I really, truly connect.
I meet with Jay Blevins at his thoughtfully arranged office. On his coffee table sits a bowl of colorful origami stars—far more intriguing than a tissue box. I'm nervous because Jay stresses his willingness to push a client. Yet he's friendly, bald, and smiling, the sharpest edge on him a pair of architectural eyeglasses.
Jay's approach is "experiential": He wants a client to feel the emotions they're recalling, right there in his office. To my relief, this does not involve role play. Jay also notes that when salient, he may disclose more of his life than many therapists do. All in all, I have faith that he'll be frank. Which is comforting, and nerve-racking. What will it reveal about my darkest self when I finally give in to the urge to sort those tiny origami stars by color?
Next up is Barbara Perkins, whose softly lit office has the same calming effect on me as Mr. Rogers's ritual of putting on his house shoes and cardigan. Barb has kind green eyes and stylish suede boots. If Jay's M.O. is to urge his patients to dig deep, Barb's is to be like a trustworthy older cousin. I snuggle up on an extraordinarily comfy love seat as she suggests I may have trouble validating my own feelings. Maybe, or maybe my feelings are just stupid. (Oh, wait!)
Finally, I meet Laura Weisman Cleavland, whose focus on mindfulness seems a nice match for my rabbit mind. She shares an office with the counselor I saw with my husband a couple of years back. (Kismet! Or maybe just reasonably priced real estate.) We meet in a small room with a red velvet couch and two armchairs, a clock ticking meditatively on the wall. For some reason, I take the armchair and leave her the couch, wondering if the action is loaded—or if my worrying about it is. Laura flips on a lamp that leaves us in a womblike glow.
Laura's younger than I am, fresh-faced in a pair of striped Toms. (I tend to examine my therapists' shoes. Only Jay's, which were blocked from view by the coffee table, escaped scrutiny.) I don't mind her youth; she's the closest to a peer of the three, the sort of person I'd meet socially. She even drops a disarming F-bomb. She's relaxed, but also prodding. She's good at grasping what I'm saying, then taking it a step further. She pays attention to the emotions lurking beneath my words, to ways I might be judging or feeling victimized. When we accidentally go ten minutes over, it seems like a good sign.
The truth is, I could work with any of these therapists. (How would Jay push me beyond my comfort zone? How freely and far would I roam with Barb?) But I like how Laura strikes a balance between Jay's challenging style and Barb's soft-spoken one. It just feels right. So I choose her.
I'm excited to see what I can explore in therapy, instead of regarding it, as I did before, as something rotely beneficial, like a tetanus shot. I thought consulting several therapists would be like a series of awkward hookups, but it's more like the beginning of a few fascinating chats. We laypeople may not know a lot about Freud or Jung, but we do know whom we click with. We know if, quite simply and most importantly, we want to keep the conversation going.