Career Therapy: Getting professional help when the going gets tough

March 1, 2010

Intro: Deciding to get therapy

Have you ever considered getting professional help for your quarterlife crisis and general career confusion?  Maybe my personal experience will be helpful to you.  Recently, something at work triggered my search for a therapist who specializes in career counseling.  Partially for the sake of exploration for this blog, and partially because I really think it will be  helpful, I’ve started this “column” to document my experience with the counselor anonymously.

The other day, an event occurred at work that made me loathe my work environment more than usual.  It wasn’t so far from the usual things I deal with, but it was just a bad day that made me reevaluate my purpose at work and where I wanted to go with my career.  Typical stuff.  Granted, I’ve been going through the quarterlife crisis for months now.  In general, I’ve dealt with it quite well because of the resources at my disposal, including this blog, as well as a strong support network.  In any case, for reasons beyond disliking my job, I decided it was time to take real action.

Here’s how I got started.

A very close friend studies psychology and is a practicing therapist.  This friend suggested awhile ago, long before I seriously considered it, to reach out to a professional therapist for career help.  I didn’t take the advice too seriously at first because I thought therapy would be expensive.  When I reconsidered recently, the friend provided references.

I reached out to the therapist that was most highly recommended.  The therapist has a Psy.D. and has practiced for years, with one of her specializations in career guidance.  Again, I was worried about cost.  But here comes the big surprise.  It was news to me that therapy is covered by many health insurance plans.  In fact, after calling mine, it turns out that each session would cost me just $30.  Out-of-pocket, the sessions would have been $150+.  I don’t think I have to point out the obvious irony, but I will: My company’s healthcare plan is helping me figure out my next career steps.  It makes a lot of sense for companies to provide therapeutic support for their employees.  If this works out, it would theoretically make me a more productive worker.  Happily, I booked my first session with Dr. R, who was accommodating enough to schedule me for the next day.

Here’s a few suggestions on how you can get started.

If you’ve done career exploration on your own already, and you feel like you need someone else — a coach, therapist or counselor — to help you sort through all of it, I would encourage giving counseling a try.  Start by looking for a general therapist who specializes in career guidance and life transitions, or look for a specialized office dedicated to career counseling or coaching.  They should be able to provide references or statements from their past clients that will give you a better idea of their background and experience.  If you do not have a friend who can give you personal recommendations as in my case, definitely do your homework.  Compare your options carefully.

Next, if you are on a budget, check to see if your insurance covers it and what the co-pay is.  The therapist should be able to give you a general idea, but only your insurance company can give you a definite answer. Then, book your appointment and give your new counselor a try.  There is no promising that the relationship will work out, so make sure you are comfortable.  My therapist offered the option of a complimentary consultation session the first time.  See if this is the case in your situation.  Once you try it out and find the him/her to be a good fit, then decide whether or not you want this to be an ongoing relationship.

Lastly, I want to point out that going to a counselor/coach/therapist doesn’t mean your personal exploration ends.  Professional help is only a guiding force, and I realize the powers of change are within me and within me alone.

If you decide to give this a try, good luck!

Stay tuned…my next post will focus on the experience of my first session.