So, for those of you who have just gotten over that initial "bleh" feeling when it comes to deciding you want to start to see a shrink, I hate to say it, but that is just the start. There's plenty more left to do en route to feeling better, but it shouldn't be a deterrent! It's just hard to know where to start. Hopefully this post will alleviate some of those daunting feelings and shed some light on what it's like to "shop" for a new psychiatrist.
Long story short, deciding to go for your own benefit (or even to just try it out to appease someone else... significant other or parents) is the first major obstacle. It's an important one, but your next choices will really decide whether you will actually get something out of it or not.
The next "first" step is really finding someone you can be comfortable with. He or she doesn't have to be your new best friend (in fact, they shouldn't), but you should feel a connection with him or her. Doesn't matter who you are, you'll just never really share private things with someone if they creep you out or you don't like them.
Even though gender doesn't matter in terms of skill, I think it does in terms of comfort and can be a good place to start. For example, I feel more comfortable talking to women. I always have growing up; so, naturally, I first looked for a female shrink. Let me emphasize that even though it's a good place to begin, it shouldn't be a limitation. My last shrink that I saw for an extended period was a guy; quite honestly, you'll never know until you meet them.
Besides gender, your friends and family can be a great resource. Ask them if they know someone they trust or have seen before. One or two degrees of separation can help a lot in situations like this because a mutual party knows both of you and can tailor a recommendation to your personality. It's even better to ask a family friend who is a shrink because they know quite a few mental health professionals who either specialize in your age group or would match up well with you. However, I do know some people that prefer to have their psychiatrists as far removed from their personal lives as possible so they would want more than one or two degrees. Nevertheless, if you're completely lost, then a recommendation can go a long way. Also, if you don't feel comfortable admitting to a family friend that you're planning on seeing a psychiatrist, then say it's for a friend or a friend of a friend (or even your brother).
Now onto the next thing: just like with anything else, if you aren't open minded about it and open during your session, then there's nothing that your shrink can do to help. They are trained to analyze your thoughts and feelings, but they can only do that if you share those thoughts and feelings with them. Initially you don't have to tell every intimate detail of your life, but be honest and give them more than one word answers to their initial questions. To be frank, anything you say, they've heard before. It's honestly an extremely professional and safe environment. They won't judge you. And if you get the feeling that they are, then mention it or don't go back. Look for someone else who you feel more comfortable with.
And just as fair warning, you will almost certainly see more than one or two doctors before you find someone you like or want to see again.
And lastly, for now, don't go in expecting a Will Hunting/Sean Maguire relationship from Good Will Hunting.
That's not what it's like.
So let's recap:
1) Look for someone you feel comfortable with. Every shrink is a different person with a particular set of skills.
Look for someone that suites you well!
a) Start with gender.
b) Ask friends and family for referrals.
2) Be open minded about the whole thing; don't just blow it off as something that can't possibly do you any good. If there's even the slightest chance it could help you, then why not give it a wholehearted shot?
3) You will have first meetings a lot! Don't get discouraged. You'll find a shrink that suites you, but it will take time!
4) This isn't a movie. Don't expect a father/son/friend/bro relationship like in Good Will Hunting.