Seriously. Why is it so damn hard to find therapy in New York City?
I’ve been going to therapy since high school after I developed a debilitating fear of the world ending by some Mayan catastrophe or the terrifyingly easy and imminent collapse of our fragile coexistence with the rest of the speeding balls of rock and fire that make up our universe. Typical teenage problems.
Finding a therapist in Michigan was as simple as asking my mom where there was a therapist in Michigan. She recommended me to her very own. Some families pass down old jewelry, some pass down recipes. Mine endows psychoanalysts.
Rosalie, our family therapist in Michigan, was a gem. An older Jewish women with a calming voice that quivered slightly with age, she took on the challenge of my instability, God bless her. We discussed my night terrors, my fear of windows, my tendency to wake up in the middle of the night seeing lights and hearing sounds in the distance that my mind mistook for the apocalypse. Sometimes we just discussed the beautiful color of the sky that day. In any case, she gave me a metaphorical toolbox filled with mantras and quotes that were supposed to help me calm these fears. They usually did.
When I moved to Chicago for school, I took the opportunity to test my newly fortified mind. But I spent too many nights huddled in my bathtub waiting for the Supermoon to summon a tidal wave the size of Iceland, killing all the shore-dwellers and rendering the planet utterly useless for the rest of the population, or whatever Yahoo! News was reporting that day. I decided it might be time to find another therapist.
Rosalie suggested a man on the Near East Side who counseled out of his apartment, which was a detail I wish I would have known before my first visit. I walked down the residential hallway to his front door for my initial session fully preparing myself to be molested.
It didn’t work out with him, not for any inappropriate reasons, but logistical ones; he wore sandals with thick white socks and typed his notes on a laptop he must have picked up sometime in the late ’90s. He would take time during my session to make himself tea, then slurp it while I was unloading the shitstorm of my mind. Practical, logical reasons for dropping a therapist.
I was given a referral as a parting gift from Slurps. Her name was Anne, and she was every bit of my Ina Garten fantasy, complete with her own Jeffrey. She was small and took tiny, calm steps as she walked, seeming to me more like a shuffle than a gait which misrepresented her middle-age as old age.
It was with Anne that I made my biggest breakthroughs, and shared my deepest pains. During my time with Anne, I met my first boyfriend, which sent my whirling dervish of a brain out of whirl. It was also the time in which I started feeling suicidal.
I knew myself better when I moved to New York and was certain I needed to find a therapist, stat. Unfortunately, my council of counselors were fresh out of referrals and left me to my own devices. It took me an entire year to reach out to someone.
I called The LGBT Center in Manhattan which offers free referrals for mental health clinics. They set me up with a phone number for a practice in Midtown. I didn’t call. I’m still not sure why, but that number stayed on my desk for weeks. Maybe I was hoping the number alone would cure me through osmosis, but it didn’t. An afternoon alone with a bottle of antidepressants, and I wound myself up in the hospital. I still think that’s just perfect irony; suicide by antidepressants.
Lennox Hill hospital was beautiful. My night there felt like a vacation, despite the nurse standing guard out of legal obligation. I learned later that Beyonce had her baby in that same hospital, so I’m basically famous now. The morning after my admittance I met with the Lennox Hill phycologist via video call. Technology. I mentioned the clinic I was referred to but had never contacted. They told me they wouldn’t let me out of the hospital until I made an initial appointment. I made the call that should have been made weeks before. I left the hospital, picked up a pastry and headed home to call my mom. That was the most difficult conversation I’ve ever had to endure.
I had my analysis at the clinic. They picked the standard questions to ask me, and from my answer they’d select a counselor. When it came to questions about my mental health, I had to confess my recent trip to the hospital. We wrapped up, and the man administrating the analysis informed me that it’d be about 6 weeks before they’d meet to decide on my counselor.
I mentioned again that I was just released from the hospital after an attempt on my life, and asked what I should do until I get my referral. “Well, this is the time to lean on friends and family,” he said. I love my friends and family. I’d be a shell of a person without them. But asking me to rely on them when a professional is needed is like telling a desperate teenager who’s being chased by a leather-skinned ax murderer to stay calm, take a few deep breaths, and wait by the dark, empty street for the next bus out of town, which is scheduled for next Tuesday.
I still haven’t found a therapist. Between copays, insurance issues and a general lack of time to commit to the search, it has been rather difficult. It doesn’t have to be this hard, this expensive or this time-consuming. But it is. It could be someone’s full-time job, like a real estate broker, to find therapists for desperate New Yorkers like me. There are places that offer consultation and free appointments, but most of the time that are limited to a small number of sessions, and the wait lists can be extensive. Nevertheless, I’ve collected some resources that, should you find yourself on the same journey as me, might save you some time. Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
Mental Heath Services, The LGBT Community Center
For mental health professional referrals, call 212.620.7310 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mental Heath Services, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center
For appointments, call (212) 271-7200
DO YOU HAVE ANOTHER RESOURCE? Comment below!