Therapy and the Creative Professional: Getting Your Foot in the Door

Woman peeking through stage curtainIt’s no secret the road to success for creative professionals can be challenging and unpredictable. Simply getting your foot in the door is often more a matter of luck than talent. Although we can’t eliminate external pressures and stressors, by engaging in psychotherapy we can meaningfully shift how we process such challenges.

The first step? Getting your foot in a therapist’s door.

Although perception is thankfully changing, many people remain hesitant to try therapy—including creatives. Some fear what other people will think, or they worry therapy might stifle their creativity. Others anticipate being stigmatized and don’t want to be seen as the “kind of person” who needs therapy. So, let’s start with some encouragement from some of those very people:

“At first, I wasn’t going to say anything (about being in therapy), but then, who cares? Lots of people go. In some ways it helps more than acting class. You realize why you operate in certain ways.” —Heather Graham, actress

“We live in a world where to admit anything negative about yourself is seen as a weakness, when it’s actually a strength. It’s not a weak move to say, ‘I need help.’ In the long run it’s way better, because you have to fix it.” —Jon Hamm, actor

“Therapy is something everyone should try. I think that whether you have a mental health condition or not, it’s good to talk to somebody―especially someone who is a licensed professional.” —Demi Lovato, singer

“I’ve been going to therapy for about five years, and I think it has really helped my mental health incredibly. And it’s a really wonderful thing to be able to talk to someone who doesn’t judge you, because I don’t think a lot of people have that. I encourage it.” —Katy Perry, singer

Not bad company, right?

As added incentive, investing in your mental health now can yield long-term creative rewards. The benefits of therapy aren’t limited to the early stages of an artistic career. Achieving and sustaining creative success is also made easier with therapeutic support.

For many, the pressures of celebrity and accomplishment make the safe haven of confidential psychotherapy even more essential. Already having the tools in place via an established therapeutic alliance can give you a leg up on creative challenges throughout your career. Take it from them:

“Everything changed so rapidly, so strangely. I knew no one who’d ever been in the public eye. I didn’t know anyone—anyone—to whom I could turn and say, ‘What do you do?’ … I had to (go to therapy) again when my life was changing so suddenly—and it really helped. I’m a big fan of it, it helped me a lot.” —J.K. Rowling, writer

“You know, I just started therapy. I love it, I love it. I went through two therapists to get to the right one.” —Brad Pitt, actor

Wait—what was that about finding the “right one”?

For many, getting through the door is the hardest part, and should definitely be commended. Not every door, however, is for every person. It’s okay to meet with a therapist and simply not feel … right. The process of therapy can be challenging, and you want to feel safe and connected to your therapist. Finding a strong match is imperative.

Try describing your hesitation to your potential therapist. You may find they understand, and that discussing your reticence helped. You may even find a fit.

One way to maximize compatibility is to ask someone who has had a positive therapy experience for a referral—or for a referral from their therapist. Here’s what rapper/songwriter/producer Jay-Z told The New York Times when asked how he found his therapist: “… through great friends of mine. You know. Friends of mine who’ve been through a lot and, you know, come out on the other side as, like, whole individuals.”

This approach has several advantages. First, the referral will be specifically for you, and second, it comes from someone already reaping the benefits of treatment. To further personalize, don’t be afraid to spell out what you’re looking for, or even to ask for someone familiar with creative professionals.

The internet has also become a great resource for finding a compatible therapist, with some sites (including offering detailed profiles of the therapists themselves, so you have a sense of the therapist’s style before you make contact. You can even search by factors important to you, including rate, location, insurance, and, yep, experience with creatives.

Tried all the above and still finding that every therapist you meet feels wrong? We might be back to the difficulty of getting through the door. Fortunately, a great person to help with that struggle is … a therapist. Try describing your hesitation to your potential therapist. You may find they understand, and that discussing your reticence helped. You may even find a fit.

As with creative professions, the paths to great therapy (and even what great therapy involves) can vary tremendously. They all start, however, with a foot in the door. I wish you well on your first step.


  1. Graham, H. (1998, June). Heather Graham. (D. Eby, Interviewer). Talent Development Resources, para 22. Retrieved from
  2. Hamm, J. (2017, June 2). Jon Hamm on Life After Mad Menand Why Being Single “Sucks.” (C. Bagley, Interviewer). In Style, para 6. Retrieved from
  3. Jay-Z. (2017, November 29). Jay-Z & Dean Baquet: On therapy, politics, marriage, the state of rap, and being a black man in Trump’s America. (D. Baquet, Interviewer). The New York Times Style Magazine, para 57. Retrieved from
  4. Lovato, D. (2017, February 27). How Demi Lovato is Using Her Voice to Elevate Mental Health. (L. Holmes, Interviewer). The Huffington Post, para 10. Retrieved from
  5. Perry, K. (2017, June 28). Katy Perry Defends Her Livestream Therapy Session: ‘People Think It’s Weird.’ (J. Chen). Rolling Stone, para 6. Retrieved from
  6. Rowling, J.K. (2012, September 21). JK Rowling: ‘The worst that can happen is that everyone says, That’s shockingly bad’. (D. Aitkenhead, Interviewer). The Guardian, para 20. Retrieved from
  7. Pitt, B. (2017, May 3). Brad Pitt Talks Divorce, Quitting Drinking, and Becoming a Better Man. (M. Paterniti, Interviewer). GQ Style, para 24. Retrieved from

© Copyright 2018 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Marisa K. Mickel, LCSW

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