Therapy: What to Expect
The decision to begin therapy is a big one and it can feel overwhelming while bringing a range of emotions in order to make the phone call! All of those emotions are valid- confusion, worry, anxiety and a sense of uneasiness. The process towards healing and improving your life and relationships is a significant investment and it is our goal, as therapists, to help you through this journey. The fact that you have considered participating in therapy is already a monumental step in the process towards growth and should be commended.Many clients do not know what to expect when starting counseling, but may have heard about it from friends, seen it on TV or thought about what this process looks like. When you picture therapy, what comes to mind? Do you picture a cold and uninviting room, are you lying on a couch talking about your childhood or do you anticipate having to see your therapist for years on end? Therapy, as a field of science, has come a long way and continues to evolve to provide the best care possible. However, it can be helpful to examine what ideas or preconceived notions we have that may come into play when contemplating the decision to see a counselor. Licensed and trained professionals who utilize ‘evidence based practices’, however much of this process operates at the direction of the client. Although therapists may have a different approach or background experience, the beginning stages are often similar. Here are some thoughts to help demystify this process:
- Therapy, counseling, psychotherapy, talk therapy, what’s the difference? You may choose any of those words- whatever word you feel most comfortable with, therapy should integrate aspects of exploring client issues and interventions to address problematic aspects of one’s life but the heart of therapy is the relationship between a client and therapist.
- During your first appointment you will likely be asked to elaborate about your early life experiences and childhood, background, school or work, physical health concerns, important cultural, spiritual or religious practices that you may practice or believe in; Although this is a lot of information in a relatively short period of time, this is all to gain a greater sense of who you are and what is important to you.
- In your first appointment you may also discuss your goals to highlight what you would like to work toward and may develop a treatment plan which helps to outline steps to move towards that place.
- If you choose to continue with your therapist, your sessions may follow a different format and should focus on issues and concerns that you have. The beginning phases of treatment also focus on your relationship with your therapist so that the counselor can understand you and to develop trust. You and your therapist may also discuss the length of treatment and how long you anticipate the relationship lasting; this can be variable depending on your concerns. However, it is generally recommended to see your counselor for several consecutive sessions to begin building momentum towards change.
- Your job is to be you and express what is on your mind, though some clients find it helpful to write notes this is not required. You may also discuss with your counselor ways you can “bridge” sessions together. Some therapists do recommend homework or encourage you to engage in an activity or try changing an unhelpful behavior in between sessions.
- You are not required to “come prepared” with a list of questions or concerns; however if you feel it is helpful to recall events between your sessions, you may write some notes to help jog your memory for their next appointment.
- Remember you are the best expert on your life, it is helpful to share whatever you feel is important and it is the job of your therapist to provide a safe and nonjudgmental space for you to do so.
- If you have questions or concerns feel free to ask, therapists can be flexible and utilize different approaches to help you get the most out of your time together. Change can be difficult and your therapist is there to provide support and guidance along the way.