There are many misconceptions about what therapy is, when it might be useful, and what will happen during a session. It can be a daunting enterprise and it’s hard for many people to get started, especially if you’ve never been to therapy or if you don’t know someone who’s been in therapy. I have never heard someone say they regret going to therapy. I have heard people say they didn’t like their therapist or that the style of therapy was not a good fit for them. If this is something that you wonder about, please see the previous blog post. In my view, there are 5 major concepts that people need to know about attending therapy. If you understand these things, then therapy will be a much easier experience for you.
First: Therapy takes work. Hard work. Deliberate and purposeful work. It is not sitting around on a couch hanging out with your friends. If you are not pushing yourself to be better or make change, why are you there? You sought out therapy for a reason, even if it was because someone else asked you to. You believed there was issue enough to make the phone call to set up the appointment. If you find yourself relaxing and just “shooting the breeze” or you notice that you are not making the changes you would like to make, take a look at how much effort you are putting in. Could you be doing more in session? Out of session? Is there something about the therapist that seems to prevent you from making progress? Be purposeful and deliberate towards your path and yourself.
Second: Therapy is a long-term process. Therapists do not have a magic wand to fix all the problems in the world. How rich we would be if we did! This is a problem with the current medical-model that equates therapy with modern medicine. It’s not like getting a surgery and you’re all better. The current insurance system wants it to be a simple problem that they pay for and move on with. It’s just not that way. It’s more like having several broken bones. They have to be identified, reset, casted, and held in place for a while before they can heal. This analogy is extremely similar to the process of therapy, but that’s for another blog post. It likely took quite a while for you to reach to such an unpleasant place that you made that first appointment, it will also take some time to get out of the rut and move forward in a direction you are happy with. Therapy takes a MINIMUM of 8, hour-long, sessions in a relatively short period of time to deal with the simplest issues.
Third: It is important to be honest and open with your therapist. I have heard people say, “I could never tell my therapist this!” Your therapist is exactly the person TO tell. They are the most equipped to help you deal with whatever that thing is. It can be hard to be vulnerable with a person you just met and that is okay. Take your time to feel comfortable, allow yourself to move at a pace that works for you. Just don’t lie, change the facts, or hide the truth. Doing those things means you are not dealing with the problems that brought you to therapy. See point number one above. Again, take your time to get comfortable, to build trust with your therapist. Don’t assume there are topics that you can’t or won’t talk about in therapy. Therapists deal with every possible issue you might be struggling with.
Fourth: Related to number three, therapy can be an unpleasant experience. You are likely dealing with difficult topics and emotions. People don’t generally go to therapy because everything is going well in their lives. They seek therapy when they are hurting, broken, lost, confused, angry, and much more. This is everyone in therapy, so therapists are specifically trained to sit with these unpleasant circumstances and help people find a way through. We do this because we want to help create growth and change for people. I know that it is tough and I will do everything in my power to help you. Try to go into session knowing that you might be uncomfortable and try to find a way to be okay with that. You don’t have to like it or desire it, but try to anticipate it.
Fifth: Therapy is not about giving advice. That is for lawyers and doctors. It is not about quick fixes and easy answers. Therapy is about helping a client find their own answers in their own time. It is about highlighting things in your past that have been helpful or unhelpful and letting you decide what you want to take forward into your future. There is no one RIGHT way to be, think, feel, behave, or change. It is up to you to find the path that best works for you. My job is to help you find hope and walk alongside you as you start your new journey. I will help you reflect on the decisions you make so that you can start to recognize the patterns on your own and create your own future.
These 5 things are the most important concepts you need to know about therapy and what it may look like. There are many other things that follow them. These 5 are the ones, if you understand and accept them, that will have the most positive impact on your therapy experience.
I wish you all the best and hope to see you soon for an appointment!