What to Expect in Therapy: The Six Things YOU Need to Know Before Your First Appointment
If you’ve never been to therapy, or, it’s been awhile, perhaps you don’t quite know what to expect. There are many types of therapists with all with different styles of interacting. Most therapists have specialties in different types of therapy, and we use them with the clients we see. However, there are some things that are standard practice for all therapists. So, if the fear of the unknown is holding you back from what you (deep down) know you need to do, here is what you expect from therapy:
Luckily, paperwork has gone higher-tech in the past several years. If you have an email address, we can simply send you all the intake forms you’ll need through a secure client portal. We have you do this paperwork so we can get a idea of why you are coming to see us but also inform you about general information- such as privacy and confidentiality or payment and cancellation policies, etc. You can also request to have the therapist do the intake with you in the first session, if you don’t have an email or struggle with reading comprehension. Just let us know what you need, and we will walk you through it.
2. The first couple of sessions are a little different
As therapists, we are trained to start with figuring out what the problem is before trying to help you solve it. Even if you think you know the root of the problem, we like to get a full picture for ourselves before delving in. Besides that, we need to figure out a solid plan for treatment: What do you want to accomplish? What steps can we take to reach those goals, what skills do you need to stay the course and what skills do you already have that we can rely upon? Your treatment plan building should be a cooperative process, so both you and the therapist knows what it looks like and how you know when you’re done with therapy. The first couple of sessions are usually geared towards understanding the problem, and coming up with a plan of action.
3. It’s okay to disagree
At any time, you can tell your therapist you disagree with them or want to change the direction of therapy. Many people will just stop coming to therapy when they disagree, rather than potentially hurt the therapist’s feelings or to avoid confrontation. Or, rather than clarify something the therapist said, they might just feel misunderstood and not come back. Most therapists I know are totally open to feedback and working through miscommunications. As the “client,” you are the most important piece of the therapy process. So just tell us what you’re thinking! That is what you are paying for, after all.
4. Sometimes, a therapist will “tell it like it is”
Most of us don’t love to feel “called out” on something. We may feel defensive and misunderstood. A therapist may gently or even very directly say to you that you are doing something that is going to negatively impact you reaching your goals. I rarely have to “call out” my clients. I find that most people already know what they need to change and as they talk through it and process with the new skills we are working on. They come to their own conclusions. That said, there are occasionally times when someone isn’t understanding why they aren't making progress and needs a more direct approach. Most of us therapists, are still kind, supportive, and solution-oriented even when being direct.
5. If you are not sure you want to or are ready for change, tell us.
One hurdle people have to jump is the shift from wanting to change their lives to actually changing their lives. Change stinks. The process, of it, anyway. It can be painful. We may have to pull up emotional stuff we had long since put away. We may have to remove unhealthy but reliable coping skills and relationships we’ve been hanging on to. Talk openly about your fears to your therapist. Your therapist should not be pushing you faster than you are ready to go. You set the pace and if it’s going too fast for you, say so!
6. You should not be in therapy forever
Many people worry that they will be stuck in therapy forever once they get started. That’s simply not true! You and your therapist should be talking from day 1 about how long you plan on going to therapy. Some people go to therapy to talk about a very specific issue. Maybe they just want objective help making a difficult decision in their lives and just need a couple of sessions. Others have a diagnosable mental health condition and they need new tools in treating it. This can take a little longer. Most often, you’ll start with weekly sessions for a few weeks and then step back to every other week and then move to occasional check-ins to make sure you are continuing to do well. The days of being in weekly therapy for months on end are over. Together, you and your therapist will help you figure out how much therapy you will need.
Therapy is a mystery for anyone who has not been before. However, it’s one of the most common treatments for mental health or other life struggles. The struggle is real out there, but therapy is part of the solution. Call to schedule an appointment for your first step in moving forward today. 435-799-5035.