What can I expect in therapy?

Counselling | Agnes Wainman | London Psychological Services

Counselling | Agnes Wainman | London Psychological Services

In honour of National Psychotherapy Day, I would like to answer some common question that people have about therapy.  You may have never engaged in therapy, are wondering if it’s right for you or are simply curious about the process.  I have discussed a few therapy myths here and the importance of fit between you and your therapist here.  Here are a few other questions and answers about therapy that may be helpful in determining whether therapy is a good choice for you:

What sort of issues do people come to therapy for?

The simple answer is that people present to therapy for any issue in their life that is causing them distress, confusion or suffering.  If there is some part of your life that is just not working the way you want it to, therapy can be beneficial in understanding  these challenges and finding ways to cope and overcome these.  Some of the reasons that people present to therapy can include (but are not limited to) feelings of depression, struggling with anxiety, unhappiness in relationships, work stress.  Some people have difficulties that are associated with specific events such as the birth of a child (ex. postpartum depression or anxiety) or have experienced a traumatic event.  The bottom line is there is no benchmark for whether a problem is “serious enough” for therapy.  If it is bothering you, if you want to talk about it and  you need help with it, therapy may be an appropriate option.

How do I find a therapist?

Once you decide to pursue therapy, how do you find someone that you can work with that can effectively help you with your concerns?  You may want to ask a trusted friend or family member if they know of anyone that they have had a positive experience with.  Your family physician may be a good source of information.  Of course, it cannot be ignored that many people do find their therapist online.  You can Google specific search terms and your location (ex. “depression treatment in London, Ontario”).  Read therapists’ websites to get a sense of their personality, training and whether they work with  people that have similar concerns as you.  The number one predictor of successful therapy is the fit between you and your therapist.  You need to feel comfortable with the person that you will be working with them.  Can you get a sense of them through their website and blog?  Do they have a social media presence that allows you to get familiarized with their philosophies, personalities and issues that they have expertise treating?  Call around and ask to speak to therapists so that you can get a sense of their personality and style.  Find out fees, schedules, location and make sure that it will work for you.  Even if you speak with someone and they aren’t quite the right fit for you, ask if they have any recommendations.  You need to find someone that works for you!

What happens in the first session?

So you’ve found a therapist and booked that first appointment.  Now what?  Most people are anxious prior to their first session.  You likely don’t know what to expect, what will happen, what you’ll talk about.  It is totally normal to feel anxious, I promise!   Give yourself some extra time prior to that first appointment so you can find the building, find parking, locate the office and settle into the waiting room.  There is nothing worse than having to rush when you’re already feeling anxious!  At the start of the first session, you will be asked to fill out some paperwork, including providing contact information, providing an emergency contact and reviewing policies.  Once the paperwork is out of the way, we can begin!  The goal of the first session is twofold 1) for me to gather information from you about your concerns, your situation and your goals for therapy and 2) for you to get a feel for what it might be like to work with me.  Again, fit is so critical in therapy and you need to feel good about the dynamic between you and your therapist.  Even if you get a feel for someone over the phone and through their website, it may not be until you are sitting across the room from each other that you can truly decide if this is the right person for you.  If you do feel that you can work with your chosen therapist, wonderful!  If you are not feeling comfortable or there is just something not quite right, it is so important that you try again with someone else.  We’re all humans, and sometimes we click and sometimes we don’t.  That’s okay, it just means that you may need to try with someone else.

What happens after the first session?

At the end of the first session, we will talk about some of the preliminary goals that you have and how we can work together to meet those goals.  Most people find it most beneficial to come in for sessions on a weekly basis initially.  This allows us to regularly work together and build momentum to helping you reduce your distress and reaching your goals.  Many people prefer to have a regular appointment time so that they can incorporate it into their schedule.  However, there can be some flexibility in appointment times if needed.  During the course of our work together, we will continually assess your progress, your setbacks, what is working for you in therapy, as well as what isn’t working.  Some sessions will leave you feeling energized and optimistic.  Other sessions may leave you feeling raw and exhausted.  Therapy can have its really tough moments as you learn more about yourself, your feelings, your perspectives, and your relationships.  However, I like to think of those tough moments as “pain with a purpose.”  These realizations can help you move forward towards the changes that you want to make.

When will I start to feel better?

Some people report feeling better right after the first session.  They feel listened to, understood and like they are finally addressing issues in their lives that may have been ignored for months (or years…..or decades!).  For some people it can take a few sessions to notice any real change in how they are feeling.  Again, there may be times when things feel worse, but it is important to hang in there and let your therapist know how you are doing.  Again, the goal of therapy is for you to eventually feel better, make changes that you feel are important to make and live the type of life that you want to live.

Deciding to engage in therapy is a brave decision.  You are acknowledging that things aren’t how you want them to be and that you need help.  It is totally normal to feel nervous or overwhelmed when trying to decide whether therapy is the right choice for you.  However, how could life be different for you if you took the plunge?