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Nervous About Taking the Plunge?: What to Know Before Starting Therapy

Therapy is a complex journey that you may have been wondering about whether or not you want to embark on. If you have never gone to therapy but are thinking about taking the plunge, it may be helpful to do some research and have an idea of what the process may look like. Therapy is not a “one size fits all” type of experience. Like you, your therapy experience will be unique – it will be tailored to your needs, and the relationship you establish with your therapist will be one-of-a-kind. The thought of diving into therapy can even be anxiety-provoking for some – exploring difficult thoughts and emotions with a stranger can be intimidating. This blog post will explore Dr. Greg Kushnick’s article, 11 Things You Must Know About Starting Therapy, and demystify some common fears around starting therapy.

1.Once you sit down on the couch and start talking, it will be the greatest relief you’ve felt in a long time – nothing like the anxiety you experienced around the decision to enter therapy.

Most people feel a huge sense of relief after their first session, or at least some sense of relief or calm. It is likely due to the fact that they have had a buildup of emotion or stress that they’ve been carrying for weeks, months, or maybe even years. This of course is just the beginning – more emotional gains are to come once the work truly begins.

2. It may be helpful to write down what you’ve been struggling with prior to your first session.

Having your thoughts written out across paper or logged in your phone can be a helpful way to organize the topics that you want to work on in therapy. Of course, this is not necessary to do, but it can be a helpful tool.

3. In your first session, most therapists (but not all) will ask you want you want to accomplish in therapy.

Be prepared to identify specific goals that you want to achieve during therapy or what progress would look like for you. For example, if you feel like you lack confidence or have lower self-esteem, a goal may be to build a positive perception of self and learn assertive communication.

4. The blistering pace of modern life makes therapy a necessity.

Living in a big city, technology, overloaded schedules – all of these factors impact our mental health. Taking time for yourself by going to therapy and doing a check-up on your mental health is critical.

5. Insight alone rarely produces significant improvement.

Insights can be mind openers, but not game changers. You need to be willing to test reality and make concrete changes in your thinking and behaviors in order to spark growth and improvement.

6. Some people are raised to view therapy as unnecessary or “a bunch of bologna”. Your therapist will probably discredit those views.

Most therapists are trained to do more than just talk to you. They are trained in applying specific interventions that help alleviate suffering. Therapists also know how to build a solid therapeutic relationship, which is a strong predictor for the effectiveness of therapy.

7. Each therapist has their own approach and they work from various therapeutic models.

Most therapists do not take a single approach to conducting therapy. If you are curious about what modality your therapist works from, you can ask them in the first session so that you can have a better understanding of what to expect. Nowadays you can also look up your potential therapist’s profile/biography online, where they should describe what their approach is like. This way, you can have a better idea if that therapist seems like a good fit for you or not.

8. Don’t expect your therapist to force things out of you.

Therapists tend to follow your pace in therapy. They will pick up on what topics are off limits or what parts of your story are left out. This is not for you to worry about.

9. The trend among newer generations of therapists is to be more “real” with clients.

Many therapists have been moving away from the cold, nonreactive style of psychoanalysis. Therapists are starting to share their reactions with clients through a genuine, empathic, and authentic tone. This approach seems to be appreciated by most clients and can lead to greater outcomes.

10. Therapy isn’t as helpful if you don’t time between sessions to reflect on the work you did in session.

You have to do some of the work outside of your sessions if you want to reap the full benefits of therapy.

11. Therapy will be helpful to the extent that you’re open to change and willing to look at the role you’ve played in your own suffering.

You need to want to make changes in your life – if therapy is forced on you or your not completely ready to make some changes, it’s likely that therapy won’t be as effective then. You are equally if not more responsible for the progress and change that you want to get out of therapy. Be open to exploring the most difficult and uncomfortable thoughts and experiences you’ve had, and trust that your therapist will be right alongside you through the process.

If you have been exploring the idea of starting therapy for the first time, contact Symmetry Counseling to get connected with one of our compassionate clinicians today!

Dr. Greg Kushnick’s article, 11 Things You Must Know About Starting Therapy, was referenced for this blog post.

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