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What Are 5 Things to Know Before Starting Therapy?

Zoe Mittman

Licensed Social Worker

If you are considering therapy for the first time, here are some helpful hints:

Finding a Therapist That Is the Right Fit May Take Time.

The therapeutic alliance is at the foundation of a successful therapeutic journey. There is nothing wrong with taking your time to find a therapist that you feel is best for you. I totally understand; this can be discouraging, but believe me, it is worth it. With strong rapport and comfortability, there is the possibility for more growth and change. Just like you need to feel like the therapist is the right fit, your therapist also has an obligation to refer out if they feel they cannot provide the most effective treatment.

Therapy Is Not Easy. 

It can even be frustrating at times. Naturally, humans tend to avoid unpleasant thoughts and feelings. In therapy, you will work on exploring and processing thoughts and emotions. Rather than pushing them away, you may learn to accept them for what they are. While unpleasant, they are tolerable. Your therapist may challenge you to look at situations from different perspectives, help you identify unhelpful thought patterns, and work with you to develop a unique and individualized toolbox of coping skills.

Do Not Expect Change After the First Session — Therapy Is a Process. 

It takes time, effort, and dedication. Therapy is like riding a wave. There will be ups and downs in the process; it is not a linear line. It is during these lows that you may be able to grow the most as a person. Working towards growth can be uncomfortable because it is not something you are used to, but it is not harmful. Your therapist will work with you to acknowledge achievement along the way.

Spend Time After a Session Doing Something That Is Beneficial for You.

Sometimes, you may feel worse before you start to feel better. With that said, ensure that you have time after therapy to engage in self-care. It could be as simple as listening to music, walking home, or calling a loved one. As a therapist, I leave time at the end of each session to check in on my clients to discuss how they are feeling and what they are doing after therapy. Therapists can help you work through the overwhelming feelings that the session has brought up, while also holding you accountable to practice self-care.

You Do Not Have to Talk About Your Past if You Do Not Want To.

Trauma is relative to each individual. The impact of an event, not the event itself, may cause a traumatic response. The original therapeutic intervention for PTSD was solely processing the traumatic experience by talking about it. Some people would become retraumatized because they were not in a safe space nor were they ready to talk through their past. Nowadays, there are an array of evidence-based interventions for not only traumatic experiences but dealing with life stressors as a whole. With that said, if you want to process your past, that can be done, but if you want a more present-focused, future-oriented style, that is also okay! You do not need to feel pressured to explore your childhood or past experiences. There is sometimes the misconception that you must explore your past and bring up wounds in order to heal, but that is not true. 

Hopefully, this blog has answered some of your questions about what to expect when looking for a therapist and beginning therapy. This process is unique to you and I wish you the best of luck on your therapeutic journey! Learn more about our counseling services on our website, and contact Symmetry Counseling today to get paired with a Chicago counselor.

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