ADVICE FOR STARTING THERAPY
Starting therapy can be a really confusing time. What is happening in those awkward silences?
Should you stay in therapy once the crisis that brought you there has passed?
How does talking help, anyway?
Culled from hundreds of client experiences as well as my own - here is some advice as you start therapy. For more - see my book Starting Therapy: A Book For More Therapy Clients.
1. It is important that you feel some rapport with your therapist from the outset. You have some hard work to do together. So you want to start out with someone you like and respect. You have choice.
2. Expect resistance - from yourself. Beginning therapy puts all of your issues on alert. By saying you want to address things you are letting yourself know that you are watching and that you care. Expect parts of yourself to act out, be self-destructive, and generally resist the process. You, the adult who has made the decision to get serious need to meet the resistance and bring it to therapy to be explored.
3. Therapy doesn’t feel good all of the time. You arrive in therapy because something isn’t working. You are suffering in a particular way. You want your life to be different. To get to ‘different’ you will in all likelihood have to dig deep and go through a significant personal process that may involve more pain at first rather than less. It looks different for everyone. But most everyone agrees - it is hard work that requires courage and persistence.
4. The process of therapy will involve the unexpected. You don’t know the answers. That’s why you are coming to therapy. Being prepared for this at the outset can make the surprises a bit less disturbing.
5. Ask questions. There are so many different approaches to therapy. And each therapist and client build their own relationship and process together. You have every right to know what is going on and what to expect. Ask whatever you want.
6. Be kind to yourself. Find a way to take care of yourself as you begin. Is it 10 minutes of journalling at your favourite coffee shop after sessions? A steam at the gym? A walk through the park as the leaves turn? Make time for just being in your week, just as you make time for therapy. Therapy is work. Hard work. The context of kindness to yourself will provide space for that work.
7. Like anything, hard work and perseverance pay off. I used to think I wasn’t a runner. I couldn’t run. Then a friend told me about slow running. And I tried it. And I liked it. And eventually I ran a 10k. And then another. I’m not a serious runner but I can’t say “I don’t run” anymore. Therapy is similar. You come in with ideas about yourself. If you find a way that works for you, and if you stick with it, your view of yourself and your experience will change. In ways you can’t imagine when you start.
If you are beginning therapy this month, I wish you the very best. There is a lot of writing on this site that you might find interesting. In particular: Facts, Should you stay in therapy once the crisis that brought you here has passed?, and How to prepare for your therapy session. Also check out the Resources page for recommended books. My book Starting Therapy: A Book For New Clients is also a good introduction if you are thinking about going to therapy or have been at it for a while.