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  • Writer's picturePaula Gonzalez

10 Things You Should Know Before Going To Therapy

So, you’re contemplating going to therapy but are not sure what to expect. First of all, way to go for even entertaining the idea of therapy because that’s an incredibly courageous thing to do. Secondly, this is a very common experience for those contemplating in your position. After all, the idea of therapy can be quite intimidating. It also doesn’t help that there are so many misconceptions about what therapy is and what it looks like.

As a therapist with almost a decade of experience in the field, I’ve had lots of folks share their initial thoughts and hesitations about therapy, only to then tell me that they wish they would have known more about what therapy actually is like outside of what’s portrayed on TV. Over time, I noticed that I was coming across the same questions and concerns over and over, so I decided to compile the top 10 things you should know before going to therapy in case this helps inform your decision by hopefully answering some of your questions and perhaps clarify some of your own concerns or expectations of therapy.

1. Therapy is a collaborative process.

In therapy, you and your therapist work together to get you where you’d like to be. To do so, your therapist’s job is not to tell you what to do (if they do, this could be a red flag!). Instead, their job is to use their experience, education, and training to help you get there. They create a space that allows you to safely work through your challenges and provide you with the tools and insight necessary.

2. Just show up.

Holding yourself accountable by showing up to your sessions is part of the work of therapy. It helps you develop the habit of attending regularly, while also strengthening the therapeutic relationship between you and your therapist. Part of showing up also means attending your session even if you may not know exactly what you want to talk about. If this happens (and it will), simply let your therapist know, and they will help facilitate conversation. I guarantee you that you and your therapist will find something to talk about that relates to your goals for therapy.

3. You’re the one in charge.

This is an important one. It isn’t uncommon for folks to get carried away by a therapist’s credentials and experience, and to let them direct your sessions and the process of therapy. It is crucial to remember therapy is an investment you’re making for you. It is ultimately up to you what you’d like to gain from therapy, what you’re hoping the pacing of therapy to look like, it’s up to you what approach you’d like a therapist to use, it’s up to you when you’d like to end therapy, and it is your decision who you would like your therapist to be.

4. Therapy is work.

At this point, I’ve mentioned the work that takes place in therapy a few times now. Work in therapy can refer to a variety of efforts made by you. For instance, work can refer to showing up, holding yourself accountable to book your appointments, show up for your session, and then show up in session. The work comes in allowing yourself to be honest not only with your therapist but also with yourself while in session and in between sessions. Challenging yourself in this way by being vulnerable is work because it requires effort and intention, and that’s something that can feel uncomfortable and even painful in the short-term. In the long run, however, these tools and insight could help build the foundation for you to feel better equipped for present but also future challenges.

5. Honesty is the best policy.

As it was just mentioned, therapy requires you to be vulnerable, and we all know how uncomfortable being vulnerable can be. This is exactly why honest is sooo crucial throughout the entire process of therapy. As therapists, we would want to know how you’re feeling about therapy, about what’s working, what isn’t. We would want to know how the pacing of therapy is feeling, and if there is anything about our approach that is and isn’t working for you, as well. Is the work feeling too overwhelming? Are we needing to slow it down? Is the homework feeling too difficult? We want to know all of the things! We’re not trying to be nosy for no reason, but rather want to try our best to make sure that this is working for you so that you can actually enjoy going to therapy and feel motivated.

6. You don’t need to be in crisis to seek therapy

One of the bigger misconceptions about therapy is that you need to be in full on crisis mode to seek help. While that could certainly be a reason to go to therapy, there are lots of people who go to therapy when going through a challenging time but before getting to a point where they’re in crisis. It also isn’t uncommon for people to seek therapy simply out of wanting to learn more about themselves, without necessarily going through a hard time in their lives. Truth is, there isn’t a pre-requisite for what your psychological state needs to look like in order to go to therapy. Therapy will always be here for anyone if and when they need it.

7. Trust the process.

Mental health is invisible, so being in therapy to work through mental health challenges can be difficult since we’re talking about things that we can’t see, such as feelings or thoughts. Collaborating with your therapist to create goals for therapy is essential to keep track of progress, and to shed light on what progress would even look like. Without this, it is possible for folks to feel discouraged when they aren’t feeling as if progress is being made, and then drop out of therapy.

“Trusting in the process” in therapy means to trust that every single time that you attend a session and do the work, that progress is being made. It also means that progress may not be something that one can see or feel in the moment, but that with consistency, patience, and trust in yourself and your therapist, you will begin to notice it soon enough.

8. Make sure you find the therapist for you.

This is one of the most important elements of therapy, but it can also be one of the most challenging ones. Finding a therapist who feels like the right fit can be very hard and discouraging, especially if you’re one of many who may not know exactly what they’re looking for in a therapist. However, trust and believe that once you do find the right therapist for you, it will be well worth it. Are you already in therapy or will you be about to meet one for the first time? Try reflecting on the following questions next time you meet with your therapist:

· Do I feel judged when I talk with my therapist?

· Do I feel like my therapist gets me?

· Do I trust my therapist?

· Do I understand what my therapist says? Does their approach make sense to me and do I believe in it?

· Do I get the sense that my therapist genuinely cares for me?

· How do I feel overall whenever I interact with my therapist?

Research suggests that approximately 80% of a positive outcome in therapy is based on the relationship between you and your therapist. Think about it, you’ll be working with someone who may learn things about you that no one else knows and who will be there to support you through this and whatever else it is that you’re wanting support with. When doing this, would you rather confide in someone who makes you feel judged or unheard?

You’re investing time, energy, and money into your own personal growth. Make sure it’s worth your while.

9. Consider online therapy.

Unlike face-to-face therapy where you go to a therapist’s office and meet with them in person, online therapy allows you to connect with a therapist using any device that has an internet connection, such as a computer, smartphone, or tablet.

Though online therapy has existed long before the pandemic, it has grown dramatically grown in popularity in the past few years. There are many reasons why online therapy continues to be popular nowadays:

· Research shows that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy for various mental health conditions.

· It can be more accessible if you have the means.

· It could work better for your schedule (due to more flexibility).

· It could be more affordable if it means not needing to spend money on your commute.

· You may have a much greater choice of therapists from across the province or country that could support you.

The choice is yours! Whether you’re more inclined to go to therapy in person or online, going to therapy at all is an accomplishment on its own.

10. You’ve got this!

Exploring and processing uncomfortable feelings doesn’t mean these feelings will never leave. I often encourage my clients to think of psychological growth as “growing pains”, in that while it may feel uncomfortable to allow yourself to be with your pain while in session, this is what will ultimately help you understand it better. This is where healing begins. Most importantly, you are the one in charge of what you’d like for this healing journey to look like.

And there you have it! Hopefully these will be helpful to you. More importantly, remember that therapy means investing in yourself. So, continue to think about it until you feel ready to take that next step. If you’re still wanting to learn more about what to expect, we are offering FREE 20 minute consultations, where we can chat more about what you’re looking for, how we can help, and answer any questions you may have.

Did you know that sessions may be covered by your extended health benefits? If you have health insurance, you may be eligible for coverage for therapy. At Infinite Horizons Psychotherapy, we have Registered Psychotherapists affiliated with Green Shield, Medavie Blue Cross, and SSQ Insurance. If you’re unsure whether you have coverage or if your insurance would cover the costs of your therapy sessions with a Registered Psychotherapist, simply ask them.

Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.

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