What to expect from therapy

If you have decided to start therapy, this article will help you get the best from your sessions with your chosen therapist and give you an idea of what to expect.

What is therapy?

Therapy, sometimes called “talk therapy, ” is provided by mental health professionals to diagnose and treat mental health issues. In previous articles, I explained the different types of psychologists and discussed the benefits of therapy with a psychologist. If you haven’t already done so, it is essential to read these articles, as not all psychologists can provide therapy, and not all types of therapists are trained to work with all mental health conditions.

For example, most psychologists are trained to work with all mental health conditions, whereas, for example, some counsellors do not have sufficient training to work with complex, enduring mental health conditions.

Types of therapy

When considering different types of therapy, it is essential to consider the goals of the treatment and the best approach for achieving those goals. The most common types of therapy include:

Each of these therapies has its unique approach to helping you. However, not all therapy models are suitable for all difficulties. For example, CBT is effective in helping with anxiety and depression. However, if you have a personality disorder, then DBT would be recommended. It is not as simple as reading about different therapy and then deciding to try one model or another as it may not be helpful for your specific problem. This is why I recommend people meet with a psychologist if they are attending privately, as a psychologist can recommend the correct therapy model to help with your concerns. 

When considering therapy, knowing the different treatment orientations available is essential. Humanistically oriented therapists emphasize people’s built-in abilities to achieve self-fulfilment and focus on present feelings and conscious material rather than past events and unconscious material.

Other orientations include client-centred therapy (person-centred therapy), which is a non-directive form of talk therapy that emphasizes positive unconditional regard; cognitive or cognitive-behavioural therapy, which focuses on making connections between thoughts, behaviour, and feelings; existential therapy, which focuses on free will and self-determination rather than symptoms; and gestalt therapy, which focuses on the “here and now” experience of the client.

Lastly, psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapy focuses on connecting with and working through painful feelings in the unconscious mind.

Ultimately, no one process or method of therapy works for everyone, and it’s important to find the right therapist who can help you achieve your goals.

Confidentiality and Privacy

When considering whether to try therapy, it is crucial to understand confidentiality and privacy considerations. Confidentiality is an integral part of building trust with your therapist and means that your therapist will not go out and tell people about your session.

They must also adhere to the guidelines set down by their professional body.
There are a few exceptions to confidentiality, such as when a therapist must breach confidentiality to protect a client from harming themselves, the therapist, or a third party. In addition, if the therapist is part of a GP practice, it may mean that information is available to the GP and that the therapist must inform the client of this.

Whether you are attending in person or online, the same privacy considerations apply. Your therapist must protect your private information and not disclose it to any third parties without your permission.

Understanding confidentiality and privacy considerations are essential when deciding whether to try therapy, as it helps ensure the therapy’s safety and success.

Time commitment

Therapy requires an investment of time and effort to be successful. The time needed will depend on your therapeutic goals and commitment to change. Depending on the situation, therapy may be a short-term commitment with a set amount of sessions or a longer-term commitment for managing chronic mental health issues or personal growth.

Feeling comfortable

When considering the comfort level of therapy, it is essential to consider various factors. Firstly, feeling comfortable in the therapist’s presence and the sessions setting is important. It is also important to feel heard and validated by the therapist for therapy to succeed. A good therapist will challenge you, check-in, guide you to your goals, help you learn, show acceptance and compassion, and treat you as an equal.

On the other hand, therapy should not involve judgement, insults, demeaning comments, unreasonable demands, or breaking personal boundaries. A good therapist should make you feel supported, not judged. It is also essential to pay attention to how you feel and if you are making progress. If you are not clicking with your therapist, it is okay to try out different therapists and see what works best for you.

Finally, setting boundaries around your therapy and being honest with yourself and your therapist is essential. Share your feelings, even if it feels uncomfortable. This is how your therapist will be able to help you the most. By considering all of these factors, you can ensure you get the best care from your therapist and feel comfortable in the process.

What should I expect from my first session in therapy? 

  • A discussion of your goals for therapy and expectations.
  • A conversation about your goals, such as the cadence and length of future sessions and client confidentiality details.
  • Discuss your background, including your current symptoms, family history, and past relationships.
  • Questions asked by the therapist about you, how you cope, and your symptoms.

Tips for getting the most out of your therapy sessions

Discuss goals for therapy

Discussing goals can help get the most out of therapy sessions by setting expectations and providing direction. Knowing your goals can help you and your therapist stays focused on the issues that need to be addressed in therapy.

Set regular appointments

It is essential to set regular therapy appointments to achieve the best results. Regular sessions allow the therapist and patient to work together to develop goals and create a plan to reach them. Consistent attendance will enable you to learn more about yourself, practice new skills, and have the guidance and support of the therapist.

Be open and honest with your therapist.

Being open and honest with your therapist can help you get the most out of your therapy sessions by providing your therapist with the information they need to help you. When you openly and honestly share your thoughts and feelings, your therapist can better understand your experiences and tailor their advice to your needs.

Additionally, by being open and honest with your therapist, you allow yourself the space to process your emotions and work through complex topics without judgement or criticism. This is critical to making progress in therapy, as it will enable you to feel comfortable and trust in your therapist so that you can work towards achieving your goals.

  1. Use the tools your therapist provides
  2. Listen to your therapist’s advice. Your therapist is there to provide helpful guidance, so take the time to listen to what they say and consider how it applies to your situation.
  3. Ask questions. Feel free to ask questions if you need clarification on something your therapist has suggested or said. This can help you better understand the advice they’re giving you and how to apply it best.
  4. Take notes. Taking notes during your sessions can help you remember the essential points and tools your therapist provides. Writing down your therapist’s words can help you process and reflect on the information later.
  5. Follow directions. If your therapist provides you with homework, such as reading assignments or journaling exercises, complete them. Doing the work in between sessions can help you get the most out of therapy and put what you learn into practice.
  6. Participate in the exercises. During your sessions, your therapist may have you do exercises that help you explore your feelings, work on communication skills, or practice mindfulness. Participating in these activities can help you gain insight and develop new skills that benefit your everyday life.
  7. Reflect and practice. Often, change takes time and practice, so it’s important to take the time to reflect on your sessions and the tools your therapist has provided. Consider how you can use and practice what you learned daily.
  8. Follow your therapist’s instructions.
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