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What to Expect When Starting Therapy: A Guide to Begin Your Healing Journey

Embarking on a journey of therapy can be both daunting and exciting. Taking the courageous step toward seeking professional help demonstrates your commitment to your own well-being and personal growth. However, if you've never been to therapy before, you might wonder what to expect. In this blog post, we will provide you with a guide to help you understand what therapy entails and what you can anticipate when beginning this transformative process.

During your initial search for a therapist, a consultation appointment can be set. A consultation involves meeting the therapist in person or via telehealth to determine if the therapist is one that will fit your style. You can discuss their approach to therapy with their clients and determine if the therapist can help with your specific problem. If you are interested in learning more about how to pick a therapist, visit our other blog post ‘Discovering Therapy: How do I know I need therapy?’

Upon completion of the consultation, if the fit is right, you will meet with your therapist for an intake session to discuss your reasons for seeking therapy, your goals, and your expectations and as well as providing you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have. You can expect a good therapist to be asking questions to get to know you which can help build trust and rapport, most important to building a relationship.

Therapists employ various therapeutic approaches based on their training and your unique needs. Some common modalities include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, person-centered therapy, and mindfulness-based therapy. Your therapist will explain the approach they use and how it aligns with your goals. Therapy generally can be in-person, virtual, over the phone. Other communication means can be discussed in your intake.

Confidentiality is a fundamental principle of therapy. Your therapist is legally and ethically bound to protect your privacy. They will explain the limits of confidentiality during the initial sessions, including situations where they may need to break confidentiality, such as if there is a risk of harm to yourself or others. Understanding the boundaries of confidentiality is crucial for establishing a trusting relationship with your therapist.

Establishing a strong therapeutic alliance is crucial for the success of your treatment. Your therapist will create a safe and non-judgmental space for you to explore your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It's normal to feel a bit uneasy at first, but over time, as the therapeutic relationship strengthens, you'll feel more comfortable sharing and opening up.

In therapy, it's essential to establish clear and achievable goals. Your therapist will work collaboratively with you to identify the areas you want to address and the objectives you hope to accomplish. These goals will serve as a roadmap throughout your therapy journey, helping you stay focused and measure your progress. The goals should be SMART; specific, measurable, attainable, relative to your problem and timely. It will be good to have an idea of what you want to accomplish in therapy, but the therapist can help with this along your journey.

Therapy can be an emotional rollercoaster. It's normal to experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, frustration, and even relief. The therapeutic process often involves exploring deep-rooted issues and challenging long-held beliefs, which can stir up intense feelings. Your therapist will provide support and guidance as you navigate these emotions.

Therapy also extends beyond the therapy room. Your therapist may suggest exercises or activities for you to work on between sessions. These can include journaling, practicing relaxation techniques, or implementing strategies discussed in your sessions. Engaging in these tasks enhances the therapeutic process and empowers you to take an active role in your healing journey.

Therapy is a personalized experience, and the duration of treatment varies from person to person. Some individuals may see progress within a few sessions, while others may require longer-term therapy. It's important to remember that healing is a gradual process, and setbacks are normal. Your therapist will regularly review your progress with you and make adjustments as needed.

Starting therapy is a courageous step towards self-discovery, growth, and healing. By understanding what to expect, you can approach therapy with greater confidence and open yourself up to the transformative power of the therapeutic process. Remember that every therapy journey is unique, and your therapist will guide and support you every step of the way. Embrace this opportunity for self-care and personal development, and trust that you have taken a significant step towards a brighter, more fulfilling future.

By Jason Ross, MSW Intern

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