New to Therapy? 3 Common Questions Answered!
Updated: Oct 2, 2022
Many people feel nervous when they start therapy. It can seem overwhelming and downright scary to try to open up to a new person. People often say things like “I’m sorry I’m talking so much” or “I’m not very good at this” but the truth is you are here to talk a lot, and there is nothing wrong with that. We often wonder “Am I doing this therapy thing right?” and the answer is: Yes! All you have to do is show up and be yourself.
When a therapist and client begin their relationship, the first step is to get to know one another in order to forge a therapeutic alliance. In other words, you want to feel comfortable with this person and know they have your back. Feel free to ask questions!
If you’ve never done therapy before, you should know that most therapists will see you once a week for about 50 minutes. You don’t need to keep your eyes on the clock; the therapist will let you know when it’s about time to wrap up. You can also let your therapist know if you want to meet at a different frequency.
Another common question is “What’s the purpose of therapy? Do I just talk about my feelings?” The answer to this is, yes AND so much more. You and your therapist will develop treatment goals and the therapist will write a treatment plan. This is kind of like a prescription or roadmap for your care. The therapist will work with you to notice what mental health struggles you are experiencing, identify your triggers, and implement helpful coping strategies. You and your therapist work together to implement new ways of moving through life and will discuss what works well for you and what doesn’t.
Depending on your therapist’s approach, they will provide different treatment modalities. Many providers will ask questions about your family of origin and upbringing
to better understand how you grew into the person you are today. Most therapists will teach you about your diagnosis through a process known as psychoeducation. Some professionals are very solution-focused and prioritize problem
solving and practical steps to moving forward. Others are more psycho-dynamic and look at underlying processes within your mind and relationships. Still others will utilize approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy to help you toward your goals. At the end of the day, research shows that it matters less which approach your therapist uses and more how you and your therapist connect with one another to collaborate in your care and work toward your well-being.
This leads to a final important question, which is what to do if something doesn’t seem right with your therapist. Maybe your therapist said something that rubbed you the wrong way or it seems that they don’t really understand where you are coming from. Any time that something is “off”, it’s crucial that you speak up and work it out with your therapist. They are not a mind-reader so they will not know unless you bring it up. Also, bringing up concerns is excellent practice in assertive communication! Once you have addressed the issues and given it some time, see if things improve. If they don’t, it might be time to ask for a referral to a different provider. Whatever decision you make, remember that your mental health care is in your hands, and no one can do the work for you. That being said, give your provider a solid chance to meet your needs before jumping ship.