Are you thinking about starting Therapy for the first time? Here’s what you need to know.
- Anybody can benefit from therapy, and this does not necessarily mean that they have some problem. Perhaps, it is like having a personal trainer for their mental health.
- It is vital to get the right therapist for you. The internet is your backyard, do your research. You can virtually kiss many frogs.
- Turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones by bringing any fears you have about starting therapy and other issues into the sessions. They are invaluable for the work.
It is becoming a normal part of life for people, including our friends and family, to be in therapy. TV shows such as ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘In Treatment’ have lessened the mystique of the shrink. However, there can still be a perception of a stigma attached to it, fuelling secrecy, shame, and guilt.
Recently, clients have been finding solace in beginning therapy and exploring heightened anxiety and boredom, both products of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Words such as prison and tunnel are used to convey feelings of stuckness and uncertainty. ‘not sure if I can go back to the office’ or ‘I think I have lost my social skills’ are frequently voiced in sessions.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Chinese proverb.
Starting your therapy journey
At City Therapy, we will take the stress away by helping you navigate the therapy process. You have made a brave decision to ‘talk to someone.’ An online search or perhaps a friend’s recommendation inspires you to make the initial contact by phone, text, or email.
The centre’s manager will embrace any nerves or anxiety you feel and put your mind at ease. Based on experience, they may suggest a therapist for you who is a good ‘fit.’ This is an ideal time to ask those niggling questions about fees, your therapist’s experience, and style of working. This conversation is confidential and non-judgemental.
What to expect at the First Session
Your therapist understands how scary the first meeting can be. She/he has accumulated thousands of hours of experience in training, client work, and personal therapy. They may say something like, ‘tell me, how you are doing today’ or ‘what do you wish from therapy’? This important ‘small talk’ allows you to relax.
But it’s not all one-way traffic, and it is good for you to ask your therapist questions. In essence, you are interviewing them for a job. It’s likely that you already know her/his qualifications and areas of expertise from the website; however, more clarity may be needed in areas such as appointment times, payment method, Covid-19 protocol, and safety procedures. Word to the wise, questions of a personal nature, such as marital status or sexuality, will most likely be deflected by your therapist, who may enquire into your reasons for asking these questions.
There can be a lot to take in, in the first session. This is perfectly normal; just let it wash over you. However, it is good to be aware of some elements that most likely will arise, such as the intake form, Confidentiality, Agreement, and the Cancellation policy.
The intake form can be useful for both therapist and client to ensure that important details are not missed. Necessary information regarding contact details, family status, diet, sleep, exercise, medication, and other concerns are discussed. Your therapist may be deciding on a suitable therapeutic approach at this stage. There is no such thing as a ‘small’ issue, no wrong answers, and no judgement. This important part of the first session usually takes about five minutes or, the length of time it takes to read this blog.
Your therapist will outline the rules of confidentiality and explain how it may be necessary to break them in rare circumstances. For example, when there is a danger of self-harm, a threat to another person, and the possibility of a child (under 18 years) being exposed to sexual abuse. You will be told that your therapist frequently consults his/her supervisor where elements of your therapy may be raised in confidence.
Sometimes called the Contract, this part of the intake form deals with the duration of sessions, the agreed fee, and the cancellation policy. Your therapist will invite more questions to ensure that you understand and are happy with the intake form’s content before asking you to sign it.
Some Frequently Asked questions
You will have noticed that the words therapy and therapist are used as general terms to cover the plethora of different styles and disciplines of therapy and counselling.
Counselling and Psychotherapy … is there a difference?
In some countries, these terms are used interchangeably like two sides of the same coin. It’s generally accepted that psychotherapy drills deeper into the underlying causes of the client’s issues.
Psychotherapy can be likened to archaeology, carefully dusting away layers, to reveal a valuable find.
Counselling is regarded as dealing more with current and pressing issues, where the focus is to steady the client. Counselling often leads on to Psychotherapy.
How long does therapy take?
Without being glib, the phrase ‘more a Marathon than a sprint’ fits here. It all depends on the individual circumstances. Often new/old issues emerge that were not the initial reason for therapy.
What is the best therapy type for me?
Therapists are trained in many different approaches and will tailor their style to your needs. Some therapists focus on one or two types, depending on the situation. Just as all roads lead to Rome, given the right conditions, all therapy works.
Many therapy terms have become familiar words in everyday conversation such as, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) Psychodynamic, Psychoanalytic, Gestalt, Humanistic Integrative, Hypnotherapy, Play Therapy, Body Psychotherapy.
How will I know that my therapist is right for me?
Like in everyday life peoples’ tastes differ. We don’t hit it off with everybody we meet. It may take more than one session to know if they are the right ‘fit’. Listen to your gut. Does it feel safe? Do you feel comfortable talking about difficult issues? Do you feel heard? If the answer to these questions is No, No & No, it’s time to ask for another referral which will be accommodated by City Therapy.
Remember, before you make that call,
● Anyone can benefit from attending therapy, and it doesn’t mean that they have problems.
● Most therapists will do a short Phone/Zoom ‘taster’ consultation free of charge.
● Your therapist is not doing therapy on you or to you, but it’s a relationship with you.
● For the therapeutic relationship to work both therapist and client need to be in harmony with each other. This is the right ‘fit’ we talked about earlier. The next point is a robust indicator of your therapist’s suitability.
● Challenge your therapist if they say something that offends you. Skilled therapists will welcome feedback and use it to gain a deeper insight into your thoughts and values.
● You are investing in yourself. You will be surprised that you know many of the answers already. You are the Expert.
This blog hopes to ease any anxiety you may feel about attending your first therapy session. As your inner strengths allows you to reach out and connect, you will begin to realise how attainable the best version of yourself is. To book an appointment or ask a question: email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Call: Anne on 0863788002
Peter Casey is a fully qualified psychotherapist working from a Humanistic Integrative perspective. He draws on training and life experience to help clients realise and achieve their full potential.