Taking the leap to start therapy can be intimidating and overwhelming. There are a lot of unknowns for potential patients. Per outpatient therapist, Angela Koreth, LPC-S, "The bravest thing you could do was call to make this appointment or walk through my door, there is nowhere to go but up from here.” Many people are feeling the mental and emotional fatigue that the last year or two put on them. We encourage everyone to seek the help they deserve, and we understand that the first step can be scary.
Here are a few things therapists wish patients knew before they started therapy:
- It’s All About Collaboration. As Matt Estey, LCSW, shared, “It’s not ‘done to me’ but ‘done with me.’” A collaborative treatment experience is key to feeling safe and motivated in therapy. It is important that patients realize therapists don’t ‘fix’ you, they work with you to have the insights that hopefully bring about change.
- The Right Fit Matters. “Therapy is personal, unique, and intimate, you have to find the right fit for you,” says Koreth. It is important to feel comfortable with your therapist, if you are unable to then it might be time to look for a different therapist. As therapists, we understand if you want to try someone else. We want you to feel comfortable!.
- Recognizing the Process Is Important. Starting therapy is the start of a journey. The change does not happen overnight, it’s a process. Most therapy relies on the patient doing work outside of the session whether that is engaging in certain behavioral activation, utilizing new coping, or using insight to better understand your response to a situation. As Dr. John O’Neil says, “Therapy starts the car, but you drive.”
- Honesty and Sharing Are Key. “Willingness and transparency are the critical elements to create a therapeutic relationship where we can be known, accepted, and understood and it’s in the context of secure attachment relationships where we find the greatest capacity to change,” shared Estey. You are the expert in you, and we can only know, understand, and help what is shared with us. Ultimately, we need your help to understand you.
- All Emotions Are Welcome. Crying is not a weakness, and anger is a normal and acceptable emotion. Do not feel the need to hide, sugarcoat, or deny your natural emotions in therapy. Exploring and understanding them is part of the process. As Dr. O’Neil likes to remind people, “We do not judge you because you feel.”
- “Fixing” Is Not the Goal. Again, we are not here to “fix” anything. As Koreth shared, “We are helpers, not fixers.” We are here to partner with you. The goal is more akin to growth than “fixing.” We want to help you be the best you, not a different you.
Therapy is a beautiful and wonderful journey that has impacted the lives of so many. If you are considering starting therapy, we know that a step into the unknown can be difficult. Hopefully, these six points help to make you feel more comfortable doing so. The good news is, once you step into the therapy session you are no longer alone in sorting through your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors — you then have someone to help you. All therapists recognize that it is a privilege to be able to partner with you, one that we do not take lightly.
Note: This content originally appeared on Mind Matters from Menninger, The Clinic's blog on PsychologyToday.com.