Finally deciding to try therapy is no small feat. You might feel nervous, worried what others will think, or just really unsure of what to expect. Here’s are the essential facts you need to know.
1. You are not crazy, you are courageous.
The idea that someone has to be ‘crazy’ to go to therapy is outdated and seriously unhelpful. This kind of stigma leaves many of us not seeking help when we need it, or suffering with anxiety and mild depression for far longer than necessary.
We can all at some point can benefit from the impartial support therapy provides. We all go through difficult patches and experience life changes.
And it’s actually a better idea to seek therapy when challenges first begin, not just when things are at their worst. It can mean you have the tools to avert having to hit that ‘rock bottom’ moment in the first place.
2. Therapy is a lot like dating.
Therapy is at heart a relationship between you and your therapist. A contractual one, yes, but still a relationship. For therapy to work well it’s important you at least feel you could grow to trust your therapist with time.
This means that the very first therapist you try might not be your match. Much like dating, it can take a few tries to find the counsellor or psychotherapist you can feel comfortable seeing weekly long term.
That’s not to say you should judge a therapist instantly – often, again like dating, it takes time to find your equilibrium with a counsellor or psychotherapist. It’s advisable to try four sessions before quitting with a therapist – your assessment then three sessions. Some people find that suddenly, on session three or four, they ‘click’ with their therapist, and it turns out they do really great work together.
3. It pays to do your research.
Therapy is a huge field these days. There are not only many different schools of therapeutic thought, there are different kinds of therapists, too.
It is worth spending some time learning what approaches would best suit your particular issue, as well as what sort of therapist you think is best for you.
If you are really confused, try a counsellor or psychotherapist who offers an integrative approach.
Or consider using a therapist who works for an umbrella psychotherapy organisation with many therapists on their books. In this case, if the first therapist and method isn’t for you, there is a chance you can be referred to a colleague who is a better fit.
4. Therapy is not a trap.
You are not ever ‘stuck’ in therapy. You are the one paying. If it’s really not working for you, you can leave.
But many people find that as soon as they get into a therapy room it’s much like the hairdressers – they can’t seem to state what they want or feel they have to ‘go along’ with whatever the therapist suggests.
If this is you, then try to be forthright from the very first session over setting a pattern where you are passive. Let the therapist know you have troubles asserting yourself but want to try a few sessions first before committing long term.
Sure he or she is not the right therapist for you? This doesn’t mean you can just stop going out of the blue. Remember, therapy is a contract, and one of mutual respect. Be mindful of your therapist’s cancellation terms. Many therapists need up to a week’s notice to end the work you are doing.
5. You CAN afford therapy.
Being stuck in life is actually far more expensive than sorting out your issues and moving forward.
Therapy can actually save you money in the long term. Things like depression and anxiety can stop you from moving forward in your career and can mean you miss out a better job where you would earn a much higher salary. They also affect the immune system, which can lead to expensive health problems.
Be brutally honest with yourself – is therapy as out of your budget as you think? Or are you just sabotaging moving forward in life? If you needed a new car right now, would you find the money? Therapy can be just as important if not more, so why not make it that much of a priority?
What other things could you give up to afford therapy? One therapy session can be covered the cost of a night out at a good restaurant, for example.
If you really have no money, there are low cost counselling and therapy options available. This might mean seeing you GP and being on a waitlist, joining group therapy instead of working one-on-one, or working with a therapist in training. It’s all still a good starting point and step forward.
6. This is not an instant solution.
The very process of finding a therapist can be so overwhelming that there can be a sort of expectation that going to sessions will make a huge difference quickly.
Unfortunately, therapy is a process. You must stick with it to see results. And sometimes there will be low periods where it feels like nothing is changing and you are frustrated.
Again, think of a relationship. There are weeks when things feel stagnant, and weeks when things feel glorious. You have to stick it out to experience both. But the growth moments that come are always worth it.
7. Yes, therapy does work.
Therapy has been changing lives for decades, and is now proven by many studies to help.
If your first attempt at working with a therapist does not produce the results you hoped for, don’t decide that therapy doesn’t work. It’s a case of try, try again.
When you do find a therapist and a type of therapy that clicks, the progress you make can mean you finally understand who you are and what you want, are able to find and enjoy a loving relationship at last, can move forward in your career, and feel happy to be alive again. So keep booking appointments and be open to the journey. You are worth it.
Are you ready to take the big step and book an assessment with a therapist? Harley Therapy can connect you with highly experienced, friendly therapists in three London locations. Not in London? We can put you in touch with online therapists wherever you are.
Have a question about attending therapy for the first time we haven’t answered below? Ask in the comment box below.