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Behind Closed Doors: What Happens in Therapy?

What happens in therapy - woman in sessionTaking the time to understand and recreate yourself can be the start of a healthy process of change and personal development; a process termed ‘therapy’. If you have never had therapy or you are thinking about making your first appointment, you may wonder what therapy will entail. Questions such as, “Will my therapist think I’m crazy?” or “Do I really have to tell my shrink everything?” or “Will my therapist be able to help?” are actually quite common. So what happens in therapy and what should you know?

You are not alone

Feeling sceptical or hesitant about something you have never tried before is natural, and this applies to therapy too. One of the secrets shared among experienced therapists: YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE EXPERIENCING THE ISSUES THAT BROUGHT YOU TO THERAPY! Yes, it is true, other people are also trying to handle the same or similar issues. Many of them are in therapy as well. The issues you confront can raise feelings of isolation or uniqueness. Combating pre-therapy jitters is easier when you remember that you are not alone in your struggle, and that seeking therapy is quite common.

Therapists Work Differently

Another aspect about therapy that you need to know, is that not all therapists work in the same way. This is due to differences in training programs, professional backgrounds, or the psychotherapy techniques they integrate into the therapy process. For example, some therapists invite their clients to take off their shoes and get comfortable, laugh with them, clap when they try something new, cheer them when they succeed, encourage reflection, teach their clients about the brain’s process, or assign weekly “challenges” designed to encourage further accomplishments outside of therapy. Others may stay silent for most of the session and allow the client to do most of the talking. Your therapist may or may not do any of the these things. Regardless of their professional style, your therapist should give emotional support while you are in therapy, and help you reflect upon your life challenges.

Keep an open mind

During your first appointment, it is helpful if you can keep an open mind. Allow yourself to experience the process, notice how you feel during and afterwards, and then make an informed decision whether or not your therapist is right for you, or if you need more time to decide. Not all therapists will be right for you. Listening to your emotions can help you decide if you and your therapist are a good working fit. Remember, just because someone is a therapist does not necessarily mean that you will feel able to work with them. It is essential, in order for therapy to be successful, that you feel comfortable in speaking with your therapist. If you do not, you may wish to have a few more session to see if your feelings will change. If after several sessions you still feel unsure about your therapist, you may wish to consider speaking with another.

Stuck for something to say? Try ‘Free Associating’

Often clients worry about knowing what to speak about during therapy and they struggle over not having anything to say. The difficulty in finding something to say is common, and is actually something to speak about. There are several reasons for why finding something to speak about is difficult (i.e. not feeling comfortable enough, or worrying about being judged if you reveal too much). With your therapist’s help, the two of you may wish to explore the reasons why you are struggling over what to say. You may also be surprised to discover where your conversation will go in therapy if you do not try to plan what you are going to say. Free Association is the process of saying the first thing that comes to your mind without censorship. What actually comes up in the course of your therapy may come as a surprise to you. This is part of the “talking cure” and one of the reasons why therapy is effective.

Silence is ok too

Other times in the course of a session there might be silence which can in fact be a powerful aid in therapy. Often, our lives are full of noise and “small talk” which may make silence strange at first, but later it can be very comforting. When we fill the therapy session “space” with words, this leaves room for nothing else. Think of therapy as a cup, if it is already “full” with words, is room for anything else? Silence creates space for experiences that would not typically occur when not present. Silence can offer the key to understanding ourselves at a deeper level.

Taking the time for personal improvement and development can be very rewarding experience. Reflecting upon our motivations and actions is healthy because it allows us to see how our actions are affecting our lives. Feeling nervous or unsure about starting therapy is normal, but once the right therapist is found this should pass. Working with the right professional will help you to feel comfortable enough to reflect upon your life and discover new ways to approach issues. Finally, remembering that you are not the only human experiencing the issues you are dealing with and staying open-minded can allow you to be more resilient to the therapy process, whatever happens in your therapy sessions.

If you are considering undergoing therapy Harley Therapy Psychotherapy and Counselling have a team of experience therapists who can help you with your own personal development. You can call to find out more about what happens in therapy including the first assessment. 0845 474 1724.

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    Dr. Sheri Jacobson


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