Let’s spend some time today unpacking the idea of therapy and what it is. I have noticed that for many people, there are too many unknowns for them to be fully comfortable seeking it out, and this is a shame, because therapy is an incredibly powerful tool that we can use to live our lives more fully.
I hear it all the time! “What do I need therapy for when I have friends and family who love me and want to hear what’s going on?” There’s a misconception that therapy is supposed to meet the same need that friends and family do. Having a strong social network is incredibly important, and frankly, even the most skillful therapy cannot replace these connections. But the opposite is also true. Regardless of how kind, and loving, and present your friends and family are, they aren’t a replacement for therapy.
But that doesn’t really answer our questions. What is therapy? What will it be like? And what is a reason to go to therapy? These and so many others are the ever present questions that prevent us from accessing all of the tools available to live the life that we want to have.
Think about the last time you were having a hard time. Maybe you were having issues in your relationship and you were trying to decide if you were going to try to make it work or move on. Sure, you talked to your friends and family about it! But your mom never liked him anyway. You’ve been together for 3 years and your mom still hasn’t moved past her first impression. You talk to your best friend about it, too. And it’s not that she isn’t helpful, she definitely lightens the mood. It’s just that drinking mimosas made the conversation veer off course. You felt a lot better after hanging out, you just didn’t have any answers. So you’re left to sort through all the fighting and the feelings by yourself, and you’re just as lost as you were a week ago.
The thing is that therapy isn’t just for people who have experienced trauma or have severe anxiety (although it helps for them, too). It’s also to help us learn more about ourselves so that we can make decisions that feel more authentic and move us closer to the life we want to have. Everyone, at some point or another, has a hard time sorting through confusing and often conflicting feelings. Even the best of relationships will have moments when you consider walking away, and every breakup, even those that are the healthiest comes with grief. Life is messy. And we don’t always take the time, or even know how, to sort through our feelings.
Therapy may feel like a big, scary thing, but it’s actually meant to help you feel more like yourself and make decisions that fit what you want out of life. Whether it is trauma, anxiety, life stress, or relationship challenges getting in your way, therapy can help you feel good about the direction you’re going. Here are ten things about therapy that can help you make a decision about whether or not it’s for you.
Keep reading for these ten things to know about therapy to help you decide if it’s time to try it.
CAN’T MAKE A DECISION
Therapy certainly isn’t for everyone, or for every situation. But it helps a lot of people with a lot of different issues. If you don’t know what it is then how can you determine if it’s the right thing for you in that instance? I’m a big believer in having enough information to make the right decision for you.
CONFIDENCE TO KNOW WHAT YOU NEED
The idea is to give you enough information that you can confidently move forward with your decision about how you want to move forward. Let’s get you enough information to be able to make a decision that is right for you, either to engage with therapy or not, but also to find a therapist whose style will really meet your needs.
TEN THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THERAPY
Therapy may seem a bit too mysterious for you to comfortably engage in it when you are struggling. The key to making solid decisions about when and how to engage in therapy is to know what you’re getting into and what you want to get out of it. So let’s take a look at ten things to know about therapy to help you make good decisions about if therapy is right for you right now, and if so, what you want it to do for you.
Check out these 10 things about therapy to help you make your decisions.
#10 You will build a relationship with your therapist
The thing is that therapy doesn’t work if you don’t feel safe with your therapist. They will be there while you are struggling. They will support you in learning about yourself and making sometimes uncomfortable perspective shifts, and we just aren’t open to this type of change if we don’t feel safe with the person in the room.
This may sound kind of strange, but often you will see your therapist for one focused hour a week. That’s more than you’ll see most anyone else in your life. Building a relationship will happen one way or another. If the therapy is going to be productive for you, it’s important that you basically like and trust the person guiding you through the process.
#9 Therapy should be uncomfortable, but not painful
This is so important. Therapy is not just idly chit chatting for an hour. There may be some chit chat in there, but it is punctuated with moments that are intense, or uncomfortable and challenging. There should be a good balance. This is part of what makes therapy different from just leaning on your friends and family. A therapist is going to find the spaces where you can grow, but not shove you into those spaces without your permission. Hence, therapy should not be painful. . .at least not for extended periods of time. If you trust your therapist, then you know that they are going to gently guide you through the hard stuff and get you back to a space where you feel back to yourself before you leave the session to do your life.
#8 Therapy should be focused
There might be some veering off in different directions, especially if you have a particularly difficult week that is unrelated to the issue that brought you in in the first place. But for the most part, there should always be a pull towards working on the issues that originally brought you in. Otherwise it’s hard to make any real, focused progress.
#7 Therapy is directed by you
Many people don’t realize that you are actually the boss in the therapy session. I am there to guide you and I will gently nudge you in a direction if I feel like it will be helpful, but you have veto power. We are there to talk about what is going to be the most helpful to you. Also, you know yourself and your family better than I do. You are the boss of your life. I’m just here to support you in uncovering what you already know about how to move forward.
#6 Therapy is best when you can be consistent
Typically your sessions will be scheduled for one hour a week. There are limited instances where you and your therapist may decide that sessions might be spread out a bit more or less than this depending on your specific goals. Your consistency in coming in to sessions will make a big impact on the speed of your progress. If there are sometimes multiple weeks in between sessions, there can be a lot of time spent just catching up about what has happened in the meantime, and that’s not a good use of your time.
If you are able to come consistently to your appointments, you will be more able to be consistently building on what you have been working on in previous sessions, and you’ll find that you are able to see more change more quickly.
#5 There are a lot of different types of therapy and therapists
You’ll hear this a lot. Therapy works the best when you find a therapist and a style of therapy that fits your personality and your needs. My personality and style works beautifully for a lot of people, but I am certainly not the best therapist for everyone. The way I think about mental health and relationship health heavily colors the way that I work, and this is true of all therapists.
For this reason, you may choose to try talking with a few therapists before you settle on the one that works for you. Most therapists will offer an opportunity to ask them questions and get to know them before you commit to sessions, and this is a great way for you to learn more about what does and doesn’t work for you.
#4 Some challenges take a long time to deal with, but others can be very short time
Every so often someone will ask how long they will need to be in therapy. And the answer to that is actually rather complicated. Honestly, it mostly depends on what you are trying to get out of the therapy. Do you have a stressful situation you need help navigating? That might take a few months. Are you trying to sort through a pattern you’ve noticed in your relationships that isn’t working for you? That might take a bit longer to sort through. This leads me into my next point.
#3 Therapy can help you make decisions, but your therapist isn’t going to tell you what to do
You are the boss. This is your life. You know more about your family, your life, and your feelings than I ever will. I will listen and be engaged. I might even have opinions (I’m pretty opinionated), but therapy isn’t about me telling you what to do. It’s about helping you get to a place where you can confidently make decisions that really serve your interest.
#2 Your therapist won’t judge you
Really though. If you feel judged by your therapist that is a problem. Everyone has weak moments. Everyone has aggressive impulses. Everyone has dark thoughts. Everyone thinks and does things they are not proud of sometimes. Therapy is about being really honest about what you are feeling and doing and identifying how to move forward in the way that is going to help you feel better. There’s no room for judging there.
#1 There is a therapist who will work with your schedule
I know you’re busy, and it can be hard to set aside the time for yourself. I get it. It can feel like the time might be better used doing something else. I would argue that if you took the time to take care of yourself you’d be able to make better use of the rest of your time.
But that aside, therapists work all kinds of weird hours. It is super likely that you will find someone who can work with your schedule. I mean, this is part of why I do online therapy. No one has to drive anywhere, and it allows for a ton more scheduling flexibility.
Making the decision to try therapy is a big one. It can take you some time to identify who would be a good fit, and get through the fear that might be stopping you from moving forward. Hopefully having some more information about what therapy is and what to look for might help you feel better about making a decision for yourself.
If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, let’s schedule a consult. I’d be happy to brainstorm with you about what you are looking for in a therapist, even if I’m not a good fit.
Email me today to get started.