Working with a therapist can feel intimidating, especially if you’re struggling with emotional overwhelm and anxiety. These ten truths will help make it easier for you to reach out for help when you’re ready.
1. It’s only scary the first couple of sessions. I mean, you’ll probably feel a little weird, uncomfortable, anxious, and full of doubt at the very idea that you’re sharing private stuff with a total stranger. You should be scared and mistrustful … after all, who am I?!
That fear is good; it’s trying to protect you. What’s important, though, is to not let fear make your decisions for you. When we work together, you’ll learn to tell the difference between healthy, good-for-you fear, and the other kind that can keep you stuck in hidden self-sabotaging behaviors forever.
2. You may spend the entire week between sessions trying to talk yourself out of having another one.
One of my favorite clients, someone who worked with me consistently for over a year, did this every week. For over a year. In the meantime, every week she showed up for herself, and started changing self-defeating patterns almost immediately (including the idea that her life was good enough, and she was happy enough). She began understanding what kind of life she could have if she did the work she’d been avoiding her whole life, and within a year she’d made a terrific career choice for herself.
we’ll laugh together once in a while
She ended a never-going-anywhere relationship and met the partner she’d been yearning for for over a decade. She learned how to trust herself and her ability to set boundaries, hold onto her emotions when they were too big, allow herself to have what she said she wanted, and generally … deepen into herself without having to hide who she is.
We laughed about how part of her had never wanted to come to therapy, while lots of other parts were excited and eager to learn how to be happy. And all of her was beyond grateful to finally be living her dream.
3. You might begin making some pretty big choices very quickly. And that can be a bit unsettling and uncomfortable. Change can be uncomfortable. That’s OK, that’s just how it is. (Here’s a super-popular TED Talk with Brene Brown riffing on vulnerability.) We’ll work with that discomfort. After all, you don’t want to work with a therapist to keep doing the same things. You want things to be different, and better, and easier, and more joyful.
4. You’re going to learn some things about yourself that you didn’t know. You might learn that things that’ve happened to you aren’t your fault. You may discover that there’s nothing wrong with you. You’ll come to understand that you’re so much more than who you think who are, and perhaps deserve more than you have (money, respect, love … little things like that).
5. You’ll do some deep, hard work. Working with a therapist can be akin to an archeology dig. Your psyche, mind, and heart are the “dig,” and we’re the archeologists gently, lovingly, carefully digging for the treasure that’s gotten buried over the years.
Sometimes it’ll feel really hard. That’s OK. We’ll be careful and gentle and loving with your tenderness. It’s the only way through. You can’t just wish yourself into a different place. The layers of emotions and built-up thoughts and beliefs about how it all works need to be explored, and, in some cases, re-worked. That’s OK.
I’ll be with you every step of the way, shining a light so you can see your way through.
6. Talking things out with someone can be a powerful healing experience. Especially if that’s someone whose life mission and training is to
~offer well-timed guidance,
~show you new strategies and techniques and ways of thinking about things,
~help you stay accountable to yourself and your dreams, and
~hold you with sacred support.
7. “Graduating” from therapy starts with the very first session. Therapy doesn’t last forever. My job is to be out of a job as quickly as possible. You’ll be learning, integrating and successfully using all the tools we work on together throughout our time together. When that’s happened, usually after about a year, you’re on your way.
8. Some therapists will be better for you than others. You need a therapist who gets you, who sees you, and who can offer the right kinds of techniques at the right time, encouraging and motivating you to take the actions you need to accomplish your goals. Having the right therapist can make all the difference.
9. We can’t always help you. If you’re not ready to change, I’ll try to help you get there, but it may not be the right time for you. On the other hand, if you start therapy with the expectation that I can solve all of your problems, you’ll be disappointed. I can show you how to make the changes, but I can’t do them for you.
(spoiler alert) therapists don’t know everything
We aren’t trained in everything. We don’t have the same life experiences. We don’t focus on the same problems, or solutions. If I think working with another therapist might serve you better, I’ll help you find someone who better fits your needs.
10. Successful, long-lasting, deep, positive change doesn’t happen in 4-5 sessions. Working with a therapist often means unpacking patterns that, in some cases, took a lifetime to develop. You may feel better for a minute working in short-term therapy, but in my experience, until you re-work some of the underlying reasons for your choices and behaviors, and have enough time to develop real self-confidence, the problems just keep showing up.