You may be thinking about starting therapy or have already decided to seek support for your mental health. Whatever stage you are at and whatever your reasons, it is normal to experience some trepidation or confusion about the whole process.
While therapy can be incredibly effective and transformative, it does require a degree of investment – often your time and money, as well as the willingness to confront challenging things.
Given the investment involved, you might like to have some information to help you navigate this time and get the most out of your therapy sessions. Here are some ideas:
Do what allows you to disconnect from your everyday tasks and responsibilities so that you can be present and engaged for the duration of your therapy session. Dress comfortably with layers so that you are not too hot or cold. You may also like to switch off your phone and allocate some time to relax before your appointment. This time could be spent writing down any notes or questions for your therapist, having a glass of water or doing some mindful breathing.
Being sincere and safe
All psychologists must safeguard your confidentiality. Even though this is the case, it can take time to build trust with your therapist. People can usually talk easily to their doctor about a physical injury but feel extremely uncomfortable about the idea of talking to a mental health professional about their internal world (their thoughts, feelings and behaviours). Being honest about your experiences is important for accurate assessment and treatment. However, honesty may also look like saying “I’m not ready or comfortable to talk about that right now.” It is vital that you feel safe and understood by your therapist to make progress. Research has shown that the relationship between the therapist and client is one of the strongest factors in successful treatment. If you don’t think the relationship is right after a few sessions, you might like to chat about your concerns or seek the support of a different therapist.
The first therapy session usually involves some admin and housekeeping. Your psychologist will spend the first session/s getting to know you and the problems you are experiencing. Sometimes these sessions can involve sensitive questions or exploring one’s past or family of origin. While it can be hard to talk about these things, this information helps your therapist to make sense of your concerns and create a tailored and effective treatment plan. It is also important to note that therapy can be a bumpy road. Progress is not always linear - there can be highs, lows and plateaus. Despite these challenges, you can expect improvement over time and should have clarity and hope about where therapy is going.
Being ready to learn and practice
Progress in therapy often occurs outside the therapy space. Your everyday life is an opportunity to practice what has been discussed in session. Some therapists will set “homework”. Homework is meant to be beneficial, relevant, and achievable. This means you should understand the homework and feel motivated to do it (even if it might be uncomfortable). If this isn’t the case, be open and chat to your therapist – maybe the homework needs tweaking. If something didn’t work between sessions, take note of it, and give this feedback to your therapist. This important information will help them understand you and adapt therapy accordingly. After leaving your session, it can be helpful to schedule some time (on the trip home or in a quiet place) that will allow you to process the session and transition smoothly back into your daily life. This might involve reflecting, speaking with someone close to you, going for a walk, journaling, or praying.
Hopefully these tips will give you the confidence to start therapy, or some help on how to get the most out of your time with your therapist. If you have any questions or would like to discuss your requirements, please contact RWA Reception. Our client relations team can guide you to make an appointment or answer any concerns or questions you may have…
- Huberman, A. (Host). (2022, June 6). Dr Paul Conti: Therapy, Treating Trauma & Other Life Challenges. [Audio Podcast Episode]. In Huberman Lab.
- Muran, J. C. & Barber, J. P. (2010). The Therapeutic Alliance: An Evidence-Based Guide to Practice. Guildford Press.
- Norcross, J. C. (2011). Evidence-Based Therapy Relationships. Psychotherapy, 48(1).
Jane is a registered psychologist, having completed a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology. She enjoys working collaboratively with adolescents and adults, in a way that is holistic and respectful of their choices, beliefs and cultural background. Call RWA psychology for an appointment with Jane or one of our other psychologists.