You’ve decided therapy is right for you. (This article can help you decide if you aren’t sure) You’ve done the research and chosen your therapist. (Learn how to find your perfect therapist here.) You know how you are going to pay for therapy. (This post will help you with that.)
It’s time to go to your very first session. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of therapy.
1. Everything you tell us is confidential. Remember-we are bound by HIPPA. What that means for you is that we can’t divulge any details about what you tell us. (Exceptions, of course, are if you are a danger to yourself or others or if a child or elder is being abused. It’s always best to clarify these situations with your therapist.) Outside of that, everything you share with us remains with us.
2. You won’t shock us. You won’t freak us out or scare us. You can talk about anything and everything, including sex. I know it might be uncomfortable for you to talk about sex in a therapy session. Truth? It was a little uncomfortable for me the first few times it was brought up in sessions. By now, it’s a routine part of the job. We won’t be uncomfortable and with practice, you won’t be either.
3. We won’t judge you. I truly believe that I don’t walk in your shoes so I don’t get to determine what is right or wrong for you. Your choices don’t have to be my choices. Our job, as therapists, is to back you up and help support you in your life. It’s not to decide what we think your life should look like.
4. We won’t tell you what to do. I get this one a lot. Sometimes we just don’t want to struggle, we want someone else to tell us what to do. We will never do that. If we don’t get to decide what is right or wrong for you, how could we possibly tell you what to do? We will help you talk through your options and we’ll probably give you a different perspective. But you choose what to do and you know what? We’ll back your play regardless.
5. You get to set the pace. We get it, you don’t know your new therapist and you might not trust her yet. That’s fine. We also get that some of the things you talk about are things you’ve never told a soul. Take your time, get to know your therapist. Get comfortable and feel safe. We have plenty of time. You don’t have to rush anything. One caveat-it’s useful if you can let your therapist know this isn’t something you want to talk about yet. I also get that can be really hard to do, but it does make your therapists job that much easier.
6. Time takes time. We live in a fast paced culture and we’re used to getting instant results. Unfortunately, therapy doesn’t work that way. It takes time to trust your therapist. It takes time to learn new coping skills. It takes time to work up to talking about the really big stuff. I’ve had clients want to see me two or three times a week to ‘speed up the process.’ It doesn’t work that way. It takes as much time as it takes to heal, there’s no way around it.
7. Therapy takes work! Coming in for an hour a week is only part of the solution. It’s a big first step, but it’s only the first step. There is almost always work to be done in between sessions.
8. Therapy can be uncomfortable. Change doesn’t come easily. You have to push outside your comfort zone. Learning new ways to think, new ways to cope, new ways to interact with the world. All of this can feel super scary and super icky to start with. Unfortunately, without pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone there can be no change. But! The end result-it’s so worth all the discomfort.
9. Therapy can be exhausting. It’s different for everyone and not every session is exhausting, but be prepared. I encourage my clients to have a plan for after sessions. A supportive person they can turn to if they need to process the session. A self-care plan if they’re feeling fragile. It’s okay that some sessions leave you wiped out, but self-care is crucial.
10. It’s okay to be scared. It’s more than okay, it’s normal. You can even start your first session by talking about how scary it is. Talking to friends and family about their experiences can help you feel less alone. If you want, you can even ask someone you trust to go with you and hang out in the waiting room. Courage is being afraid and taken action anyway. You are brave and you’ve totally got this!
In addition to creating Bodhi Counseling, Melanie Sivley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Champaign, IL. She specializes in Anxiety, Depression and Trauma. She is a student of Zen Buddhism. She is EMDR trained and currently pursuing her EMDR certification.
Melanie Sivley, LCSW
206 N. Randolph, Suite 505B
Champaign, IL 61820