Mental Health

What To Know Before Your First Therapy Session

June 15, 2017

As a therapist, I seriously think I have the best job in the world.  I get paid to talk to people and help them navigate life when it gets tricky.  A lot of times, when I tell people I’m a psychotherapist, they go, “Ohhh, wooowww, that must be so hard.  Ugh, how do you do […]

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what to know before your first therapy session
As a therapist, I seriously think I have the best job in the world.  I get paid to talk to people and help them navigate life when it gets tricky.  A lot of times, when I tell people I’m a psychotherapist, they go, “Ohhh, wooowww, that must be so hard.  Ugh, how do you do that, I could never do that.”  And I just smile and say, “Actually, I love my job.”  It’s true.  Being a therapist rocks.
Sure, there are difficult things about my job, as there are in any other.  But I also happen to love a challenge, and I definitely see each one as an opportunity to grow.  The challenge I face most often?  Every time a new client shows up at my office, I have 45 minutes to an hour to learn as much as I can about them, help them learn as much as they can about me, and determine whether or not we are a good fit to work together.
As much as I do love this challenge, there are a few things that I wish I could tell every client ahead of our first session to put them more at ease, thereby making that first session a little more comfortable for both of us.  Because let’s be real…sharing all your deep life struggles with a perfect stranger can be a bit awkward and intimidating at first.  If you’d like to know what to know before your first therapy session, here are six things I wish I could tell all my clients before they step into my office:
You’re not crazy…life is just hard sometimes.  Despite strides that have been made to remove the stigma associated with therapy and psychotropic medication, the fact remains that many people still feel ashamed of utilizing the support of a therapist.  It still feels like something people want to hide.  While it’s ok not to shout it from the rooftops that you’re in therapy, there’s also no need to feel ashamed.  Guys, life is HARD.  Sometimes it hits us like a mack freaking truck when we least expect it.  That’s not your fault, it just is what it is.  The sooner you are ok with reaching out and getting some help, the sooner you will start to feel better.  It’s a very healthy and wise thing to do when life feels overwhelming.

Therapy can help everyone but not every therapist can help every person. Therapists are people, too.  We all have unique personalities, life circumstances, and experiences that make us who we are.  This means that we will be the right fit for some people, and not for others.  Most of us have client populations that are our “jam,” groups of people with certain problems that we specialize with or know a lot about.  Some people want a therapist to have a similar personality or background as them.  Other people don’t feel this is important.  The biggest thing is to find someone you feel comfortable sharing with.  If you go to a therapist once or twice and you are cringing before you walk through the door each time, PLEASE go try another therapist.  We won’t be offended.  It’s the nature of the beast, if you will.  You gotta do you and remember that you will only be wasting your time and money going to a therapist you can’t be totally open with.

We’re not here to solve your problems – we will empower you to.  I wish I could take all of my client’s pain away, and make them happy and peaceful every day.  I probably don’t have to tell you that that is not really what we do.  Honestly, our job as therapists is to sit with you in your pain or stress or suffering and validate your experience.  We can offer suggestions and a different viewpoint. We can offer an unbiased opinion, if you ask us to.  We can point out things you maybe hadn’t thought of simply because you were too close to the situation.  Our goal is to help YOU accomplish YOUR goals.  And often, with just a little extra therapeutic support, clients do just that.
Tell us what you think about things, we welcome your feedback and input…you’re the boss, not us!  Please, please, please be honest and tell us how we’re doing.  We want so much to help you, but we are depending on you completely to tell us whether or not things are improving for you.  We work for you…when you succeed, we succeed, so please give feedback and input as much as possible.  If we need to try a different approach, we are more than happy to do so.
We’re not judging you.  A lot of times, people hesitate to share certain secrets, or things they feel ashamed of with their therapist because they have never shared those things with anyone before. Sharing difficult things is hard for everyone.  But please know that we aren’t judging your actions, thoughts, or experiences.  In fact, there’s a really good chance we’ve heard it all before.  Please know that your therapist is in your corner, and their #1 job is to treat you with unconditional positive regard…that means no matter what you share with us, we accept and support you.
We forget about you 5 minutes after you leave.  I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but we seriously stop thinking about you pretty much as soon as you leave our office.  And that’s a really good thing.  It means we can handle your stuff.  It also that means you never have to worry that you are burdening us with your troubles. Often, people are hesitant to share their struggles with others because they don’t want to bog them down or stress them out.  With a therapist, you never need to worry about that.  We’re pretty awesome at leaving work at work.  So go ahead, share away.
So now you know what to know before your first therapy session.  I hope these have been helpful to someone out there…if you have been considering therapy for any reason, I would encourage you to go for it.  What have you really got to lose?  If you hate it, you’ve only wasted an hour of your life.  If you love it, on the other hand, you may have just found an awesome new way to practice self care. Now that’s what I call adulting.  And also, winning.

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