You may have recently encountered distressing life events or have for some time wanted help dealing with difficult feelings and experiences, and have now decided to seek support for yourself in the form of psychological therapy. Unless you have previous experience of therapy, it can be a daunting experience looking for a person to help you when you perhaps feel at your most vulnerable. Therefore, I wanted to open up about therapy to help you to decide if therapy is for you in this moment.
Often people new to psychological therapies expect seeing a therapist being like seeing a medical doctor; You go to an appointment, you may be given advice or a diagnosis and a prescription. Therapy is very different. There is no advice given or guarantee in therapy. Therapy is a process with different stages and where you form a therapeutic relationship with a therapist. This supportive human to human connection is generally found to be the most powerful instrument for helping individuals in distress.
In therapy, you will have an opportunity to speak in a confidential, supportive and non-judgemental environment about anything that you may be struggling with. Therapy is a space for you to connect with yourself without the distractions of everyday life, but you will also be challenged and therapy helps you to see things about yourself that you may not be able to see otherwise. This can be very uncomfortable at times, as we don’t generally like to see the shadow side of ourselves.
Usually, the first session is about identifying what brings you to therapy and whether you feel ready and comfortable working with that particular therapist. You may see benefits in just a short number of sessions, but often it takes longer to see progress and it is all dependent on what you bring in to the therapy room.
If difficulties have been building up for a long time, it will probably take some time to reduce or manage their impact on you. For example, in the short-term you can learn coping strategies for stress or improve your style of communication, whilst long-term work allows making sense of, for example, early experiences that may contribute to your current experiences of a conflict with a partner or someone at work. It is important to manage your expectations about the outcome of therapy and be patient. As therapy is a process, there are times when things move forward quicker and other times it slows down. If you feel that the sessions are not helpful and useful for you, talk to your therapist about it and perhaps a change in direction is needed.
Therapy can be really hard work at times, because you are tapping into very uncomfortable emotions. As a trained professional, your therapist will support you through these phases and help you to identify ways for self-soothing.
Many people benefit from having therapy. Here are just a few examples:
- Able to express feelings and be listened to in a supportive environment
- Increasing self-awareness, and understanding unhelpful behaviour patterns
- Improving relationships and communication
- Able to make more informed choices in life
- Develop coping strategies for managing difficult emotions
- Making sense of difficult life experiences and starting to heal internal wounds
- Become more accepting of oneself and building on self-compassion
The language used to describe different therapies can be very confusing. There are so many different therapy models and many practitioners integrate them too. There are evidence-based therapies like Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which have been researched a lot recently and they have been found to benefit many individuals. However, other therapies, such as psychodynamic, psychoanalytic, or humanistic and person-centred therapies, are not necessarily any less effective, they just have not been researched as much, because conducting research may be costly or difficult to carry out.
What divides many therapy models is the amount of structure they have varying from very structured sessions having a set agenda to little or no structure. Short-term therapy is usually more focused on a topic, whilst longer-term work allows more freedom to work on multiple topics. The type of therapy that suits you is also dependent on how you like to work and the distress you are experiencing. In any case, therapy requires your effort. The more you put in to it, the more you are likely to get out of it.
Finding the right therapist for you is essential for therapy. So when looking for support for your difficulties, focus on what the therapist tells about the way they work and think about whether that would fit with what you need. If it is difficult to know what might be helpful, contact therapists directly to discuss your needs. Sometimes you may have to speak to several therapists to find the right fit.
When speaking with the therapist, be open with her/him about what is really going on for you. This way the therapist is able to support and help you with the difficulties. If you feel very embarrassed about something you want to talk about, remember that it is likely that the therapist has heard something similar many times before. Therapists are trained professionals and used to talking about the most difficult and embarrassing issues. The therapist will not push you to disclose something you are not ready to talk about, but they will help you once you are ready.
This is a very general post about therapy and all different therapies and therapists have their own ways of working. However, hopefully you were able to get a bit better picture of what happens in psychological therapy. I hope you find the support you are looking for.
- Organise your FREE 15 min phone consultation to talk about how therapy could help in your situation. Contact now or book on-line!
- The first session is agreed if it seems like a good fit to work together
About the Author:
Dr Mari Kovanen, CPsychol, is a Counselling Psychologist, who runs her private practice on Harley Street and in Reigate. She has a specialist interest in childhood trauma and relationships. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org