5 Important Things You Must Know About Therapy
Thinking of starting therapy?
Taking that first step to focus on your mental health is a brave and wonderful thing. However, it can be scary not knowing what to expect if you have not been through the therapy process.
In this post, I write about the most important things you must know about therapy, drawing from my experience as a practicing psychotherapist. I hope this post helps you better understand what to expect from therapy, and decide whether therapy is for you.
Without further ado, here are 5 important things you must know about therapy.
1 | Going for therapy is perfectly normal.
“I don’t feel too happy, but I’m not too sure if this is something serious enough for me to require… therapy.”
“So… do you think that there is something wrong with me?”
Here’s the most important thing about therapy that you need to know – Going for therapy does not mean that you are weak or crazy. Frequently, clients voice out the concerns and hesitations that they have about seeking therapy. These concerns are perfectly understandable, given the strong stigma surrounding the idea of therapy, especially in our Asian culture. There is a serious misconception that if you need therapy, there must be something wrong with you.
However, the truth is that therapy is for everybody. Seeking therapy is about as normal as seeking professional care for any other aspects of your life, such as consulting a doctor when you are sick, or working with a personal trainer to improve your physical strength. It is equally important, and equally as valuable, whether you are working on improving your emotional health from a 0 to 2 or from a 6 to 8.
2 | Therapy is not just ‘talking’.
In the first few sessions, therapy may seem like it’s just ‘talking’. Through sharing about yourself, our first sessions together are important in allowing me to get to know you better, learn about the significant influences in your life, and understand where you are at this point in your life. From there, I can better understand the issues that you have been struggling with, and collaboratively decide the best way to move forward.
Therapy is also not the same as talking to a friend. Your friends may have their own personal opinions, and may give you advice on what they think you should do. They may also bring in their own problems. As your therapist, I am invested not in the outcomes of your final decision, but that you make the most comfortable decision for yourself.
3 | Therapy takes work.
“I just need you to cheer her up before her exams next week.”
Therapy does not work like a magic pill. Therapy requires you, the client, to do a lot of work. Some clients experience an emotional release right from the first session, by being able to share things that they have not been able to share with anybody else. While that is fantastic, most therapeutic change and personal growth only occurs when you start working on the hard stuff. This may mean revisiting painful experiences from the past, sitting in uncomfortable feelings, and working on the self-defeating beliefs and behaviours that have been holding you back. In addition, therapy also requires you to work on making these changes outside of the session, where your real life happens.
Therapy also requires commitment. Once we agree to work on a certain goal together, it is important that you are committed and show up for sessions consistently.
4 | Therapy can be uncomfortable and painful at times.
Sometimes, clients have the misconception that they should always feel good after each session. In the first few sessions, you may feel good simply by having a safe space to release your emotions. However, the true value of therapy should be to help you gain greater self-awareness and personal growth, not just for you to feel good an hour a week. It is normal for you to feel uncomfortable, overwhelmed or disheartened as the work progresses.
Some clients also share that they feel physically tired at the end of an emotionally draining session. This is a common experience known as ‘therapy hangover’. This is why some clients prefer to schedule sessions at the end of the work day, or during a free day, because it is hard to know how you would feel after.
5 | Therapy is a process that takes time.
The last thing that you need to know about therapy is that it is a process that takes time.
Research has shown that quality of the therapeutic alliance between the client and the therapist is one of the most important factors influencing therapy outcomes, and it takes time for a working relationship to establish. Furthermore, some of our issues have been established over the course of a few years, or even decades. Hence, it is only reasonable that it takes time to change deeply-rooted patterns that have established.
I hope that this was helpful in giving you an insight into the therapy process.