It’s normal for people to feel anxious about going into therapy for the first time given that it can be a huge, emotional, and personal step. Sometimes it can be about not knowing what to expect from therapy; not having a clear understanding of what you’re about to embark on. Since taking the first step can be challenging, here are answers to frequently asked questions about therapy to ease the process.
- What happens during the first session?
The first session is normally dedicated to introductions. The objective of the first therapy session is mainly for the therapist and the client to get to know each other a little bit. The client is expected to give the therapist an idea of who they are as a person with an overall picture of what their life is like. In addition, they’re encouraged to share anything that they think would be relevant or important for the therapist to know about them. For the most part, the therapist asks very broad and vague questions in the beginning; for example, “Why are you here today?” “Tell me about yourself”. This happens so that therapists can leave room/ space for their clients to fill in the gaps with whatever they would like to say. The client can start by talking about their interests, their aspirations in life, their hobbies etc., or they can dive right into what they came to talk about today/ their struggles. In some cases, clients might find themselves wondering about the therapist’s professional background, so taking the opportunity to ask about that in the first session might bring them some comfort as it is their right to ask. Most of the time, the therapist will introduce themselves by sharing information about their education level, years of experience, and the school of thought they follow. A discussion of the therapeutic approach (CBT, psychodynamic, etc.) that will be used in sessions is brought up from the start as well. Therapists explain what the approach is about, what it focuses on, why we will be using it, and how to apply. This sets clear expectations for the client for later future sessions. For example, if the therapist uses gestalt therapy, which focuses on both cognition and behavior, then their main goal is firstly to teach their clients how to identify negative patterns of thoughts and behaviors. After they have successfully done so, they teach the client how they can progressively correct these negative patterns and turn them into constructive ones.
2. What happens in between sessions?
Most cases, therapy takes place on a weekly basis where clients meet with their therapists once a week. Many therapists would argue that most of the work is actually done in-between sessions and that the therapeutic journey is never on pause once the client leaves their meeting. A common misconception is that therapists are there to fix the person’s life. The fact is that they offer guidance to their clients by giving them tools they can use to change and heal the parts of their lives that need so. A common activity that happens in between sessions is assignments. Therapists might give their clients an assignment to do throughout the week until their next session. These differ depending on what the person is dealing with and what they’re seeking in therapy. For example, If the person is having a hard time grieving over a loved one, the therapist can ask them to write letters so that they can put all their thoughts and feelings into words and let them out. If they have social anxiety, the therapist might ask them to expose themselves to people, or go to a social event and help them think of talking points that they can discuss with people during gatherings. If their client feels overwhelmed because of the stress and anxiety they get before exams, the therapist can teach them how to use grounding techniques to calm them down. Another example would be for clients who have low self-esteem, their therapist might ask them to practice words of affirmation every day to help them gain more confidence. Some of these tasks can be easier than others, but the most important factor for results to occur is for the client to stay consistent and practice what they are asked to do throughout the week.
3. How long does therapy last?
The answer to this question solely depends on each person. There are several factors that determine approximately how long a person will need to work with a therapist to get the results that they want. The first factor is the type of therapeutic method that the therapist practices. Some methods like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) usually don’t require a long period of time whereas other methods that are more holistic like psychotherapy take longer for results to start showing. Where the client first started in terms of the severity of their symptoms, and what their goals for therapy are also have an influence on how long the person will be needing a therapist. Let’s take a client who has severe depression, coming into therapy with hopes of becoming extremely joyful, sociable and motivated to work as an example. This person will probably take a long time to reach their goal since there’s a remarkably significant difference between where they started their journey and where they would like to be. Other people go into therapy with smaller goals in mind. Some individuals feel that they’re in a good place in their life and they’re quite accomplished, but they would like to gain more awareness about how they can improve the quality of their life even more.A few sessions will probably suffice for these people to see results and improvement since they won’t be needing to go through a major transition. In any of these cases, the client is usually the one who decides when they feel ready to continue their journey on their own, and they gradually increase the duration between each session until they no longer feel the need for assistance from their therapist.
A Word from O7therapy
Feeling all sorts of emotions before beginning therapy is normal. We encourage you to ask a lot of questions, do your research, and have an open-mind going into therapy because it's your right! and If you ever feel lost or anxious, you can always reach out and we will answer all your concerns.