What Can I Expect When I Start Therapy?

For those who’ve never tried it or don’t know anyone who has, therapy can feel scary. If you’re struggling with your mental health, needing someone to talk to, experiencing a substance abuse issue, having behavioral challenges, or just feeling lost, seeing a therapist could be a great way to gift yourself with better mental health over the holiday season. In the middle of a global pandemic, the reality is that many people all over the world are struggling with mental illness. Seeing a therapist and getting appropriate mental health services can make a huge difference in your overall quality of life. If you’re considering calling a counselor to get help with your mental health but aren’t sure if you’re ready, here are a few things you can expect in therapy.

Therapists and Myths

Many people worry that a therapist will tell them what to do and how to live. The truth is that most therapists practice a client-driven approach to treatment plans. That is, they work with you to come up with an appropriate treatment plan for you and can even provide or refer you to additional services like family therapy if you need it.

The first time you see a therapist, it’s a good idea to share your concerns about therapy. Tell your therapist it’s your first time, any myths you may have heard, and why you might be having reservations or trust issues. Your therapist will be happy to be transparent with you about the type of therapy they use and how it might help you in your process of healing. They may be able to offer a variety of forms of expressive therapy, too. It won’t hurt to ask.

For example, if you’re a young adult struggling with direction, you can do some research ahead of your first session and come prepared with a list of questions for your therapist. In visiting a fantastic therapy group like the one at CharlieHealth.com, you’ll be able to get a good idea of what they offer for mental health services. Charlie Health’s virtual Intensive Outpatient Program is focused on helping teens, young adults, and their families to heal. The therapists there will talk with you, not to you or at you about ways you can eliminate feelings of sadness and more from your life.

The First Visit

Your first visit will include what’s called a clinical intake assessment. While it may sound technical and intimidating, all this really means is that your therapist will ask you questions about your life, interests, family, education, goals, and more. It’s during the first session that your therapist will do what they can to get to know you including learning about why you’ve come to therapy and what you hope to gain from the experience.

Therapists don’t make diagnoses or set up treatment plans during the initial session. Instead, this is a time to get to know one another and begin to establish a therapeutic alliance that will be important down the road.

Long-Term Therapy

Therapy and healing aren’t a race. Depending on the therapeutic modality you and your therapist agree on, you could be seeing your therapist for 12 weeks or many years. Some therapists will recommend a combination of medications or group therapy and individual therapy. Being open-minded and honest with your therapist will help you for the longer term.

At the end of the day, no matter what type of mental health services you opt to get, remembering that your therapist is a normal person who understands symptoms of depression and why therapy can be intimidating is important. Being honest and setting clear expectations and boundaries from the beginning will help you both to transition into the great work of positive change and mental well-being ahead.


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