I am assuming those reading this either recently entered therapy, are thinking about it, or are researching for a friend or family member. Either way, I commend you for your boldness to potentially experience something new. With newness there is unfamiliarity, and maybe even moments of feeling uncomfortable, but with every new experience comes a new sense of knowledge, thoughts, feelings, and dare I say…healing. It is important to know that you are not the only “newbie” in this. In fact, according to Study Finds, in 2020, 1 in 6 Americans entered therapy for the first time! It is my hope that you feel a sense of comfort knowing that many others are and have been just as curious about the therapeutic process as you. We will walk through general expectations, formatting of sessions and I will review the general aspects of the therapeutic process with you all.
Usually, the first one to two sessions are all about gathering information, and gaining a better understanding of you, the individual. Clients come into therapy for a multitude of reasons, including life transitions, anxiety symptoms, relational conflict, depression etc. so your first session allows the therapist to get a broad understanding of where you are and what you need.
Normally, your therapist will go through any limits to confidentiality and may disclose a bit on how they operate as a therapist. In counseling, each therapist has what we call a preferred “modality.” Essentially, this can shift how each therapist approaches a session. If their modality is psychodynamic, that would mean that they are very interested in your childhood and how that has impacted who you are today, whereas, someone that focuses on CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) may focus more on what is happening in your current day and how your thoughts and behaviors affect that.
I know that may sound like a lot, but either way, know that you, the client, can advocate for what YOU want. One thing I always tell my clients is that at the end of the day, each session is for YOU and I always want to ensure that you are getting what you need out of it. With that, feedback is always welcomed and acknowledged. If you are not feeling like you are getting what you need, don’t be afraid to say something! We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. It is important for you to feel empowered in each and every session.
Now this is not the usual for all therapists, but it is possible you may be assigned “homework” from time to time. Don’t worry, your homework won’t be graded or anything, but it is there to help you continue to grow and apply what you learned to your day to day life.
Let’s say you are working on building self esteem in session. One thing your therapist might assign you to do that week is write out 5 self affirmation statements that week. Or, maybe you are working on changing your thought pattern, so you might be asked to journal at least once that week to be mindful of your self talk patterns. Either way, know that it is ultimately for the benefit of you, the client. If the homework does not seem to work for you or feels unimpactful, let your therapist know. It’s okay to do that! In fact it is encouraged!
Healing is possible
As I stated earlier, the specific structure of therapy may vary between each therapist but I hope this provides you with a general understanding of the flow of your sessions. Although, I cannot emphasize enough that YOU have the power in your session to voice what you do or don’t want in each session. A good therapist should adjust to each unique client and that includes you. It may seem scary or unfamiliar but really, what could it hurt? It is okay to have fear but it is more about what you do with the fear that can affect your life. My hope is that you are able to take that fear and step into boldness with it.
Know that we have a multitude of therapists here at Optimum Joy Clinical Counseling and we would love to connect with you. Feel free to reach out to our intake team to get the process started today!
Written by therapist Fallyn Lara