I’ve never talked to anyone. I’m used to handling things on my own. Aren’t people who go to therapy weak?
If you are considering therapy for the first time, you are already demonstrating self awareness (by understanding your own needs) and confidence (by being willing to talk to someone you don’t know about a difficult personal situation). People often feel weak at the beginning of a first session because their life has landed them in uncomfortable or unfamiliar territory. Make sure you choose a therapist who is respectful and interested in learning about your strengths as she gets to know you. Good therapy is not designed to indulge people’s weaknesses. The strengths you already possess will be a significant part of the therapy process, and you can expect to become even stronger as a result.
What’s the difference between talking to you or my best friend or family?
Talking to someone you are close to can be comforting and reassuring. But perhaps you have begun to wonder if you need something more than their reassurance and friendly advice. A professionally trained and experienced therapist will have an in-depth understanding of possible avenues to address your problems and will know how to help you choose solutions that are right for you and put them to work in your life. Also, everything will be completely confidential, so you will be free to talk about things you might be embarrassed to discuss with friends and family, allowing a deeper exploration of your situation and reducing unhelpful reactions (yours or others’) that can distract you from what you need to do. A therapist’s job is to manage her own feelings so they won’t get in the way of helping you with yours. An effective therapist knows how to form a strong working partnership with you and at the same time is able to maintain enough separation to give you a comprehensive perspective on whatever you’re struggling with.
Why shouldn’t I just take medication?
Medication helps relieve distressing symptoms and is sometimes useful or even necessary. Psychotherapy goes beyond symptom reduction to help you think and behave in ways that bring increased satisfaction with yourself and your life. Effective therapy can actually change your body chemistry, by allowing you to change how you think and act. You, of course, are the one who decides which of the available options are right for you.
How does it work? What do I have to do in sessions?
You and your therapist will work out the answers to this question. Because every person is unique, there are many possible variations. To understand what you have to do, start with a bit of wisdom from Woody Allen: “Showing up is 80% of life.” Show up for your appointments and be present with all your thoughts, emotions, confusions, complications, regrets and hopes. Allow yourself to be as fully engaged as possible, even when it’s difficult. Your therapist will help you find direction and purpose in all of this.
How long will it take?
The length of therapy varies widely depending on the degree of satisfaction or dissatisfaction you currently have with yourself and your life, your interest or lack of interest in self awareness and personal growth, and the extent to which you decide therapy can help you with the things that matter most to you in life. Ultimately you will decide how long it takes.
I want to get the most out of therapy. What can I do to help?
Here are some things you can do to make the process as productive as possible: Be truthful with yourself and your therapist, especially about things that are hard to talk about. Make a commitment to yourself to be present for every scheduled session and to reschedule promptly when you need to cancel. Also, be sure to question the process if it’s not addressing your goals for therapy. A good therapist will welcome the chance to understand and adjust what isn’t working for you. Often your questioning will lead to a more meaningful collaboration between the two of you. Finally, do what you can to work toward your goals outside of sessions in whatever situation you find yourself in.
My partner and I are having problems. Should we be in individual counseling or come together?
If both of you want your relationship to be the primary focus of therapy and you both agree you would like to find out more about my approach, I will see you together for an initial consultation. If you decide you want to work with me, we will move ahead with couples counseling. It is not advisable to move from individual counseling to couples work with the same therapist because of privileged information, which can undermine the process. Couples work can be an effective way to address individual issues, and you may find that no additional individual work is needed for you and your partner. Individual work can be considered once the couples work is finished.