If this is your first time in counseling, you might not know what to expect. You might feel anxious about getting started. You also are likely to have some questions and apprehensions about the therapy process. Maybe you’ve been in therapy before and are looking to make some more progress on your journey.
Regardless of your situation, here are five things we therapists would like you to take into consideration as you begin this endeavor.
1. Make sure we offer what you need.
The majority of therapists have professional websites; profiles through insurance companies; and summaries that explain our expertise, location and philosophy. When you begin your search for a therapist, your first step should be to do some research and look for someone who is a good fit.
For example, my website has no indication that I work with people struggling with substance abuse, yet I invariably get calls for help with addiction treatment. This would not be a good fit because addiction is not my area of training or expertise—and of course, I would tell the person calling that before scheduling an appointment.
Someone seeking couples counseling would likely find a marriage and family therapist to be the best fit. If you need help managing bipolar, a professional who has experience with that diagnosis may offer the most support. Make sure to chat first on the phone or during a free consult with your potential provider (many care providers offer an initial free consult) before scheduling.
2. We want you to commit to the therapy process.
Therapy isn’t easy. It can often stir up issues, at least temporarily. Most people need more than a few sessions to get to the core of the issues they’re experiencing. While many people I work with do report feeling better after unloading everything in that initial session, the work has only just begun! Both time and consistency are necessary to really dig in and address what you’re struggling with.
Like inconsistent physical exercise, irregular therapy sessions probably won’t get you the emotional results you’re seeking. But when you make a commitment to yourself to work through the tough stuff, you’re starting yourself off on the right foot. To get an idea of what to expect, you can talk about a timeline with your therapist.
3. We don’t give advice.
People I work with will sometimes ask, “What do you think I should do?” But I can’t necessarily tell you what’s good for you. We may all know, deep down, what’s right for us. But knowing what’s best for me doesn’t mean my way is right for other people.
We’re appreciative of feedback, whether it comes during the therapeutic process or at the time of discharge. Feedback helps us improve at our jobs and better serve you.
Therapists work to help you determine, explore, and understand your own values and beliefs in a way that will help move you forward. And while we can’t tell you what to do, we might point out some things you may or may not see for yourself in order to help you make the best decision for you. It’s not always easy to hear this kind of feedback. But it can be an insightful part of the therapy process.
4. Our time is valuable, too.
We understand that everyone is busy these days. It’s not easy balancing everything on our to-do list. We also appreciate that sometimes other priorities take precedence and therapy needs to be rescheduled. But we want you to understand that our time is valuable, too!
When you cancel at the last minute or don’t show up for an appointment, we aren’t always able to fill that slot with someone else. That means we’re not only wasting time, we’re also out the income for that hour. Therapists who work in private practice aren’t like people with salaried jobs: if we don’t work, we don’t get paid. That is why most of us charge for no-shows and cancellations that happen less than 24 hours before the scheduled appointment. So, please take into consideration your therapist’s time when you rearrange your schedule.
5. Don’t ghost out on us.
Ghosting is an unfortunate occurrence in the dating world today, but it also happens in other relationships, such as the therapeutic relationship. When someone we’ve been working with doesn’t answer our phone call or text, or says they’ll call to schedule their next appointment but is never heard from again, we therapists are left wondering why. Were we not a good fit? Did I say something that offended you? Was therapy getting too difficult? Did you move away?
We’re appreciative of feedback, whether it comes during the therapeutic process or at the time of discharge. Feedback helps us improve at our jobs and better serve you. A mutual decision to end therapy can be a beneficial part of the therapeutic process. Please don’t just stop attending appointments or responding to our calls. Give us the courtesy and compassion we offer you. Remember that therapists are people with feelings, too!
Starting therapy in itself can be a challenging undertaking. The therapeutic relationship is a different kind of connection between two people than most relationships, but it requires cultivation all the same. Talking to an impartial third party can help you get to the core of your issues without the judgment and opinions that family and friends might offer.
Finding the right fit is imperative in order for you to move forward, so it is in your best interest to find a care provider who can best meet your needs. A good therapist will offer respect, kindness, compassion, and understanding to the people they are working with. We only ask that you do the same in return.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org.