The Ins & Outs of Starting Therapy
Are you thinking about finding a therapist for yourself or someone you care about? This can be intimidating for many… you are not alone. Many people put off getting help or treatment due to the fear of the unknown or the stigma around seeing a therapist. This article will provide some answers to help guide you on your journey towards therapy.
Explore Your Preconceptions
The attitudes we have toward seeking therapy can be influenced by friends, family and/or social media. It will be important to explore what your individual perceptions and attitudes towards therapy are. This can be done on your own time, or even with your new therapist. Work to reframe negative thoughts around the idea of therapy or a potential diagnosis. For instance, if you have the negative attitude
of, “going to therapy is for the weak,” remind yourself that by taking the step to get help you are strong, resilient, and dedicated to being the best version of yourself! It may also help to learn more about the in’s and out’s of getting started with a therapist to ease your mind.
Therapy is confidential.
Are you nervous to share your private information? Licensed therapists are ethically and legally bound to keep the information that you share confidential. Your privacy is essential to the therapeutic relationship that you will build with your therapist. For minors, although parents and guardians have the right to information for their child, therapists do their absolute best to respect the child’s, adolescent’s, or teen’s privacy. This is important to maintain strong rapport between the therapist and client. For all clients, there are a few limits to confidentiality and some of those are listed below.
- Suspected child abuse
- Suicidal ideation
- Harm to self or others
Psychotherapy is most effective when you, as the client, can be open and honest. Building trust in your therapeutic alliance is essential for you to feel comfortable and to be able to get the best treatment! During your initial appointment, your therapist will review with you what confidentiality means, and when they may need to break confidentiality. This is a good time to ask specific questions about what and to whom qualifies as the limits of confidentiality listed above.
It is important to find the correct provider for your needs.
Depending on your reason for seeking therapy, consider the type of therapist that may be the best fit for you. There are many counselors and therapists that specialize in areas such as group therapy, individual therapy, family therapy, play therapy, addictions counseling, career counseling, couples therapy, and more. Therapists also could work from a type of approach such as a humanistic belief, cognitive behavioral therapy, or client-focused therapy. Researching these types of therapy and speaking to your doctor may be a great idea to know where to start with your search! Most therapists offer a free 10-15 minute consultation for you to ask these questions, and get a gut instinct on whether or not your individual personalities are a good fit. Research shows that one of the key components in therapy is the counselor’s and client’s capacity to engage and connect. Therapeutic alliance reflects the quality interaction, collaboration, and personal bond between the therapist and client (Thompson et al., 2010).
Be prepared with questions you have for the therapist.
When first speaking with a therapist for a consultation, it will be helpful for you to have a list of questions prepared. Some questions that you may consider asking are:
- What does a typical session look like?
- How long are sessions?
- Do you specialize in a type of therapy or use a specific approach?
- What is your rate that you charge?
- Do you take insurance?
- How often do you suggest we have sessions?
- Have you worked with many clients that have similar circumstances to my own?
- What are some of the protocols of your practice? (i.e. cancellation policy, payment methods, etc.)
- How do you protect my information during virtual therapy? (If applicable)
Understand what an intake session may look like.
Intake sessions are the first appointment in which the therapist is able to get some background about you and you are able to learn more
about the services they can provide you with. The length of intake sessions vary depending on the practice but they are usually longer than a typical session. The therapist may start off by asking you to share in detail about why you are seeking therapy. They also may ask you more specific questions such as your strengths and weaknesses, what you would like to get out of your time in therapy, any past diagnoses or mental illness history within your family, who lives in your household, etc. The intake session is a great starting point for building your therapeutic relationship. However, sharing personal experiences with a practical stranger can feel quite uncomfortable. Remember, you always have the option to let your therapist know that you are not ready to talk about certain topics or answer certain questions.
Have an idea of what a typical session looks like.
Depending on the therapist, therapy sessions may look different. Some therapists have a more directive approach (in which they tend to guide the session), whereas others may allow you to direct where you feel the session should go. You may start by sharing updates of what has been going on in your life or if there are any goals you would like to discuss. The therapist will most likely listen and may take notes during the session. Some therapists wait until after the session to take notes. Your therapist may give you some homework to work on to enhance skills that were practiced in session. Additionally, many therapists incorporate art, music, mindfulness and more. Each client and therapist are unique in their own way and therefore there is no one template of how each therapy session will go, but I hope this gives you an idea!
Stay confident and don’t give up!
Remember, it is ok to move onto a different therapist if the one that you start with does not feel like the right fit for you. Finding the right therapist is similar to picking out the clothes you are most comfortable in. It can sometimes be trial and error. You will not hurt the therapist’s feelings; they want what will be best for your recovery and treatment too!
If you need help getting started, Your Best Self Therapy is always here for your support as well!
Blog post written by: Sonne Scarola, NCC, LGPC
Sonne Scarola is a licensed graduate therapist, professional school counselor, and an associate at Your Best Self Therapy. She works predominantly with children and adolescents experiencing anxiety, life changes, and trauma.
Great article with lots of good information! Thank you 😀