What is therapy?
Every therapist will define therapy slightly differently, depending on their approach, but what most therapeutic approaches have in common is providing a safe, non-judgmental, and confidential space in which the client can begin to think about their difficulties and feelings.
The therapist will work hard to create a strong, trusting relationship in which the client can begin to feel comfortable to explore their issues. The therapeutic relationship is of the utmost importance in therapy, as it is this relationship which has been found to be one of the greatest predictors of a successful outcome.
Most people will feel anxious or nervous when they first begin therapy, and when you think about it, therapy is a pretty strange relationship.
You’re expected to discuss your innermost thoughts and feelings with a complete stranger. You will tell this stranger about things which you may never have said to anyone else before, as they are often the things which make you feel sad, scared, or angry, or they are the parts of you that you are often too embarrassed or ashamed to admit to yourself, never mind someone else. Therapy creates an opportunity to think and talk about yourself and your difficulties in a way that you often can’t do with your friends, family or loved ones.
You are trusting that this stranger will understand you, be compassionate towards you, and be able to help you cope with the issues you bring.
To add to this, you aren’t going to find out that much about them in return. The whole thing seems pretty strange, but the strangest thing of all is that it works!
Therapy is client-led, meaning that what we discuss each session is determined by you and what you need at that time.
You decide what you share, when you share it, and how much of it you want to share.
The process of sharing with another can make managing uncomfortable feelings seem more manageable, and it can also help you feel connected and less alone.
Sharing and opening up is often difficult to do at the start, but as the trusting therapeutic relationship grows and strengthens, it becomes a lot easier.
A therapist accepts their client the way they are, without judgement. They understand that it is often difficult to express feelings, so will work hard to create a safe environment which makes this easier to do.
What will I get out of therapy?
Therapy has many benefits including helping the client to gain a deeper understanding of themselves, their behaviours, and the difficulties that brought them to therapy.
Developing personal awareness and insight helps people begin to identify self-destructive patterns and behaviours, and once they are aware of them, they can decide to change them.
Therapy also helps people address and resolve painful feelings. It improves relationships, as well as promoting the development of healthy coping strategies and behaviours.
The ultimate goal of therapy is to deepen your understanding of yourself, and bring about changes which will improve your overall quality of life.
What can therapy help with?
Most people tend to think about going to therapy when they are having some difficulty coping, or can’t resolve an issue on their own, and the reasons that bring people to therapy are different for everyone.
Therapy is helpful in addressing many issues, including but not limited to, depression; anxiety; low self-worth; relationship issues; family issues; abuse; trauma; bereavement, self-harm; eating disorders, and much more.
The good news is that there is nothing you can’t talk about it therapy, and there is no issue that would be considered not important ‘enough’ by the therapist.
Some people still feel a sense of shame or embarrassment around seeing a therapist, but going to therapy to get help with an emotional difficulty should be as normal as going to the doctor to get help with a physical difficulty.
There is no shame in asking for help or in wanting to better yourself.
A common misconception is that only people with mental health issues benefit from therapy, but this is not true. Everyone can benefit from therapy.
What should I expect?
The first session is usually seen as an assessment session, where I will spend some time getting to know you, and the issues that brought you into therapy. I will ask questions about your current difficulties, as well as your history and background.
We will also consider your expectations of therapy, and think about what you would like to get out of it.
The first session is also an opportunity for you to get to know me, to ask any questions you may have about therapy or the process, and for both of us to decide if we can work together.
Not all therapists are right for every person, and it is really important that you find someone you ‘click’ with, so the assessment session is also a time for you to decide whether my approach and personality is a good match for you.
For therapy to be effective we need to build trust and a strong therapeutic relationship, so the first session is also about beginning to make a connection.
It is normal to feel anxious about the first meeting, and it can feel quite daunting, but as it progresses you will hopefully feel safe, accepted, respected, and relatively comfortable.
If after the initial session we decide to continue with therapy, we will agree on a session time, and you will attend your session at the same time, on the same day, every week, with each session lasting for 50 minutes.
Therapy is collaborative, with both of us working together to bring about the changes you identify. It is also entirely individual, so the length of therapy will depend on your presenting concerns, specific needs and circumstances.
Some people come with specific difficulties which have only begun recently, and so may only need short-term therapy, whereas others may have been experiencing difficulties for a long time and may benefit from longer term therapy.
Depending on the issue and need, the length of therapy can vary from weeks, to several months or even years.
One point to remember however is that one of the greatest predictors of successful therapeutic outcomes is a strong therapeutic relationship with the therapist, and this can take time to build.