myFIRE Studios, LLC ~ 5 Northern Blvd. Building #16, Amherst, NH 03031 ~ (603) 459-5075 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
What happens in a therapy session,
what should you expect, & what you should avoid
Choosing a therapist:
Sometimes this is more complicated than you might think. When choosing a therapist:
- Look at if you like what they have to say; Does it fit your needs?
- Is it easy to get in touch with them?
- Do they have experience in your issue?
- Do you like their approach?
These are some of the key things to look for. For more information on this topic, please read our blog article, Therapist Shopping.
Visiting the office:
Some therapists (such as myFIRE Studios) offer a free initial meeting or consultation session to meet the therapist, see their office, and get an idea of their style. You can always ask if the therapist you are looking into offers this.
When visiting their space, I suggest taking notice of:
- How they organize their space, does it feel safe, relaxed?
- Do you see yourself here? Is it a comfortable place to be, easy to access, fit your needs, have supplies, etc?
- How is the therapist's manner? Did they see you on time? Does their personality and style seem like one you can work with?
Not all of this may be determined in the first meeting, you may be nervous and do not get an accurate read during the first visit. If you have a good feeling, but are still unsure, it is ok to try a few sessions before making a commitment. You can also bring up the reasons why you are unsure, so that the therapist is aware that you are still deciding. (Some may react poorly to this, which will also give you valuable information.)
During your first session:
Remember that while they are a professional, this therapy is for YOU! Ask as many questions as you need, make sure you get them answered. Understand how they work, what they will expect from you and what you can expect from them. When I meet with new clients, I like them to understand that therapy cannot work without practice- so I do give homework. I also explain my policies, how I will structure the first few sessions, and how I usually work in the session. If I am working with a child, I like both the child and the parents/guardians to understand how and what information will be shared at the end of each session.
What to expect during sessions:
- Your therapist should be able to give you a general overview of your treatment plan within the first few sessions. While they may not be able to give you a detailed timeline, there should always be a plan and a goal.
- Your therapist is there for you! If they are distracted, seemingly bored, or just "going through the motions," I would suggest you take action. (I would give a therapist a chance, but if you get a bad vibe, I would bring it up. Then if the issue is not resolved, I would find a new therapist.)
- Expect to be challenged, not tortured. Therapy is hard because change is hard, but it does not have to be terrible. Therapy should be a balance of what you need to do and what you can handle.
- Expect things to change. Once in therapy, you may feel like it is getting worse. Well, you are now bringing to the surface things that have wanted to stay buried, so it is not easy. Things will improve, but it cannot unless you start the ball rolling!
- Remember that your therapist is not your friend. To protect your confidentiality, they are supposed to ignore you on the street unless you give them permission beforehand or you approach them first.
Most importantly of all...
Therapy can only work if you want it to. It cannot be forced or manipulated. You must be ready and willing to change and willing to do the necessary to make that change happen!
Therapist, counselor, clinician, all these terms are often used to describe mental health providers- what they call themselves is not as important as what degree, schooling, and licenses they have. I tend to use the term therapist, it is just what I am used to.
Some people say therapist, some say counselor...
What is the difference?
What is that white thing outside most therapist's offices?
That is a white-noise machine. It is placed outside the office to increase your privacy. This prevents you from getting distracted about what is happening outside and prevents people outside from hearing what you are doing in your session.
Do you really lay on a couch and talk about your dreams?
No, not usually. There is one form of therapy, Psychoanalysis, that is where that stereotype comes from, but now days there are many types to choose from.
My therapist's office is small with all mis-matched furniture, does that make him a bad therapist?
Of course not! There are many reasons why that could be. Many agencies are forced to work within very tight budgets, so that means access to space, supplies, and all may be hard to come by. I have had offices in closets, basements, and worse.
The comfort of the office should be taken into consideration, but should not be a deciding factor.
I keep asking my therapist what to do and she will not tell me... why not?
Your therapist is not supposed to tell you what to do or make decisions for you- they are supposed to help give you tools to make the best decision for yourself. It is good she is not telling you what to do!