I’ve always said that I think therapy is for everyone. We’re all affected by our past and can benefit from an additional support system. However, starting counseling can be a nerve-racking and difficult experience. I want to shed some light on the experience, so you can be prepared heading into your first session.
- The therapeutic process is long.
When I first started therapy, I thought my counselor and I would spend a session or two talking about what I was feeling, and then she would be able to provide me quick and easy solutions. The reality is that we uncover unhealthy thought patterns and ways my past is affecting me every session, and I’m still far from fully conquering my issues. Don’t abandon the process because you feel like you’re not healing fast enough.
- It is all about small victories!
One thing I’m working on in my sessions is being more assertive. A few weeks ago, a friend acted in a way that made me uncomfortable and upset. My therapist encouraged me to talk to her about it and helped me draft a text message letting her know how I was feeling. I was anxious right before I sent the text, assuming it would lead to a fight. However, my friend was kind and apologetic and hasn’t repeated the behavior since. It seems small, but I know if a similar situation comes up again, I’ll feel more comfortable standing up for myself. Those small improvements are what counseling is all about.
- Therapy may be painful and exhausting, that’s ok!
I’m going to be completely honest—I cry every session. It can be difficult to confront painful parts of yourself or your past. Feeling uncomfortable, upset, or drained during or after your sessions is completely normal. In fact, it indicates you’re progressing, because you’re being honest with yourself and your therapist.
- Honesty is everything!
Speaking of honesty, you need to be completely open with your thoughts and feelings to make progress in therapy. If you’re anxious before sessions, feel like your therapy experience isn’t going how you want, or aren’t ready to talk about a certain topic yet, tell your therapist. If you treated someone poorly in the past and think it’s still affecting your relationships today, tell your therapist. They are never going to judge you, I promise.
- Set clear goals!
In my first therapy session, I told my counselor I wanted to work on my self-esteem and anxiety. Having a clear understanding of what I wanted to gain from therapy has been invaluable. My therapist knows how best to help me, and I can analyze whether I’m progressing towards my goals. If I realized I wasn’t getting what I wanted from therapy, I could bring it up in my sessions or find a different counselor better equipped to help me. Setting goals puts you on the path of becoming a happier, healthier version of yourself.