You may have identified that you need therapy or may be willing to give it a go. You may be wondering; does it really help? What am I supposed to say to the therapist? Should I be prepared with a few things before I meet the therapist? All these questions are what first-time clients may share in their first therapy session. There can be some skepticism and apprehension as to what the therapy session may entail, and it is justified to feel this way as therapy is generally an untapped and unexplored territory for many. You may also be wondering how ‘just talking’ is going to help, what advice the therapist is going to give you and is it something that you could just discuss with a friend or family member.
Here are some of the things, which would hopefully inform your decision to seek therapy and to answer some of the questions, which may have contributed to your reluctance or postponement of initiating therapy.
Concerned parents, other family members or friends with all their good intentions may ask or expect you to go for therapy, hoping it will help. For therapy to be successful or for it to begin to appear successful, there needs to be a willingness to engage voluntarily, a choice that you have made yourself. This can predict better engagement in therapy, a positive relationship with your therapist and your view towards bringing changes in your life.
So, what happens in the first session?
Different therapists have different styles of getting to know you in the first session. Some therapists begin by taking your case history, the factual information or details necessary to understand who you are. Specific questions may be asked regarding the problem you are facing, what it entails, when it began, what triggered it; questions regarding your family and your relationship with them, with your spouse/partner, children, work history and education, if you have ever had any psychological distress in the past and if you sought treatment for it at the time.
Other therapists may let you take the steering wheel, content to let you tell your story in whichever way you prefer. They may ask questions at certain points of your narrative or story, in order to clarify or gain more information. It is often observed that when people are telling their life stories, the mere act of this narration to a person who is not a part of their personal lives and dynamics, and who will not be judgmental, often involves catharsis and healing. The therapist, however, is not simply ‘listening’ to you. Therapists are trained to listen to people, to identify and analyse the information that they have received, to understand the patterns that are emerging in terms of your thoughts, emotions and behaviors. This is done so that the therapist can help you make linkages across time and make sense of what you have been experiencing.
Therapists as collaborators, not experts
Sometimes, people who come in for therapy expect that one session can be or should be enough to ‘solve’ their problem. Largely, this notion is misguided, as therapy is a process, and it takes time to work through your issues. Expectations of immediate change after one session of therapy are likely to be disappointing, although even one session may offer a new perspective that you may not have considered before. In addition, people may ascribe to the therapist, the role of an ‘expert’, who can solve all the problems, and offer solutions. While therapists sometimes do give solutions, not all of therapy is about solution or advice giving. A better way to think about yourself and your therapist would be to term yourselves ‘collaborators’, who are working towards a common goal(s), decided jointly in the session by the both of you. Change will largely be brought about by you, as you are in charge of your life; your therapist will help you get where you want to be. The goal of therapy then, is to encourage independence and self-reliance, while learning and utilizing the skills learnt in therapy.
There are brief and long-term therapy formats, depending on the training of your therapist, as well as the nature of your difficulty. It typically takes about 4-6 sessions to notice any kind of changes in the problem area identified by you, no matter the format that you and your therapist decide to follow. The shorter formats may involve 12-16 sessions, and longer ones may go on for months, or as long as you and your therapist decide together. Couples and families may also require help, as therapy can also include formats other than the individual, one-to-one format. For example, you can speak to your therapist to understand if you can come alone, or if the requirement is that your partner/spouse accompany you, in case of relationship difficulties.
Is my therapist a good fit for me?
It is also a good idea to see if you connect well with your therapist. Is your therapist genuinely curious to know about you? Do you feel a sense of warmth and understanding emanating from him/her? Or do you feel judged by the person, where you were being interrupted often, where the therapist wasn’t listening? Instinctively you would know if that connection isn’t there, where you feel that you can share details of your life with that person. Therapy is a deeply personal, human relationship, and if you feel judged or uncomfortable, you can look for another professional to help you, and try not to write off therapy as a failed endeavor. Feel free to ask your therapist questions about his/her training and expertise to decide if that person is a good match for your needs.
Deciding the plan for therapy
Your therapist will help you with a basic outline of how therapy will progress, the issues that will be discussed, how frequently the sessions will be scheduled, and may or may not give you homework assignments to be completed before your next session. Depending on your comfort, you can modify or alter the plan, to best accommodate your requirements.
All the best in reaching out for help if you think you need it or are simply curious about knowing yourself. You can contact us on 0124-4005000 or 8800116695, or visit us at http://www.circleof.life/ for an appointment.