10 Things to Know Before Starting Therapy

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Starting therapy can be daunting, and it can be hard to know what to expect. Here are some things I’ve learnt over the years to be aware of when seeking support.

It’s a two way process
Therapy is an active process and it does require work on your part too. Sitting passively isn’t like to get you very far. It can be difficult to trust somebody new but in order to get the most out of the process, you need to be an active participant.

Your therapist can’t fix you
Therapists are not magicians nor are they miracle workers. They are not there to wave a wand and fix your problems, but are able to help you develop the skills and tools to resolve or learn to cope with difficulties in your life.

Things might feel worse before they feel better
Uncovering difficult thoughts, feelings and memories can be incredibly painful, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable is hugely challenging. Working through these things and facing your problems might make things feel worse, but after a while, with the right treatment and commitment, they can start to feel better. Don’t give up too early.

You don’t have to reach rock bottom before reaching out
Many NHS secondary mental health services have high thresholds and long waiting lists, but they aren’t the only places therapy is available. IAPT services and various charities offer support, and there is the option of private therapy if you have the means to access it. You don’t have to be at your worst to ask for help, therapy isn’t just there for crisis situations.

You might not like your therapist
Remember that your therapist isn’t there to be your friend. That said, it’s very important to have a good therapeutic relationship. If you find you aren’t gelling with your therapist, you are within your rights to ask for a new one.

You might need a different type of therapy
There are lots and lots of different types of therapy, and they don’t all work for the same problems or for the same people. If you’re finding the approach isn’t working for you, don’t give up. There are many options.

Therapy is exhausting
Baring your soul is so draining, as is having to face a lot of things you’ve likely been suppressing. Be kind to yourself – it’s totally normal to feel tired afterwards.

You might feel stuck sometimes
Sometimes you might not feel you’re making much progress, but for many people that’s part of the process. Healing isn’t linear and you can’t be expected to improve leaps and bounds every week. Feeling stuck doesn’t mean you are stuck, it might just mean taking a breather before getting back to recovery.

It might bring up emotions that you didn’t expect
You might be surprised at some of the emotions that therapy uncovers. Don’t be afraid of letting yourself feel your feelings without judgement.

Therapy is hard work
Facing your demons is not an easy task, and most of the work comes outside of the sessions. Your therapist can only do so much, most of the work has to come from you.

What do you wish you’d known about therapy before you started?

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