Many elementary and high schools require their students attend some sort of personal counseling, even if it’s just a few times a year, which is wonderful because it takes the big dark cloud off of the experience. You, however, likely come from a generation when therapy was only for the deeply disturbed, for couples going through a divorce, and for the children of those couples. So if your life has landed you in a place where you feel you need therapy, the concept can feel daunting and mysterious. Here is what you can expect if you’re new to therapy.
You’ll probably cry on the first day
You may as well stop trying to hold back the tears because they’re going to come. You’re here because you’ve admitted to yourself that you need help–that brings on a tremendous amount of relief that can result in tears. Your therapist sees tears every day, so don’t worry about it.
You are here to feel things
To be honest, you’re here mostly to feel somewhat painful things that you’ve probably been neglecting or ignoring. Embrace the roller coaster of emotions; emotions can’t kill you.
Your therapist will explain her school of thought
Your therapist will explain her school of thought (of which there are several in the world of psychology), so you can see if it resonates with you. She isn’t trying to lecture you but rather to make sure she is a good fit
Things will feel slow at first
Things will feel very slow at first. This is normal and happens because you’re tapping into a side of your brain you don’t often access. Learning to communicate and think in a new way takes time.
You’ll want answers
You’ll want your therapist to tell you what is wrong with you and why it happened.
You’ll get questions
Instead of answers, you’ll get a lot of questions. Your therapist needs to learn about your behavioral and emotional patterns in order to assess you, and she can only learn this through what you tell her.
This is no place for an ego
During those rare and precious times your therapist does point out a flaw in your thinking or behavior, don’t get angry: do you get angry when a mechanic tells you your wiper fluid is low? No. So don’t get mad at your therapist for identifying an issue.
Your therapist can’t help you if you lie
You aren’t trying to work for, befriend or date your therapist, so don’t put on airs or pretend to be something you’re not. Be your rawest, least attractive self here so your therapist can help you be stronger.
You’re not that complicated
No, you aren’t too complicated for your therapist to fix. Keep in mind she treats people with every day life concerns to severe disorders that must be medically treated. Surely, there is a therapy for you.
But your problems still matter
You may feel insecure about the fact that you’re seeing a therapist when there are people who are starving and have “real problems.” But just because your problems are competitively less serious does not mean they aren’t important and shouldn’t be addressed.
Yes, your childhood matters
All therapists ask about your childhood because there are answers there. When we are children we are extremely vulnerable and easy to influence. We can hold onto ideas and values that were instilled in us when we were young, even if as adults we do not consciously agree with those ideas.
And yes, your past relationships matter
Your past relationships are a gold mine of information for your therapist. Even if it hurts to talk about them, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t.
Connections are hard to see at first
You know how it’s hard to see the big picture in a puzzle until you’re at least a quarter of a way through with it? Therapy is a bit like that.