Many people have a misguided view of what therapy is like, often based on something they’ve picked up on TV or in the movies. Your therapy will be a process unique to you. A therapist who is right for you will connect with you, understand your issues, and tailor your treatment in a way that allows you to overcome the challenges that brought you to therapy.
ISN'T THERAPY ONLY FOR THE MENTALLY ILL?
Not at all. People look for therapy for all kinds of issues in day-to-day life. Yes, there is therapy for anxiety, depression, and addiction, but others want to learn coping skills or changes in behavior or how to deal with life transitions like the loss of a relationship, the death of a loved one, career changes, or parenting challenges.
In that sense, anyone can benefit from therapy to learn how to solve life’s problems. While there used to stigma attached to getting therapy, it is now more widely viewed as a sign of strength and willingness to face life’s problems.
DOES MY CHILDHOOD MATTER?
Many people enter therapy to deal with a current issue in their adult life, seeking the perspective and opinion of an objective professional. Whatever is going on with you – a problem in your relationships, difficulty moving forward in life, work problems – the effect that your past has on your current challenges is important.
Your childhood strongly influences how you interact with your world. While you don’t have to “live in the past” in therapy, it’s important to understand the influences of your early development on your current life. As much as we often try to deny it, everyone who seeks therapy has issues that are rooted in childhood and it’s important to understand that to be able to move forward. So some of your therapy might include examining experiences from your childhood or major events that have affected your life.
IS IT TRUE I'LL BE IN THERAPY FOR YEARS?
There are few experiences that are more individualized than psychotherapy. A recent study indicated that about half of clients show significant improvement in less than two months while more than 75 percent are better after six months.
Some of the most important indicators of progress are how good the fit is between you and your therapist and how committed you are to benefitting from the process. The more motivated you are to get good things from therapy, the more likely you are to benefit quickly.
WILL I HAVE TO TAKE MEDICATION?
Although a combination of medication and therapy has been shown to be the most effective solution for some issues, therapy alone often produces the desired results. If you are in need of psychotropic medication, it is likely that therapy should be a part of your treatment. However, but the reverse is not true and most clients receive therapy without taking medication.
The goal of therapy is to get to the source of your issues – understanding the cause so the roots can be extracted and allow you to make better choices moving forward. While medication can often help with symptoms, it doesn’t help you to gain insight into the roots of your problems or into their solutions.
AREN'T ALL THERAPISTS THE SAME?
To the contrary, the most important factor in the success of therapy is who your therapist is in terms of how well you connect with that person. If you believe that your therapist “gets” you and your issues and you can grow to trust them, success in therapy is likely. Experience and training are important, but it is the client-therapist relationship that is the foundation for your work in therapy. And, as with all of your other relationships, every experience is different.
Just as in any profession, some therapists are better than others. Someone may be an excellent therapist but may not necessarily the right person for you. You should gain a strong sense about a therapist in a first session with him or her. If it feels right, stay the course and give that therapist an opportunity to help you.
HOW DO I KNOW THERAPY WILL WORK?
A lot of people have doubts that therapy will help, but studies show that the vast majority of people who seek therapy report that they have benefitted significantly.
People seek therapy because they find themselves in situations or states of mind that aren’t working for them. If they knew how to solve the problem themselves, they certainly would. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness or fear about whether they can overcome whatever is bothering them.
When someone feels stuck – with difficult feelings or moods, trouble with relationships, chronic or recurring problems with any life situation – it makes sense to find the help of a licensed, experienced professional who has helped many others with similar issues.
CAN'T I SOLVE THIS PROBLEM MYSELF?
When you know how to resolve an issue using your own resources, that’s exactly what you do. And so you’ve worked through the vast majority of problems in your own way. But when you’ve been stuck with a problem that’s bad enough for long enough, it’s a sign that you need to bring more resources to the task.
In longstanding situations, you’re probably well aware of many aspects of the problem, and you’d fix it if you knew how to do so. So if you’re not making progress, you need support that will enable you to resume moving forward.
HOW DO I KNOW TALKING ABOUT MY PROBLEMS WON'T MAKE THEM WORSE?
It is in our DNA to do our best to avoid pain, but the reality is that no problem was ever solved by avoiding it. If you’re considering therapy, you’ve probably done some avoiding of the issue, but like every other problem you’ve ever resolved, you will have to face the current one in order to overcome it.
A good therapist is expert at managing your individual process, knowing when to nudge you forward and when to give you space you during the more difficult moments of therapy. It’s important to remember that it’s your therapy and you and your therapist will work together to manage the process at a pace that works best for you.