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What to Expect in Therapy

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

Many people wonder what to expect in therapy. They might feel nervous because they are not sure what to say or aren’t sure how much they should share. Others might fear sharing things they’ve been keeping to themselves for a long time. You might also feel excited to be starting the process of healing or making a change. Rest assured that your therapist is going to guide you through the process!

After you’ve completed a free initial consultation with a potential therapist, the therapist will help you schedule an intake. Because the relationship between the client and therapist is one of the most important factors in therapy, requesting an initial consultation before booking an intake is incredibly important. Many therapists offer this automatically, but if they don’t, it’s a great idea to ask.

In the intake, the therapist will review all of the logistics and answer any questions you have. Scheduling, confidentiality, techniques they might use, and safety concerns are few of the essential things you’ll hear about. It's important for you to be informed!

Next, the therapist will proceed to review the intake questionnaire, which includes getting details about your history, your mental health concerns, and the things you’d like to work on. Many therapists have you fill this out prior to the session and will gather more in depth information about it in session. This step is very important because it provides a better sense of the challenges you are wanting to work on, the possible contributing factors, and other important things about who you are and what you’d like to accomplish in therapy.

Many people are nervous to share their personal details, and this is completely normal. Keep in mind that the questions therapists ask are to help get to the root of your struggles. It is perfectly natural to feel ashamed or embarrassed about something that you have done in the past or something that has happened to you. Therapy exists because people often don’t have a safe, confidential space to work through the difficult aspects of life that people often keep to themselves.

Know that the details you share help the therapist determine tools that can help you address the really hard things that are often painful for you to talk about. Our job is not to judge, it is to support. If you have difficult things to share but aren’t quite ready yet, it’s ok to tell that to your therapist. You’re brave for tackling your challenges! It can take time to tell your story, and that’s completely ok.

After the intake is complete, it is helpful to establish some specific goals with your therapist. This can help the therapist determine which tools and techniques might suit you best. It also gives the client a better sense of what to expect out of their time in therapy. While not every session has to be laser focused on your goals, they are an important part of ensuring that you are getting what you need out of therapy.

After the intake is complete, your therapist will work with you to schedule your next session. It is often helpful for clients to have weekly therapy at first because it can take some time to establish trust with a new therapist. There are also some mental health challenges that require more frequent therapy. Consistency is an important piece of change, and regular therapy sessions generally lead to more effective and efficient progress toward your goals.

The first session after the intake will give you a better sense of what therapy looks like. While the intake is a structured session, the next session can be focused on what you’re needing to talk through. If you’re dealing with a pressing matter, that might be what you choose to talk about. The therapist can always provide guidance if you are not sure where to begin.

Sometimes counselors assign ‘therapy homework.’ Because many clients are only seeing their therapist for 50 minutes a week, they are going to need to continue to work on their goals outside of session. If you're skeptical about homework, don't worry! Therapy homework usually involves helping you take better care of yourself to help you reach your goals.

For some clients, their homework is to practice self-care, make a connection with a friend or family member, make a list of their successes each day, or to process their thoughts and feelings in a journal. If there’s something specific you want to work on, you can ask your therapist for some tools or techniques to use in between sessions.

The number of therapy sessions clients need depends on what they have come to therapy to work on, the amount of time they spend working toward their goals outside of session, and life circumstances. Some people meet their goals in under 10 sessions while others spend many months or years in therapy. Your therapist will check in with you regarding your progress and your readiness to complete therapy. If you decide you’ve met your goals, you can always return to therapy if needed later down the road.

Regardless of the amount of time it takes you to reach your goals, you will probably begin to learn new tools to start using right away. You may also develop new insights about yourself and find that your goals for therapy evolve along the way. Like you, therapy can be dynamic. It can be really exciting to begin the journey of working with a therapist!

Keep in mind that every therapist is different, so it’s great to ask questions about how they work in the initial consultation. If you’d like to try out a free initial consultation, I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to reach out today.

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