Dear Client: Some Useful Things to Know About Therapy
I recently read a book entitled Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb. It’s the true story of a therapist’s experience attending therapy for the first time. It was a relatable and entertaining read that touched on many of the real experiences therapists and clients share during the therapeutic process. It also reminded me of my first experience attending therapy years ago with my husband. We were new parents adjusting to this new phase of life. Our relationship had hit a rough patch. I remember the anxiety I felt before our first session and the numerous unanswered questions that were swirling around in my mind before that appointment. What should we tell her? Will we like her? Will she like us? Will she see me as the problem?
Because I know first-hand what it’s like to experience anxiety before that first therapy session, I thought it would be useful to share some important points that clients can remember before beginning therapy. I certainly can’t speak for every therapist out there, but these are things I definitely would like my clients to know before they step into my office.
• Yes, it’s true. Many therapists have seen, or are currently seeing a therapist. As such, therapists often know first-hand what it’s like to step into that room and begin telling a stranger intimate and private details about their life. Therapists have regular, every-day problems and concerns just like their clients. And sometimes therapists do have the tools and skills necessary to handle their problems on their own, but other times additional assistance, in the way of the therapy, is extremely helpful.
• Therapists understand that finding a therapist that ‘feels right’ is essential. One of the most important factors that determines the success of therapy is the client/therapist relationship. A therapist may have years of experience or positive reviews, but if the fit just isn’t right, therapy is less likely to be successful. As the client, it’s ok to ask your therapist about his or her training and process. And it is certainly ok to talk to your therapist about your concerns at any time during the therapeutic process. Additionally, a competent therapist will let you know if your problem or diagnosis it outside their scope of expertise and will offer you referrals for therapists that do have the expertise to treat your particular issue.
• You are in the driver’s seat. There are a lot of misunderstandings out there about what therapy really is. Therapy is not a process in which a therapist simply tells a client what to do. Therapy is your journey and the therapist has the responsibility to assist you in gaining skills and tools to address your concerns and goals. A therapist will often offer an alternative point of view, but this is done to assist the client in fostering insight and a deeper understanding of their situation. Most importantly, a therapist’s role is not to judge or take sides. Therapists, when working within the scope of ethical practice, provide the client with a safe place to discuss his or her issues and concerns. It is a place that is judgement free so that the client feels completely comfortable sharing with the therapist.
• Your privacy is of the upmost importance. Therapists are trained to hold their clients’ privacy sacred. This means therapists don’t gossip about their clients or share private details with friends and family. A therapist may discuss a case with a trusted colleague or supervisor, but this is still done with respect to the client’s privacy and is always done with the client’s best interest in mind. The therapist’s goal in this situation is to provide the client with the best care possible. And a client should never worry about seeing their therapist in public. Therapists are trained to respect a client’s privacy by never acknowledging their client in a public place, unless the client acknowledges them first.
• Therapists do not have all the answers. Therapists do have extensive training and understanding of how humans behave, think, and experience emotion, but therapy is a complex process. In each session, a therapist gets a few snap shots of their client’s life and then uses that information, along with their training and knowledge, to assist the client with personal growth. Depending on the client and the situation, therapy can move along rather quickly, or can take some time. The bottom line is therapy is work, and when a client is prepared to share and willing to put in the effort, the process can be extremely effective.
In her book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Gottlieb writes, “What makes therapy challenging is that it requires people to see themselves in a way they normally choose not to. A therapist will hold up the mirror in the most compassionate way possible, but it’s up to the patient to take a good look at that reflection, to stare back, and say, “Ok, interesting. Now what?”, instead of turning away”. Turning away from our problems and concerns is often very tempting, but meaningful transformations come from the many small, and sometimes hard to notice steps that occur along the therapeutic journey. Taking the first steps towards change, such as making an appointment to see a therapist and attending that first appointment can be worrisome, but those first steps can also lead to lasting change and healing.
If you are interested in starting the therapeutic process, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Orlando mental health counselors.