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I think it’s time for me to try therapy, but I don’t know how to start?

What does therapy even look like?

Often times we come to the conclusion that we ready for some sort of help, but we are unsure of how to go about actually finding and getting that help. To top it off, we tend to have an increase in anxiety when we do not know what to expect, which can cause us to avoid the task completely. I’d like to show you how simple and straightforward the process can be by providing a breakdown of what to do and what to expect once you have made the decision to try therapy.

What’s the first step?

If you’re reading this, you’ve already completed the first step! Something in your life has led you to wonder if therapy may be right for you. You’ve thought about it and taken the initial step of finding out about therapy, and maybe searching for a therapist.

What do I do next?

Now it’s time to find a therapist. Here are some ways that people find a therapist are:

1) browse some directories that help you find a therapist

2) ask for personal recommendations from people that you know who have been in therapy

3) request a list from your insurance company that will provide you in-network therapists in your area.

Next, it’s time to narrow down your options.

How do I decide which therapist is right for me?

Research shows that the biggest predictor of success is not the education or experience level of the therapist, but the connection that the therapist and client have with each other. It is up to you to trust your gut here. Go ahead and reach out to a few therapists whose profile/website/recommendation feel right for you. Ask them if they are accepting new clients and if they offer a consultation. This gives you the opportunity to learn more about their therapeutic style and determine if they feel like a good fit for you. Many therapists offer a free 15-minute consultation where you can share your needs, ask any questions that you may have, and see how you feel talking to that person. I am happy to offer consultations, as I feel that it helps me also to meet my potential clients and form a connection before both decide to embark on a very intimate journey together.

What happens after I reach out?

By now you would have had the opportunity to speak with the potential therapists to discuss your needs, assess for a good fit, and ask some important questions about logistics. Some logistics questions can include:

1) Do your schedules work well together?

2) Are you looking for in-person or online therapy?

3) Do you prefer to use your insurance benefits or will you be paying out of pocket? If so, what is their fee?

Once you feel that you have found the right therapist for you, you will set up an intake appointment. You can expect that they will send you paperwork. This will typically be sent online for a virtual signature, but can be done on paper if you are meeting in person. These forms include consent forms, confidentiality forms and practice policies forms, all of which require a quick and easy few signatures. The final form is a “getting to know you” survey type of form, where you may be asked what brought you in to therapy, asked about your mental health history, your goals for therapy, and more. You are not obligated to answer anything that you are uncomfortable with. The purpose for this form is for you and the therapist to have a shared understanding of what brought you in to therapy and what you hope to work on while in therapy.

Time to start!

Once the initial conversation has been completed, forms have been signed, and a schedule has been set, it’s time to start your first session. This is called an intake session. Your therapist may briefly review the forms, ask you to share what brought you in to therapy, what goals you have for therapy, and any other questions that may help you to elaborate on the provided information from your intake forms. It is now up to you to share what you feel is most beneficial for your therapist to know. This is mostly an information-gathering session that will set the stage for future sessions.

Future sessions

After the intake session, more sessions are typically scheduled on a once-a-week basis. Sessions are typically 50 minutes long, once a week. It is up to the client and therapist to determine if more or less frequent sessions would be beneficial. The number of sessions is typically up to the client. They can set an amount beforehand, or more commonly book sessions week to week or ongoing until they feel that it is time to reduce frequency or complete therapy. The content of the sessions can vary greatly. Some ways to start a therapy session are, “Let’s pick up where we left off last week,” or “Let’s check in on how you are doing on your goals” or “Tell me about your week.” While a therapist may ask these questions in the beginning, it is typically up to the client to determine what the topics of the therapy session will be. A therapist may ask guiding questions or questions for clarification, or they may share observations or reflections based on what has been shared. It is in those interactions that the therapeutic “work” is being done. The goals of the therapist are often to shine light on behavior or thought patterns that can be proving to be problematic in the life of the client. The therapist may help the client identify underlying causes for their emotional reactions and how to gain control over those reactions in the future. It is a beautiful process that happens when two people trust each other and work together towards the shared goals of enlightenment, connection, trust, understanding, change, improvement.

When is therapy over?

Often times the client and therapist will come to the conclusion together that goals have been met and it is time to reduce or stop therapy sessions. A therapist should always be open to feedback from a client about how therapy is going, any changes that they would like to make in the therapeutic process, and in determining when it is time to stop therapy. I encourage all clients to be open with their therapists regarding how therapy is going for them and when they feel that it is time to stop therapy.

I hope that this blog post has been helpful in reducing anxiety about the unknown and also by providing a roadmap of the process of therapy from start to finish. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me via the submission form here.

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