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People do form conceptualizations of psychotherapy based on media portrayals.
While you may balance out fictionalized, sometimes-damaging depictions of professionals like physicians or teachers with your real-life experience with them, most people don’t have much or any experience with mental health professionals to balance out their fictionalized impressions.
Misconceptions may make it hard for you to pinpoint the threshold for significant psychological distress in yourself or others. And can add hurdles to successfully initiating psychotherapy or being willing to stick with it.
Understanding what not to expect from the experience can help you approach treatment as an educated consumer with an open mind.
Some approaches take more time than others, but it is highly unlikely that lasting change for longstanding issues can be achieved in a few sessions of psychotherapy.
The first appointments are to determine if (and what kind of) therapy can be helpful. You will talk about what led you to seek care and about medical, social, and family history to help the therapist get to know you better.
It will require you, and your therapist, to take a hard look at yourself.
You and your therapist will work together to (1) develop more awareness on what causes the problem, (2) understand how your current patterns affect you, and (3) experiment with different ways of thinking, doing, relating, and coping.
You will share your intimate details but your therapist will not often reciprocate. He won’t often direct or evaluate your choices, as they won’t be dealing with their consequences.
More commonly, your therapist will ask you questions and reflect what you said to help guide you in determining what you want to do and why. Your therapist may guide you to consider options and consequences you hadn’t, remind you about prior decisions (and their consequences) or flag repeated patterns.
Every therapist has their own particular therapeutic style, areas of clinical experience, and temperament.
Like any relationship, the therapeutic one is subject to personal compatibility. You may not ‘click’ with your first therapist, or during the very first appointment. It may require a few sessions with different professionals to determine the best fit for you.
You don’t need to have a specific diagnosis to benefit from therapy.
Most of us have some aspects of our lives we would like to improve: relationships that are in need of some rehab or some habits or behaviors that we would like to shift or change.
A therapist should be someone you trust will keep your secrets, and hopefully someone whose company you enjoy, as finding a good fit is an important part of successful therapy.
But your therapist is a professional who trained to perform therapy and is bound by a strict code of ethics requiring them to keep your best interest as a priority. As such, they won’t disclose much about themselves unless it’s to assist with your growth.
Many believe the only "crazy people need therapy" and end up waiting before they seek help, which only exacerbates the problem.
In reality, people go to therapy for various reasons like coping with disorders, relationships, stress, grief, to figure out who they are or just to learn to live life to the fullest.