By Amalia Pryor, LCSW
Hello! If you’re reading this, you have either already embarked on the therapy journey/ process or are interested in starting therapy. Either way, it is brave to acknowledge that your mental health is just as important as our physical health and well being. They go hand in hand. It does take courage and effort to see what is available to you.. Therapy sessions are a space that is confidential, safe and where trust is built. Here is what to expect when you start seeing a therapist.
Client/therapist compatibility– While searching for a therapist, there are many factors that come into play upon choosing a therapist to reachout to. Examples can be, location, preferred time slot availability, in-network insurance, the list goes on. Finding all these criteria can be tiring and discouraging at times, but in a city like Chicago, there are many resources at your fingertips, I encourage you to keep up your search because your wellness is the most important.
Once a therapist is found based on logistics (location, time, etc) , filling out paperwork and meeting someone new for the first time can be intimidating, especially when you are going to talk about some of your most intimate feelings and emotions. In my experience, it can take up to 5-6 sessions to really get to know one another and to see if the therapist is a good fit for your specific needs. Stopping therapy after 1 or 2 sessions with a therapist is not a good gage to what the therapeutic relationship could be.
What constitutes a compatible relationship with your therapist? Trust. Respect. Judgement free zone and openness. If you feel after several sessions that you are not connecting to a therapist, it is best to move to forward with another therapist, as the relationship with your therapist is the crucible of change. It’s totally normal to need to “shop” for a therapist. However, if you keep switching without finding a good fit, then you may be using the search process as a technique to avoid facing the issues you are trying to resolve.
Vulnerability– Once established with a therapist of choice and one you plan on working with for the duration of your therapeutic process, comes the hard work of sharing your story and why you are seeking therapy at the present time. As stated above, it does take a few sessions to establish rapport and get a flow going of how you and the therapist will accomplish goals and more desirable outcomes for your own betterment. For this to happen, vulnerability and raw honesty are necessary for therapy to be effective.
What does it mean to be emotionally vulnerable? The definition that resonated with me most was from the Urban Dictionary: “Someone who is completely and rawly open, unguarded with their heart, mind, and soul. Being vulnerable happens when you trust completely. Rather its vulnerability by pain or joy, it’s being exposed with all of the emotions that make it easy for someone (someone you trust) to really do some emotional damage or healing.Vulnerability is the surrender of all control.” In so many words, it’s exposing your underbelly of all insecurities, feelings, emotions and inner thoughts, all in which you are doing this all with a stranger!
For therapy to work, it’s necessary for you to put your trust in us, with unconditional positive regard and trust. It is OUR job to make you feel safe and secure. And by all means, express to your therapist what you may need more of from them, we are here to guide you through your process, your voice matters! What you put in, is what you will get out of it.
Lastly, expect to be challenged in your therapy sessions. Though at times it may feel awkward or uncomfortable, this is an indicator of growth. Learning a new thought process takes time, as it is a new skill set you are developing through re-education. Learning new coping skills with a therapist is a way to assist with your current state of emotional pain and how to move forward.
Gaging Improvement- After about 3 months is a good time for you and your therapist to check in about where you are in your care plan/treatment plan. Is there noticeable improvement in your day to day life? Are there new goals that need to be discussed? Have the current goals been met? Based on these questions you can determine if symptoms have decreased or stayed the same. You and your therapist may discuss if medication is something to be explored and if a referral is needed. New techniques might need to be incorporated into the care plan as well. Therapy is a process of trial and error, but I encourage you to be patient with yourself and the process. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Remember, you were brave to start therapy in the first place!
Please reach out to a Encircle therapist if you’re interested in a therapy consultation.