That wasn’t what I expected. First time therapy

More and more of us are going for therapy. This blog is for those who are considering it for the first time. At Conversations With Impact, we believe that it is the responsibility of the therapist to ensure a client has a positive experience* What we write below assumes that the therapist gets it right for you.

* Therapy is not a perfect science. It can’t all be down to the therapist, but if they get it right for someone early on, we think they’ll fully commit.

Trust

It can be common and understandable to feel a degree of conflict between wanting to talk about difficult issues and the instinct to hold back. After all, here you are about to talk to a complete stranger about your inner most fears. However, trust them because they are a stranger. Trust in your lack of history with this person. Trust that the absence of interference from them in the form of judgement, disinterest or denial – is genuine. Enjoy the liberation from being trapped in the dynamics of your existing relationships. By all means build the trust up slowly, for example, by starting off with less emotive subjects, but DO place your trust in the therapeutic process.

Time

Free yourself from any prior assumptions about how long therapy does or does not take.

1)      The need for a quick fix is common and understandable. If you are not in a good place emotionally, an early resolution to your distress can be attractive. However, this understandable need can place you and your therapist under pressure to achieve the unachievable. This can lead to disappointment and might result in you dropping out of therapy too early. Consider whether this type of assumption, is a reflection of your approach to life generally i.e. impatience for quick results. Rather than expect a quick fix, look for signs that your therapy is beginning to make a difference. The Hare and the Tortoise is one of the great therapeutic stories

2)      Therapy will take a long time. Our lead therapist, Mark Evans, worked with a 48-year-old male client who attempted suicide after a series of successive traumatic events. After 5 sessions of therapy he admitted that he was in a really good place, but he couldn’t shake the belief that there must be more to it. Mark pointed out to him that despite what he had been through, he had strong foundations in his life: a loving wife and family, a job he enjoyed, friends, hobbies and interests. His depression, Mark suggested, was the result of one-off events rather than ongoing issues. Mark didn’t tell him he was wrong, though; he simply said for him to come back when he had more to work through. At the time of writing this blog, that was nearly two years ago and our client hasn’t been back since.

All we are saying, is to be flexible regarding time. In this way, your therapy can be guided by the Goldilocks principle: Just Right. If you work well with your therapist, you will run out of things to talk about. That should be the aim in therapy and what should determine the amount of time it takes.

Be aware of any therapist who says it will take a long time or a short time.

Expect to change in some way

An effective therapy session is time spent positively detached from your current approach to life. The working assumption must be that your existing approach to life – or parts of it – is part of the problem you are seeking to address. So, even if you fear change or doubt it can be achieved, please commit to it. Talk to your therapist about any fears or doubts, but never lose sight of what you came for: to change. When clients change as a result of therapy, it changes how they think, behave, feel and relate to the world and people around them.

The element of surprise

Therapy can and maybe should be full of surprises. Remember, your counsellor will see things like no one else. They will see angles, associations and patterns in what you say and do that will change how you perceive yourself and your situation. And because of this, so you can expect to be – caught out. You may find yourself in tears while simultaneously telling your therapist you are not a crier* Or you may have an epiphany about something you believed unchangeable. Or your therapist might relate to you in ways no one else ever has and provoke an unsettling if not altogether unpleasant emotional response** Enjoy the supportive inquisitiveness of your therapist and be ok with surprise.

*Tears of relief are common as people are finally able to discharge pent up emotions as they see a way forward. If we weren’t meant to cry, nature would not have programmed this ability into us.

** For some, intense emotions can result from being made to feel cared for and supported by someone they don’t know. “Hearing from Mark that I had self-worth and that I was important to him went through me like an electric shock. It was an intense feeling, but one, I suppose, I had been searching for, for a very long time.”

Existing relationships

At Conversations With Impact, we see the therapeutic relationship as providing what existing relationships can’t or won’t. Put another way, if existing relationships were enough, there would be no need for therapists. Therefore, tell your therapist what you need from them. To help you with this read our blogs on forming an effective therapeutic relationships: When it’s time to change your therapist and 7 Signs of Ineffective Therapy

Another aspect to consider, is that your brain will be comparing your therapist to people you know already. Be aware of this as it might result in misidentification. A female university student I worked with, responded positively to me because of my animated nature – my facial expressions, especially. She explained that her parents hardly noticed her and that my animation made her feel that she mattered. It had come as something of a surprise to her that I was different to her parents.

Getting support

There are so many ways people experience therapy that one blog can’t possibly capture them all. The topics we have included are based on our own professional experience and practice. We hope you find them helpful in shaping your experience of therapy.

There is a great deal of information available about therapy and what it can help with. If you would like more information from us, we would love to hear from you, so please get in touch. However, we have also included details of other organisations below:

https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/

https://www.nationalcounsellingsociety.org/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb

https://www.hgi.org.uk/

https://www.mind.org.uk/