By Lexy Ulrich, LCPC
Almost everyone knows someone who has been in counseling, but that doesn’t mean they’ve talked openly about what the experience was like. If you’ve never had therapy and haven’t been talking to the people in your life who have, you’ve probably got some preconceived ideas about what it will be like, from movies and TV.
As a therapist, I’d like to address some of those ideas and share with you five things your therapist likely wants you to know:
- The first session is the hardest. This is actually great news: Once you walk in the door for the first time, every other time will be easier. At first, you might have some very normal anticipatory anxiety, not knowing what will happen, where to start, or how to summarize your feelings. But if you just show up, it’s a victory, because the hardest part is over.
- You get to be vulnerable at your own pace. There is no pressure to get everything out in the first counseling session. Your therapist can help you most when they know you personally and truly, but there is no need to get there quickly if you aren’t ready for that. You get to set the pace for sharing. We’ll explore more deeply when we need to, but you can always tell us if you’re not ready for something.
- There are no quick fixes. You can see the best therapist in the world and still not change overnight. Real, long-lasting change takes time and effort. Marriages take time to repair, grief takes time to heal, living better takes time. So be patient and think of the overall journey, and you’ll get where you’re going.
- We’re people, too. At some point during a counseling session, your therapist might misunderstand something you’re saying, or dig into something you don’t want to talk about, or say something that wasn’t helpful. In those moments, be vocal about what you need, because we’re there to help you. Don’t ever be afraid to speak up if something isn’t working for you.
- We love hard-working people. Therapists are privileged to work with dedicated, hard-working people every day. Know that your honesty and commitment to growth is inspiring, and it’s why we do this job. If you come in ready to work hard for change, we’ll walk with you each step of the way.
I hope these ideas will be helpful to you as you consider counseling. Remember, the first step is the hardest, but taking it could mean moving forward in life with more peace, serenity, and contentment, and I suggest that that would make it worthwhile indeed.