6 things to know when starting therapy

Starting or re-starting therapy can be daunting. What will be it be like? What am I supposed to do? What will happen in the session? All the uncertainty can be difficult to tolerate sometimes. Here are some things that may be helpful to know for starting therapy…


What should I know when starting therapy?

1. Therapy can feel uncomfortable

It’s vulnerable and difficult to talk about how you feel, how you’re managing things and the experiences you’ve been through. Sometimes, we have spent a large part of our life doing things to avoid how we feel and talking about what we have experienced in life. All of a sudden you have 50 whole minutes – wow, that can feel a lot! Just know that it is OK to feel like this; it is normal and your therapist should hold a safe space for you. It can sometimes feel worse before it gets better.

2. You don’t have to stick with the first therapist

There’s a lot of research to indicate how important the therapeutic relationship is. Your therapist can have all the psychological knowledge and tools but if you don’t feel connected, supported and safe with your therapist then it will be difficult to experience change. Just because you have had a session with a therapist, doesn’t mean you’re contracted to see them for the rest of your therapy experience. It’s vital to work with someone who you connect with. It’s OK to change therapist.

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Remember, you can do hard things.

3. You will most likely explore past experiences

When we understand something, we have more choice in how to respond. Human behaviour and emotions are complex and are linked to past experiences. Therapy can help you explore beyond the surface-level behaviour to uncover and understand why you may be behaving and feeling a certain way. This awareness is important in experiencing change, so be prepared to talk about past experiences.

4. Take some time before your session to prepare

Before your therapy session, it can be helpful to spend a few minutes thinking about your week and what you explored in the last session. Your therapist can help you figure out what to explore in the session, but it is important you have given some thought to this too.

5. Reflect after the session

You may explore several things in one session. It can be hard to remember what was important for you, but this can be helpful in experiencing shifts. Taking a few minutes after a session to think “what stuck out for me?”, “What’s one thing I’ll take away from that session?”, “Did anything annoy/anger me?” can help you consolidate your understanding.

6. It’s OK to be annoyed at your therapist

A helpful therapist will empathically challenge you. This can feel annoying and uncomfortable; it’s OK to be annoyed at your therapist. In fact, this can lead to important work. Hopefully, you feel safe and supported by your therapist which can allow healthy discussions between you both about feeling annoyed/angry/irritated by therapy or your therapist. A healthy therapist will allow you to discuss this and support you in exploring why this may be. It can lead to great work!

I hope this is helpful in beginning to understand what might happen in a therapy session. Remember, you can do hard things.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Orpington BR5 & London SW19
Written by Lisa Ume, BABCP (Accredited), CBT, PGDip (Accredited), B.Sc (Hons)
Orpington BR5 & London SW19

Lisa is a Psychotherapist trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Her approach is to be alongside you, exploring what's difficult and to help you continue to move towards a life that you're happy with. She works online so you can access sessions from anywhere.

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