Worried about starting therapy? 5 points to reassure you

Starting therapy can be a very difficult process for a variety of reasons. Whether it's accepting that you need help, or not feeling ready enough to revisit certain events or emotions, many people want to start therapy but simply don't manage to make the first appointment. This article highlights some key elements of therapy in the hope of reassuring you about taking that first step and starting sessions. But note that these are rooted in my own practice and therapeutic style – this article cannot speak for all mental health professionals. 

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1. It’s not dark all the time

Contrary to the image many people have of therapy, it is not a place where you are forced to revisit the darkest events in your life. Even if you choose to talk about them, you don't have to be constantly immersed in them at every session. Pace is an important factor in therapy. You don't have to explore what you don't want to talk about.

Another part of therapy is highlighting multiple aspects of your life, including your strengths and what you see as positive factors – it's not about having a tunnel vision of your deepest, darkest pain. Therapy is your safe space; you do with it what you choose.

2. You talk about things other than childhood

Of course, it's important to talk about your childhood, as it helps to understand how you experienced the world and other people, and how these experiences have shaped the person you are today. If you want to reflect on your childhood, particularly if you feel that it contributed significantly to your current difficulties, you can, of course, use the therapeutic space to focus on this. That said, this is not necessarily the case for everyone, as not everything is rooted in childhood. So, if you're worried that therapy will only focus on your early experiences, think again.

3. The therapeutic relationship is collaborative  

The central element of therapy is the therapeutic relationship you develop, which means that you have a say. This relationship is like any other, which means that needs are communicated, and a set of ground rules are agreed upon before work begins, which may include the format of the therapy, for example.

You should mention your likes and dislikes and express what you would like to do with the therapeutic space. This feedback is welcome throughout the process, because although mental health professionals have expertise, you know yourself best, and professionals appreciate that you feel empowered and able to assert your needs.

If you think that a mental health professional is an authoritarian figure who will judge you and tell you who you should be and what you should do, think again. No one will force you to do anything you don't want to do. We're here to help you find your own answers, explore new ways of thinking and managing your emotions, and make progress towards your personal goals.

4.  There is no perfect way of doing therapy

Sometimes we worry that we won't be able to "do the therapy properly" or that we won't be a "good client". First of all, if you are concerned about this and worried about disappointing your therapist or wasting their time, don't hesitate to talk about it in the session. Therapists are equipped to have such conversations and it can be important for your therapeutic work to explore such feelings. The good news is that apart from regular participation, there is no such thing as doing "therapy right". It is a totally individual process that is shaped by you and your relationship with your therapist.

5. Therapy doesn't have to last forever

Many people fear that once they start therapy they will never stop, but this is absolutely false. You decide when you want to stop. Depending on what you want to address, therapy can be very effective, even in the short term. Once again, if you have any concerns about this, don't hesitate to talk about them at the start of the therapeutic process. Some people will want to benefit from the therapeutic space for a long time because they find it useful, others will only want it for a set period of time and that's fine.

Starting therapy can be scary, but there's nothing more beautiful than investing in yourself and wanting to take care of yourself. Give yourself a chance. 

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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London, Greater London, WC2H 0DT
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Written by Dr Pauline Chiarizia
London, Greater London, WC2H 0DT

I work with clients suffering from anxiety, low self-esteem, burnout, trauma, relationship difficulties (breakup/divorce/dating/family) and/or with clients going through major life transitions or managing a new chronic illness. I often help my clients cope with painful experiences, recover from burn...

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