By Lauren Presutti
Are you thinking about therapy? That’s great! It means you’re focused on your wellness and interested in living your best, most empowered life. At River Oaks Psychology, we want to normalize therapy so that it is accessible and convenient for everyone. With our telehealth services, getting help is easy and secure. If you have a cell phone, tablet, or computer of any kind, you can talk to us. We are committed to your journey in life and want you to know that you never have to face hard things alone. But if all you know about therapy is what you’ve seen in movies or television, there are some things you should know because therapy isn’t always depicted accurately in the media. To make the most out of your experience with us, here are 10 things we believe everyone should know about therapy:
1. You don’t have to stick with the first therapist you try. Sometimes we just don’t click with a person. After a few weeks of working with a therapist, if you don’t feel comfortable or if you find the relationship to be interfering with your progress, please contact us at River Oaks Psychology and let us know that you would like to try another therapist option. We encourage this if you’re not making progress because therapy can only be productive and beneficial if you feel completely comfortable and confident with your therapist. We understand that sometimes a transfer needs to occur. You will not hurt your therapist’s feelings because we understand that not every therapist is right for every person. If you don’t have a good experience with the first therapist you try, don’t give up! Sometimes you just have to try different people until you find the right “fit.”
2. If you’re not being honest, it’s not going to help you. It’s so important to be open and honest during your sessions! We cannot emphasize this enough. People who gain the most from therapy are often completely transparent during sessions. We want you to openly talk about whatever is on your mind – the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is no need to censor yourself. You are not there to please your therapist or to be perceived as polite or proper. Just be honest. If you’re mad, be mad. If you’re sad, be sad. However you feel, be as authentic as you can be. Therapy is the one space in your life where you don’t have to worry about the person sitting across from you.
3. You shouldn’t be in therapy only to please someone in your life. If you’re coming to therapy only because someone in your life has pushed you to be there, that’s not a good reason to go to therapy. People should never feel forced to go to therapy. People who have the best experiences in counseling are there because they want to be there on their own accord. Otherwise, you may feel resentful about the process, you may be guarded, or you may view it as a waste of time.
4. Your therapist should not tell you what to do. This may be a shock to some people, but therapists don’t have all the answers and we generally won’t give you direct advice on what to do or not do. If you’re coming to find out if you and your partner should separate, we won’t be able to answer that for you. We also won’t be able to tell you if you should move to a new city, accept a job offer, purchase something, dye your hair, or get a dog. Therapy is about helping individuals make their own decisions. We’ll ask questions and help you sort out the pros and cons, but we won’t tell you how to live your life. We’ll support whatever YOU want to do.
5. You’re allowed to disagree with your therapist. This one might be most important. During sessions, your therapist may provide feedback on what they are noticing in your life. They may point out patterns of behavior or thinking styles that you commonly experience. Sometimes therapists use reflective feedback and say something like, “It sounds like you’re feeling……” However, if you disagree with your therapist at any point, please speak up and correct your therapist! We highly encourage you to state your disagreement and clarify how you are actually feeling. In fact, this is key to the whole process. It’s so critical for you to correct your therapist if you feel like there has been a miscommunication. Speaking up and confronting misunderstandings is highly therapeutic and serves as an important skill in and out of sessions. If we get something wrong, we hope you will tell us.
6. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Your problems weren’t created overnight, and they won’t go away overnight, either. We know it’s frustrating. We know that you want concerns and issues to be resolved as quickly as possible. We empathize and wish we had a magic wand to solve your concerns on the spot. Unfortunately, all change takes time, and there may be some bumps along the road to wellness. Your commitment to the therapeutic process and your willingness to dive deep with us during sessions will keep you on track. And remember, we are walking alongside this journey with you every step of the way.
7. It’s okay to change your therapy goals. During your first appointment, you and your therapist will collaboratively develop some goals to work on together in future sessions. However, we understand that life is full of ups and downs and often throws us curveballs when we least expect it. Modifying therapy goals is extremely common. Your initial therapy goals are never set in stone, so remember that you can always express new things that come up in life that you want to work on. Therapy is an evolving process and your treatment plan can be adjusted at any point.
8. Being in therapy is a huge sign of strength. Never let anybody tell you otherwise! Our society may not always validate the importance of mental health (we actively work against mental health stigmas!), but you don’t need anyone else to validate you in order to be proud of your commitment to therapy. The truth is that going to therapy is not always easy. It requires consistent, emotional labor and often forces us to reflect on trauma, psychological pain, and the negative experiences from our past. It takes an enormous amount of personal strength to engage in therapy. Celebrate your strength!
9. There is no right or wrong way to do therapy. Therapy is not a space to be judged and you don’t get graded in therapy. We are not looking for any particular reactions, thoughts, or answers. It is literally impossible to do therapy wrong. If you’re a perfectionist, you may find yourself wanting to do therapy “perfectly” but that simply does not exist because there is no right or wrong way for therapy to be done. Therapy looks different for everyone. It is what you make of it. It’s your session and you can spend the time however is most helpful for you.
10. You can literally talk about anything. Nothing is off limits! There are no taboo subjects in therapy. We are trained to discuss even the most sensitive, triggering topics that you can ever imagine. It won’t faze us at all. In fact, we want you to talk about the hard subjects. We want therapy to be a space where you can talk about sensitive issues that you may not feel comfortable talking about in other contexts outside of therapy. Everything you say in therapy is confidential (unless there is danger to yourself or another person), so you can share your deepest secrets without fear of anyone finding out. It’s also important to remember there is nothing too big or too small to talk about in therapy. Not every session has to include deep conversation. You can talk about anything on your mind and we will actively listen and appreciate you for expressing yourself.