Deciding to start therapy is a very challenging and nervous time.
Regardless of the reason why one takes this decision, the act itself requires a considerable amount of bravery and insight. I believe that there are 11 things which might be helpful to you if you are new to, or thinking about, therapy.
1. Therapy has to be a personal choice
The main reason why many therapies fail, in my opinion, is because people start therapy because “told” to or for others’ benefit other than themselves. If you start therapy out of duty to somebody else rather than for yourself, you are only setting up a failing self-actualising prophecy because you will never get the most out of the process. Undoubtedly other people will receive benefit from your therapy, but it is important to understand that therapy is a personal commitment and has to feel right for you and you alone.
2. Therapy is different because people are different
It is my deep and personal belief that it is impossible to have two identical therapies. My belief stands against the most structured therapy as well as the least one because it is based on the simple fact that every human being is different. Every human relationship, included a therapeutic one, is overdetermined by myriads of factors put in place by the incredible diversity the human being holds. The best option in starting a therapy is to call few therapists or to book a session with them: the alchemy of the impact will guide you towards a choice. When I chose my first therapist, I suddenly knew that he was appropriate for me, since the first session.
It is about gut feelings.
3. Therapy is not about performing
I believe that is fundamental to know that your therapist does not need the perfect client, he/she needs You. Many people go to therapy as it were a job interview, actually it is not. Therapy is about being and feeling emotions, thoughts, memories. Actively trying to perform for your therapist is not going to make the process satisfactory for yourself. It is important to keep your pace as well, there is no need to rush. Time will come when you feel able to be open to your therapist and show what is going on for you.
4. Therapy is a flow
I like to think to the therapy as a wave, with ups and downs. Not every session will make you think “Wow!”, some might feel quite mundane or flat if not openly frustrating. It is part of the process, sometimes you just have to trust it. That said, it is a good idea to tell this to your therapist because at times we need to be (or feel) stuck before proceeding.
I personally find very useful when stuckness or frustration is shared.
5. Therapy is all about You…
It is a common experience to think about a problem focusing on others. What others have done, have thought, have provoked and so on. When you are in therapy, it is important to focus on your role and acknowledge what the others may have done/thought/provoked. Even if you genuinely are the victim of a situation, you are going to therapy to put some light on the effect that the situation still has on you.
6. ..and nothing about You!
I firmly believe that therapy is co-created between the Therapist and the Client. That means that, again, the interaction happening in the consulting room will certainly be different from the interaction between you and another person. The ownership, or the weight, of the process is not only on your shoulder or on your therapist’s! This might sound odd, but it is definitely relieving and empowering at the end.
7. Therapy is not telling you the answers
Some people get to therapy thinking of finding somebody able to solve their problems while sitting in front of this person carefully listening. While I do respect this wish and desire, the reality here is that this is not going to happen. Therapy is about strengthening your ability to take decision that are good for you, balanced and explored and eventually to make hypothesis together. A therapist does not tell you what to act/think/believe.
8. Therapy may touch uncomfortable topics
Sex, Betrayal, Particular Habits or Behaviours are only some of the topics we all are ashamed of or find difficult to speak about. The number of clients reluctant to speak about those topics is high, being shy or doubtful to bring those subjects in the room is normal but it is important to address such topics because they might be the reason why you feel how you feel.
9. Therapy sees some backwards slides
Regardless of the reason why you are in therapy, sliding towards old strategies or behaviours is common, there will be no judgement for that. I believe that the reason why a client goes back to old strategies is because they do work, even if the outcome might be the reason why the therapy started. Being open when this happens can only help the therapy go forward, even if it might feel awkwardly difficult to bring in.
10 Therapy is not being self-indulgent or selfish
You deserve happiness. There is nothing more to say than this. Taking care of yourself is important and there is no indulgence in engaging with therapy. Selfishness is a complete different pair of hands, is about lacking consideration for the others and gain something out of this. Self-care is about being fully available for yourself and healthy. Happiness is not only for the few or the special, is for everybody. Everyone has done something regretful, or hurt somebody intentionally/unintentionally along the way: that does not prevent you from being happy.
11. Therapy costs money
Therapy overall costs money, there is nothing to keep hidden about it. One important part of this truth is that the level of attention/care you receive is not related to the money you pay. You probably want somebody who is qualified and trustworthy, that is exactly why the therapist you choose has to be right for you. It is pointless to choose a therapist basing your choice on how much he/she charges. Money are a very important part of the therapy itself, they probably are the stitching that binds us together for the length of the therapy. What they are not, is certainly the measure of the level of care you will receive. As therapist, I do this profession because I care about people and I hope they achieve an happier life.
I hope those points will help you in choosing what is right for you, and possibly to take the decision to start your journey. I would like to speak more with you about those points, if you feel like saying something please add your thoughts in the comments below!