Therapy Nerves are Normal
If you have never had therapy before or are thinking about making an appointment, it is normal to feel nervous. Because of the confidential nature of the work, it can sometimes feel like you are entering a secret and mysterious world.
New clients frequently tell me that they are initially concerned about the logistics of getting to their appointment on time and finding the right building. Beyond this, however, they are often very anxious about meeting me for the first time, what we will talk about and what I will think of them. Questions such as, 'will she think I'm mad?', 'do I have to tell her everything about me?' and 'will she actually be able to help?' are all very common.
So, what happens in therapy and what should you know?
You are Not Alone
Often people feel very isolated and alone when it comes to talking about the issues which are most important to them. However, as any seasoned therapist will tell you, it can be useful to keep in mind that you are certainly not the only one bringing the issues you have brought to therapy! Many other people are almost certainly trying to handle the same or similar issues, albeit unique to their particular lifestyle and situation. Lots of these people are in therapy as well!
Managing your anxiety around going to therapy may become easier when you remember that you are not alone in your struggle and that going to see a therapist is actually quite common.
Make the Most of your Initial Phone Call
All therapists work differently but most will allow up to 15 minutes to talk with you on the phone before you commit time and/or money to meeting them in person.
This phone conversation has the dual benefit of both therapist and client being able to get an immediate 'feel' as to whether they would like to work together. At this stage, your therapist will also be able to advise on whether they believe they can help you or whether they would prefer to refer you on to another therapist with particular expertise in a specific area.
Typically on this call, I ask clients what they feel their main areas of concern are and what they are hoping to get out of coming to therapy. Often clients do not have a clear or specific answer to this question and that is absolutely fine. If this is the case for you, then part of our initial work together will be in establishing what is impacting you most right now in terms of how you are behaving, thinking and feeling.
As a client, this call is also an opportunity to settle your nerves by asking any questions you may have about your therapist and the way they work. Most importantly, though, it is a chance for you to assess how you feel about talking to this therapist on an ongoing basis.
Ideally, you should be looking to feel comfortable enough to talk about what's really important to you but also suitably challenged. Taking the time to understand and recreate yourself can be the start of a healthy process of change and personal development so it's important that you feel a positive connection in order to allow that to happen smoothly. However, you are not there for a chat - you have friends for that! : )
Keep an Open Mind
Your therapist is not there to judge you or to delve into every aspect of your life. However, regardless of their particular style of training, your therapist should give you emotional support while you in therapy and help you reflect constructively upon your life challenges.
During your first appointment, it is helpful if you can remain open-minded. Allow yourself to experience the process, notice how you feel before, during and after the session, and then make an informed decision on whether or not your therapist is right for you. Sometimes this can take more than one session so don't be afraid to give yourself time to decide.
To Speak or Not to Speak?
Very often, clients worry about not knowing what to talk about in therapy or not having anything to say. Again, this is normal and can sometimes become an area of exploration in itself. Common reasons clients give for finding something difficult to speak about vary from not feeling comfortable enough to worrying about being judged if too much is revealed.
However, you may also be surprised to discover where your conversation will go in therapy if you do not try to plan what you are going to say.
Saying the first thing that comes to your mind without censorship can often be very illuminating. It is called 'Free Association' and often the topics which come up may come as a surprise to you and reveal important information about what is going on for you below the surface.
Silence is Golden
At other times, in the course of a session, there might be silence which can prove a very powerful space.
Often, our lives are so full of noise that silence may feel strange at first. However, when we fill the therapy session with words, this leaves room for nothing else. It is sometimes helpful to think of the therapy space as a bowl. If it is already 'full' with words, is there room left for anything else? Silence creates space for experiences that would not typically occur and can offer the key to understanding ourselves at a deeper level.
Feeling nervous or unsure about starting therapy is normal, but once you have found the right therapist for you, this should pass. Working with the right professional will help you to feel comfortable enough to reflect upon your life and discover new ways to approach difficulties.
Finally, remembering that you are not the only one experiencing the issues you are dealing with and staying open-minded can help you relax and get the most from your therapy sessions.
Feel like you want to give it a try? Book here to arrange your FREE 15-minute phone consultation with one of our therapists.