There are many reasons individuals seek therapy. Some of the most common reasons are grief, anxiety, depression, trauma, addiction, and relationships. Therapy is a form of self-care that can provide support, perspective, and understanding to your current situation or a challenging circumstance.
Let’s start with some common assumptions about therapy:
“I will have to talk about my childhood.”
Therapeutic approaches require you to recall your childhood experiences, skeletons, or the relationship you have with your mother. Depending on what it is that you are coming to therapy for, the sessions and therapeutic goals will be framed around problem-solving that particular situation. So, therapy is focused on present-day realities and the future you wish to see. There are times when exploring childhood narratives will be useful for therapy. Though exploring narratives can be helpful, but not required in order to have a productive therapy session.
“My therapist will think I am crazy.”
Therapists are trained professionals and are required to have thousands of hours of experience before they are licensed. Through their education, study, and experience, therapists are individuals who understand that psychological challenges such as substance abuse, addiction, and relationship issues are a normal part of the human condition. Your therapist is a human being and is not perfect, and more than likely have had their own therapist.
“I will have to relive my trauma.”
Your therapist is not going to expect that you share your deepest, darkest secrets about yourself right off the bat. These sessions are for you to go at what ever rate that you feel most comfortable with; and to disclose and withhold any information you would like to. As part of their role, the therapist understands that the therapeutic relationship, trust and rapport between you and the therapist will develop over time. As you feel more comfortable, you can then work collaboratively with your therapist about difficult topics.
So, what can you expect in therapy?
You can expect therapy to be used to problem-solve circumstances that you have not been able to address on your own. Sessions involve you describing your current situation, your feelings around it, and what has and hasn’t worked for you. If there is not a particular issue that comes to mind in the moment, you will typically share what’s been going on in your life, what’s on your mind, what’s bothering you, or whether there are any goals you’d like to discuss. You’ll be invited to speak openly. The therapist’s role is to listen, reflect, and understand what your goals are.
You can expect your therapy space as a space for you to say exactly what you feel, to be honest, and to do so without worrying if you are going to hurt someone’s feelings, damage a relationship, or be judged in any way.
You should never feel criticized or interrupted when sharing your feelings and thoughts. And you should not find yourself in a position where you are withholding information from your therapist for the therapist sake or in fear of feeling misunderstood. You should be able name when you feel confused or unsure about what is going in your therapeutic relationship.
Therapy is a safe space. It is your space. It should look and feel like however you want it to.