What Happens in Therapy?

People who have never been in therapy form assumptions about the therapeutic process by hearing about a family member or friend’s experience or by the media. There is value to incorporating this information as it helps to form an opinion about what may or may not feel good or helpful. As soon as you enter your therapist’s office, therapy begins. How does this happen? What does it mean to engage? How do you begin to peel back the layers that in the outside world cover your confusion, depression, anxiety and deep wounds?

We have a tremendous capacity to cope and find ways to deal with internal pain. We learn some of these coping skills in childhood as reactions to events that were painful and scary. We use these methods to protect ourselves and they work extremely well, until they no longer work. The therapeutic process helps develop new coping mechanisms and ways to reframe how we look at life. This takes place over a period of time during which you and your therapist build a trusting relationship.

There are many different types of therapy that are effective in providing relief. The most important component in evaluating whether you will be able to engage in the process of change is developing a bond with your therapist. The first thing you have to ask yourself after your first session is, “do I want to come back”? If the answer is yes, then go back. You may need an answer to the question of whether your first impression of liking or not liking the therapist is accurate, so follow that feeling and get your answer. Give yourself and the therapist a chance by going more than once and see if you feel at ease enough to begin sharing information.

Why does sharing with a therapist rather than a friend offer more of a potential for change? The answer is anonymity. The time you spend in your therapist’s office is your time. It’s about you. You don’t have to worry about whether you are talking too much, revealing too much or crying too much. You are the focus of attention and although you may be curious about your therapist, you don’t have to ask them about how their life is going. You don’t have to be attentive to their needs. Remember, the success of therapy depends on staying within your own moment; being mindful of your own experience and feelings and then opening up to what they may mean and how they make you behave.

As therapy progresses, your therapist may challenge you to revisit painful memories or ask you to delve a little deeper in to the meaning of some of your thoughts and actions. If you trust your therapist you will find that moving in this direction may lift some of your confusion and doubt. You may be asked to take a risk and talk about things that may at first seem uncomfortable but end up providing  you with some answers and relief. You may have to face making difficult decisions and your therapist will help you tip the scale that will guide your choice. Your commitment to therapy will free you up to make those choices and will alleviate the pressure of feeling stuck, depressed and anxious.