For people who are newcomers to therapy, I often hear questions like “What is therapy?” and “How can talking about my problems REALLY help me?”. Therapy is an opportunity for you to talk about those life stressors, relationship issues, work problems, questions about identity, daily struggles, trauma, addiction, and so much more, while receiving feedback on better ways of coping and working through those things to ultimately become a better version of you. Everyone can benefit from therapy, no matter how large or small you feel your problems are.
Many of us, myself included, saw the images of therapy in media and assumed that was exactly what it was supposed to look like, the client sitting/laying on a couch, while talking to a male therapist about their deepest, darkest problems/challenges. Let me begin by saying, this is not what therapy typically looks like! Therapy generally should not look like an episode of Frasier. See humorous examples below.
Therapy typically occurs in a calm, relaxing setting, with someone who could be of any gender. Therapy can give you a safe space to put all of life’s problems on the table and to vent your frustrations to someone who is trained to LISTEN. Another common misconception that people have about therapy is the expectation that the therapist is supposed to give you all of the answers to life. Speaking of my own education, advice giving was one of the first big no no’s that professors made sure to instill in us. The whole point of therapy is for YOU, as a person, to be able to work through whatever issues that brought you to therapy to begin with. If the therapist is giving you advice on what they feel you should do, then ask yourself, how are you truly working through YOUR issues? Therapists look to empower people to take ahold of their problems while coming to their own solutions.
Some people struggle with the thought of finding the perfect therapist. When looking for a therapist, it is important that you consider things like gender preference, approach to counseling, location of office, availability, areas of expertise, and cost, just to name a few.
One of the most important aspects of the therapeutic process is the therapeutic relationship that develops between you and your therapist. It is important to feel that you’re able to be open and honest with your therapist, not feel as though you are being judged, and trust that the therapist will not awaken difficult to deal with memories/emotions for no reason. If you do not feel as though you mesh well with your therapist, for whatever reason, it is important that you speak with the therapist regarding this feeling as opposed to just no longer showing for appointments. Ending therapy abruptly can potentially harmful, depending on where you are in the process. As with any relationship, professional or personal, communication and honesty are important parts of the process.