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time posted
Jan 30, 2023

Therapy: What Happens And What People Really Talk About


Many people are nervous about starting therapy because they are unsure what to expect. Uncertainty is an uncomfortable feeling, and this may end up with you deciding not to attend that first session.

It is normal to feel uncertain and nervous before starting therapy. Therapy is a place where you are vulnerable and need to be honest within the therapeutic relationship. This will make you nervous, especially before you have decided if this therapist is the right therapist.

There are a lot of examples of therapy in series and movies. Many of these representations don’t quite show an accurate example of what actually happens. Some of these misconceptions adds to the anxiety or skepticism you might be feeling.

It will be helpful to know which of these representations are inaccurate. Then you will also have more of an understanding of what you can expect.

Common Myths

Some of these representations have been perpetuated for so long that they have gained a myth like status. These myths might make you feel pressurized or have unrealistic expectations. Going in with these expectations can leave you feeling disappointed and frustrated when they don’t come to life.

Knowing what these myths are, and the nugget of truth behind them, will place you in a position of knowledge and control. You can go into your sessions with realistic expectations and goals.

There’s One Big ‘Aha’ Moment

Often there is an expectation of a moment of clarity that makes everything fall into place and your healing will suddenly become second nature. This moment will provide an understanding of everything you have been going through and naturally allow you to shift in your thoughts and emotions to live in harmony.

This does not happen. Therapy is hard work and instead of one big moment, you will be faced with many smaller moments of clarity or understanding to provide you with introspection and a chance to implement a sustainable change. These changes will take practice and work – there is no bird song or cartoon-like euphoria. Instead, there is genuine appreciation of yourself and your journey.

Therapy Is For Those Who Are “Broken” Or “Sick”

There seems to be a large stigma against therapy because it is for someone who is “broken” or “sick”. This myth has many problems attached to it. Firstly, there is judgment against those who do seek out therapy and people who would benefit from therapeutic intervention are too worried to go to therapy because of the stigma.

This stigma is unfounded. Therapists or mental health professionals do support those who have diagnosed conditions for mental health, however, they can offer so much more support. From everyday stress and anxiety to conflict management, self-improvement, relationship building, and self-esteem building, a therapeutic space can be a safe haven for all of this to happen.

Therapy can provide this safe space for anyone at any age. It should be seen as a supportive measure that will enhance your own personal journey.

Therapists Are Just Glorified Listeners

When you picture therapy do you see the therapist passively sitting on their chair listening to you and nodding? This is a common image of therapists and has led to this myth, that therapists are glorified listeners – so why should you pay for someone to sit and listen to you?

Therapists are a whole lot more than passive listeners. They will listen to you, and some sessions they will listen more than others – it will often depend on what you bring to the session. However, they are constantly containing the things that you bring in and will work from this material to actively participate in the therapeutic process.

Both you and the therapist are active participants and will work together based on the information that you bring in. When your therapist is listening to you, they are in the present moment with you, witnessing your truth. With this truth they can facilitate growth, reframing, recognition of patterns, reflection, and introspection.

What Really Happens

Now that some of these myths have been clarified you might be wondering what therapy actually looks like. What each session entails and how the process is implemented to support you.

After developing an understanding, you may feel more confident to reach out to book your first session. Booking and going to the first session can sometimes feel like the biggest step – once you commit you are committing to growing and loving yourself. This is a powerful motivator and can help boost your confidence on the days you feel a bit nervous.

Each Session Is A Problem Solving Session

When you get into the therapeutic process you will find that each session is a nugget of problem solving, reflection, and possible reframing. You should learn new skills and reflect on how the previously learned skills have affected you since the last session.

You will narrow down on a specific theme or pattern with the help of your therapist. You can then explore this theme or pattern and look for developing understanding around it. You can then look at any problems or challenges it is related to and brainstorm how you could solve them.

When you are working side by side with your therapist you have a sounding board for ideas where the problem solving is done by you and not your therapist simply telling you what you should do. 

Clients Discuss A Wide Range Of Topics

There are no taboo subjects in therapy. You can discuss whatever is on your mind or taking up space in your thoughts. You can explore current experiences, past experiences, and even future hopes, dreams, and worries.

Your therapist will usually allow you to bring whatever topic into a session that you wish to discuss. They may ask you questions to further both their and your own understanding on what you are sharing. This might bring up new thoughts and reflections, you can share these with your therapist as well.

You can share what you have experienced since the last session, how you implemented any tools you previously learned and how they worked (or didn’t) for you. Remember that being honest with your therapist is important. If they don’t know that tools, suggestions, or approaches are not working for you then they won’t be able to adjust accordingly, and you may feel that therapy is not helping you.

The therapeutic alliance is a relationship based on trust and non-judgement. This is contained within a frame of unconditional positive regard. This should provide you with a safe space to speak about topics that make you feel vulnerable, confused, proud, excited, sad, angry, etc. There is no emotion that cannot be expressed in a therapeutic space.

Therapists Don’t Prescribe Medication

Therapy does not equate medication. There are some mental health conditions that require medicinal intervention. This is prescribed and managed through a psychiatrist and not a therapist or psychologist.

Your psychologist may recommend that you see a psychiatrist if they believe you will benefit from medication. However, one does not take the place of the other. There is a tendency to believe that once you have medication and you feel better you no longer need therapy.

This isn’t always correct. Medication is there when the body’s chemicals have become unbalanced and need assistance to regain equilibrium or homeostasis. This is what makes us feel better when we begin medication. 

Medication is supported by therapy because therapy looks at behavioral modifications, cognitive reframing, and coping strategies that you can put into place. Therapy also provides introspection and understanding of the self that medication cannot provide.

Medication can be seen as a quick fix, and often it does provide symptomatic relief sooner than therapy does. However, this relief will be short lived if the rest of your lifestyle continues in the patterns that have contributed to the challenges you had in the beginning. You might find yourself returning to therapy in a few months because the medication is not helping you sustain the equilibrium.

Therapy Can Last From 1 Or 2 Sessions To Several Years

Many of us go into therapy asking how long will I be here? Now this question is a valid one and having a timeline lessens that uncertainty that you might be feeling. Unfortunately, the question is a difficult one to answer.

The length of therapy is determined by a variety of factors. Some of these factors are:

  • The approach of the therapist: therapists use different therapeutic and theoretical approaches to therapy. These approaches can affect the time frame of therapy. For example, a psychodynamic therapist will look at a long-term therapy program, whereas a solutions focused therapist looks at a short term program.
  • The reason for therapy: your therapy will be based on what you need to bring to the space. If you need to bring multiple things, or complex themes then therapy will last longer. For example, if you are coming to therapy for a trauma debriefing after an assault your therapy will be shorter term than if you are needing assistance building boundaries and self-esteem.
  • If there is a diagnosis: if you do have a diagnosis, you may need more continuous support than if you don’t. This is to ensure that you never feel that you are alone or unable to cope with your daily routine.
  • Your current environment: sometimes our environment contributes to the stress and anxiety we experience. If you cannot remove yourself from the environment, maybe it is at home or at work, you may need longer term therapy than if you are able to change your environment.

You and your therapist will discuss duration and considerations that will influence the duration of therapy. You can always check-in on the progress and re-evaluate the duration at any point in your therapy.

To Wrap Up

Having a better understanding of therapy, you can see that this space is all about you and what is best for you. Yes, it may make you uncomfortable and push you towards change, and it also makes sure you grow in the most helpful way to you.If you are ready to reach out and book a session, contact us at One Life Counselling and Coaching. We are there to walk each step of your journey with you – because you are worth caring about.

I am the founder of One Life Counselling and Coaching LTD and I am honored to lead a team of professional psychologists, psychotherapist’s and life coaches who dedicate their professional lives to helping people to elevate their mindsets, evolve their beliefs and learn to thrive in the present moment.
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