5 Things to Think About Before Starting Therapy

“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.”
― David Richo

Acknowledging that you want to start therapy can be a difficult step for many. A lot of people start thinking about therapy when they have quite a few things going on all at the same time, and they want help making sense of things. Or they might be finding that they just can’t stop thinking about one particular issue and it’s been hard to focus on anything else. Sometimes people find that their old coping strategies just aren’t working anymore, and they want some new tools and skills. Another reason people look into therapy is because someone close to them has given them feedback that they haven’t been their usual self lately, and they’re feeling concerned about them. Some are feeling so alone and disconnected from others in their life and want to explore that.  Others notice changes in sleep or appetite, or just simply realize they’re ready for change. Of course, there are many other reasons that prompt people to want to start therapy, so these are just a few.

Whatever the reason that is drawing you to therapy, once you’ve decided that you’re going to give it a try, acknowledge the strength required to take action, and be proud of yourself.  Therapy can be helpful for a variety of reasons and if you're ready to make progress with your therapist, you're going in the right direction. That being said, there are a few things to consider and think about before starting therapy.

Be Honest

People tend to get used to hiding their baggage and their struggles and end up putting a smile on for those around them. When speaking with a therapist, you can do the opposite. You don’t have to hide anything. In fact, you'll want to be as honest as possible with your therapist. They will not judge you, and your honesty will allow them to connect with you more authentically and provide more meaningful suggestions to help you find the answers you’re seeking. It’s also helpful to let them know things you’ve already tried in terms of helping yourself feel better.

Be Ready to Talk About the Past

When people think of going to a therapist, they often think about recounting recent events and how it made them feel. This will definitely happen; however, a therapist will also encourage you to share more details about your distant past to help explain some of your current troubles. The way we think now as adults is rooted in our earlier life experiences. It can be helpful for you to prepare by thinking about some defining moments in your past and be ready to talk about them.

Find Someone You Feel Comfortable With

Not all therapists are the same. Different therapists have different personalities and working styles, and some might be a better fit for you than others. Some also have specializations which might benefit you, depending on what you’re hoping to work on. Many therapists offer a complimentary “Meet and Greet” to see if there’s a good fit and good vibe so it might be a good idea to do at least a couple of these. The therapist will not take it personally if you decide to work with someone else. Ask the therapist what their approach is to helping others. Do they have experience working with others who have similar concerns as yours? Ask whether you will be assigned home practice assignments, how many sessions to expect, the length of sessions and billing information. Once you choose a therapist, give it a few sessions, and if they aren't working out for you, don't be afraid to try another therapist. But before you decide to try another therapist, try letting the therapist know what specifically isn’t working for you and you might be able to work through it together.

Know What You Want Out of Therapy

Try to figure out what you want out of therapy before you start. A good question to ask yourself is “What are my best hopes for engaging in therapy?” Take some time to inquire inwardly what you would like to feel, think, and act at the end of therapy. There might be something you're looking to get over, or you might just want to do some self-discovery. Be prepared to answer questions about this during your first session. It is helpful to write out the thoughts, emotions, behaviours, past and current situations that are bothersome to you. It's just as important for your therapist to know what you're trying to get out of therapy as their job is to guide you to that point.

Things Might Feel Worse Before They Feel Better

Therapy is there to help you. That being said, it can touch on sensitive topics that make you uncomfortable or upset, which might cause things to feel worse than before you started therapy. There's a reason your therapist dives into uncomfortable topics, though, and it's usually to help you to move towards acceptance of what has happened, determine how it changed the person you are now, and help you to let go of any residual hurt and/or distress. After these steps, you should notice a positive change in your life from therapy. It’s a good idea to leave a little bit of extra time before and after your appointment so that you’re not rushing into a session, and you don’t have to rush into something afterwards.

Ultimately, the choice to start therapy can be a daunting one as going into the details of your personal life with a new person is not easy. That being said, it's worth any potential discomfort, as you will learn so much about yourself, learn a myriad of new ways to cope and hopefully tackle some long-standing issues you've had along the way.