The good news: therapy is very “mainstream” today. It’s not stigmatized the way it used to be and many people are happy to share they are in therapy and trying to improve their lives.
The bad news: it can still be scary to make that first appointment. What should you expect? Will you like your therapist? Do you really lay down on a couch for an hour with someone asking you “How does that make you feel?”
Here’s what it’s really like:
There’s no laying on a couch, and most of the time your therpaist never has to ask how that makes you feel. The first time you meet with your therapist you do paper work and then what’s called an “intake”. Your therapist asks questions about what you would like to focus on in therapy (such as why you are seeking therapy services). Some common examples of what I see at my practice are: feelings of depression, not sleeping at night, binge eating, low mood, no motivation, panic attacks , addiction and anxiety.
You start off talking about what symptoms you experience (examples; crying spells, binging on food when feeling stressed, sleeping 4 hours most nights) and how it’s impacted your life. The intake will cover your history and what your life is currently like today. You go over goals for sessions and any recommendations you therapist has before next session. And wa-lah! Your completed your first appointment. The following sessions could be focused on a number of things such as: processing, learning techniques and coping skills, psychoeducation, etc. It all depends on your therapist’s style and theory they subscribe to.
What therapy is not:
Therapy is NOT this scary, intense, overwhelming thing that movies tend to portray it to be.The therapist is NOT some judgmental, all-knowing being who peers over their glasses, takes notes and nods their head simply saying, “Tell me more about how that makes you feel”. Therapy should be a place where you feel relaxed, not judged. You should feel open and engaged with your therapist and feel like you are being heard, actually heard by someone (which is so powerful in healing!) You reflect on how you want to improve your life and process life’s difficulties. You learn healthy techniques and coping skills so you feel empowered again.
Use your first appointment to really assess if you feel comfortable with this therapist, if you could see yourself opening up to them and trust that they are being non-judgmental and genuinely care. If you don’t feel comfortable the good news it that there are other options and you can try someone new. Keep trying until you find a good fit for you.
Bottom line: Don’t let the movies fool you. It’s a lot more relaxed than you might think.
Danielle Swimm, LCPC: Danielle is a holistic psychotherapist that specializes in insomnia & nutrition. She’s a wellness enthusiastic with a passion for mind, body health. She works with clients struggling with insomnia, anxiety, binge eating and depression. She offers psychotherapy at her Annapolis office and virtual sleep coaching sessions.