Going into therapy is a BIG decision. It’s not unusual to think about it for a while, sometimes a long while (weeks, months, years). And for good reason.
First there’s the investment of time, energy, and money. Then there’s the decision about who to see…there are so many therapists to choose from…and the concerns about what it means to be in therapy.
Marie, a 45-year-old single woman with no children, has a successful career managing the customer support department of a mid-sized corporation. Marie takes relatively good care of her health. She exercises, eats right, has regular medical check-ups. Her blood pressure is a little high, but “nothing to worry about.” She brings work home and watches the news every weeknight; and gardens in her backyard on weekends. She goes to the movies with friends once a month. Her last intimate relationship ended three years ago when her fiancé broke off their engagement. He said, “You work too much and you don’t seem all that interested in me.” When she thinks of that relationship, she remembers her parents arguing about all of the time her dad spent away from home. “Let it go,” she tells herself. “That was so long ago.” Marie considers going into therapy, but puts it off because, she thinks, “My problems aren’t that big or bad.”
Marie*, like many people, is functioning well enough in life but wonder “Is this all there is?”
Unlike Marie, you may have problems you that are making life less pleasant than you would like. Big problems. If that’s the case, certainly therapy is an option for you. Support groups are good too, but sometimes we all need someone to talk to in private, one-on-one.
People like Marie, in addition to thinking “My problems aren’t that bad,” might also think that therapy means being crazy, weak, sensitive, unsure, or insecure. Maybe you think people will judge you for being in therapy (some will).
Misconceptions about therapy
Misconceptions about therapy are not uncommon. For starters, you won’t lie on a couch, unless you want to. The therapist should be interested in what you’ve experienced in your life, what’s happened and what is happening with you, not what’s “wrong” with you. In the best of situations, you will work collaboratively with your therapist and talk about what’s important to you, not what’s going on with the therapist. The therapist will probably ask you questions and make comments, but they should be about you, not the therapist. You have a choice to answer questions or not answer; saying no is an acceptable response. You can cry, express anger, talk about fears and worries, laugh, and smile. You can even disagree with your therapist. I suggest that clients disagree with me if I interpret something they’ve said incorrectly or made an interpretation that does not “fit.” Disagreeing with others is part of developing agency and trust in yourself.
The contemporary view of therapy is that it’s a time and space that you set aside each week to explore your inner world, your life, your relationships, your past, present, and future in a safe, confidential environment with a person who has your best interests in mind always. Your therapist is your advocate and should want to help you to have a more satisfying and meaningful life. If you do not want to have a more satisfying and meaningful life, then you might talk about that in your first session. If your therapist is not working with you to get there, consider looking for a different therapist.
Next: 10 FAQs about therapy
*Marie is a fictional character; stock photo.