Okay. Be honest. When you first read this title, Your First Time, were you thinking this article was going to be about sex? Especially given that one of the services offered here at The Center for Growth is sex therapy, I can’t say I blame you! What we are actually going to be talking about here is…your first time in therapy.
Many years ago, the idea of going to therapy could have conjured up all kinds of distorted beliefs such as “I am not crazy” or imagining that when a person goes to therapy for the first time, they will be greeted by an old guy with gray hair, a long beard, and British accent that will ask you to lie on a couch and coerce you into disclosing your inner most thoughts without even knowing each other. Well, I am happy to tell you that, for the most part, that type of treatment is not part of the mainstream style of “therapy” today. What to realistically expect when you come to therapy for the first time and how to make the experience comfortable and beneficial for you is the actual premise of this article.
All kidding aside, deciding to come to therapy is no easy task. It involves finding the right person or treatment center, committing time and financial resources to the process, and being reading to make changes in your life. However, for some people, one of the greatest barriers to seeing a therapist is deciding to let someone into their personal life and inner thoughts, which can be scary at first. But, when circumstances in your life have become so overwhelming or painful, it is a relief to find someone to talk and trust that can also maintain objectivity. After all, we all deserve to live happy, fulfilling lives and if going to therapy can help someone achieve this, it is an investment that can really pay off!
Once you have a therapist picked out, whether you were referred by someone else or found us on Google, here are some tips to help your first session go more smoothly:
- The big “first” session- The goal of the first session is to make you feel comfortable and to learn from you what the reasons are that you are seeking therapy. This is an opportunity for you to ask questions about your therapist’s credentials, their therapeutic approach, and feel out their personality to see if they are the right fit for you. In the first session, we will talk about how to best help you with the issues that you came in with and how we can work with you to reorganize thinking so you can move on in a more meaningful, intentional way. It is also nice to have someone who is professional, objective, and non-judgmental to be by your side while you navigate the changes you want to make in your life. Also, in the first session, some of the required paperwork will be completed.
- Connection- As you begin to embark on this new journey of learning how to solve your problems and feel good about yourself, it is important to feel safe and trusting of the change process. The more honest and vulnerable you can be in this non-judgmental zone, the greater the benefit you will go home with. Connection is very important in helping you open up to your therapist, such as a best-friend or coach. The Center for Growth is dedicated to matching all of our clients with the right therapist. If at the end of your first session, you do not feel a connection with your therapist, we will assign you to another one for an initial session at little or no charge.
- We will keep your secrets- It is comforting to know that what you confide in with a professional therapist stays confidential. With few legal exceptions (i.e. being suicidal, abuse), everything you say in a session will stay there. Our goal is to help you feel safe doing the mental, emotional, and sometimes physical work needed to help transform you from the person you were to the person you want to be so brace yourself for the journey!
- Time- Each individual and couples sessions are 53 minutes long. The amount of time to work through issues and feel a meaningful shift in yourself is about 8-10 sessions. However, your therapeutic experience could be longer or shorter depending on your specific needs and the pace you need to feel like you are on the right path.
- Relationship practice- Most people come to therapy because their relationships are negatively affected by their behavior, their challenges with communicating with people close to them, or by other emotional difficulties. In the therapy room, you are with another “live” person where you can practice interpersonal skills such as sharing feelings, developing coping skills, or learning how to communicate more effectively utilizing the therapist’s interaction and responses as a tool for helping you improve in these areas. Like any other relationship in your life, it takes time to build the trust and rapport needed for these “learning opportunities.” to occur. For example, we may be told something over and over again by our loved ones, but when we hear a similar point from an objective third party, we may be more ready to take it in and try something new.
- Self-care- Seeing a therapist is a form of self-care in that it allows for at least one hour a week for you to focus on yourself and not have to worry about dividing your attention between yourself and another person. Although the therapist does interact with you, or why go there, the focus of the session is expected to be on you and your individual goals and not the needs of the therapist themselves.
Your first time in therapy can clearly be scary, but the long-term rewards are worth it. I like to think of the money and time that is spent on therapy as an investment into yourself, which is absolutely true! If after reading this tip, you are still unclear about how going to therapy will benefit you and/or your relationship, I encourage you to make a list of what the perceived advantages and disadvantages are. Be honest with yourself. Always know, that you matter and no one, even a therapist, can't make you do what you are not ready for.
If you are willing to take the risk of a possible life-enhancing experience, you can call The Center for Growth at 215-922-LOVE to schedule an appointment.