Where do I start?

Over the years I have dealt with a great amount of losses including family, jobs, friends and myself… I don’t know where to start with my therapy journey
Asked by Ryan

Thank you for reaching out. Therapy, or counseling, is intended to assist you as you work through past experiences which are causing you troubled emotions or distressing thoughts. If you’re struggling in some way in your life, with work or relationships, for example, a therapist will be able to assist you.

Certain individuals attend therapy briefly to help them address a very specific situation, perhaps the loss of a pet. Others might enter therapy for assistance overcoming an addiction. While someone else might not be experiencing any particular issues, but rather they find longer-term deep therapeutic work helps them formulate the meaning and purpose of their existence.

In some cases, there is a diagnosed condition people need help managing.

There is no concern too small, no issue too large – people enter therapy for all kinds of things.

So, there are all sorts of reasons for beginning therapy. And all of them valid. If you feel a need to talk with someone about anything you’re experiencing in your life, you’re a great candidate for therapy. If you’re finding that there are some difficulties getting in the way of you living the life you want, then that’s also a good opportunity to seek out a therapist.

A therapist will be able to offer non-judgmental and neutral feedback. They can work with you to investigate some of the root causes for troubling, disruptive emotions, behaviors and/or thoughts. In therapy, you will be able to learn and practice a variety of skills and strategies. You will come to a deeper understanding of any harmful patterns you might have, and you will be able to learn some potentially valuable coping skills.

In the beginning stages of therapy, the therapist will usually ask you lots of questions. The better they get to know you, and the better they understand what you’re facing, then the better equipped they are to help you plan goals and come up with some ways of addressing things.

It’s important at all times to keep in mind that therapy is a process. It would be wonderful if we could simply hand you a list of to-do items that would magically solve everything. But it usually takes more time and effort. Things can change, but they won’t change overnight.

And sometimes, starting therapy can make you feel worse. But don’t get concerned that something is wrong, or that your therapist is a poor fit! In reality, when you’re in therapy you start talking about past difficulties and traumatic experiences – stuff you have maybe never openly talked about before with anyone. And it can be hard and upsetting. Which is why you usually find a box of tissues in the therapy room. It’s okay and normal to cry. Many therapy clients do (many find themselves laughing, as well – it’s all part of the process).

Of course, all that said, a therapist is not there to make you talk about anything you don’t want to. If you don’t want to discuss a certain topic, or answer a particular question, a good, qualified therapist will accept and fully respect your boundary.

There won’t be much you need to do to get ready for your first session. The therapist will guide you. You will usually have some paperwork to complete first which usually includes a short questionnaire about why you’re seeking help (you’ll just give a brief overview and no specific details are necessary). If you do want prepare a little, try to think of a short elevator pitch of what has brought you to therapy. What reasons are prompting you? Also, if you have any goals in mind, it can be helpful to consider what they are.

It's normal to be nervous at first. But remember that the therapist is not there to judge you. And therapists enter the profession with a strong motivation to support and help you. Try your best to be open and honest. You don’t have to explain every detail of your life right away – your therapist will understand they are still a stranger to you. It’s just human nature for trust building to be a slow process and it takes time to feel comfortable opening up. Be as vulnerable as you feel okay with. 

Finally, don’t expect the therapist to have all the answers. It might seem like some therapists have the magical solutions to all things. But all therapists are simply human. In fact, it’s better if your therapist does what they’re trained to do – which is to be the guide who is there to help you learn to make better choices on your own and learn to better manage your life moving forward. They will help you learn to become a better decision maker. And they will assist you in becoming more self-aware.

This platform is a great way to see a therapist. There are a variety of providers (because not every therapist is a good fit for every client). And there are multiple ways to interact with your selected therapist including messaging and video chats. Many people find therapy is a positive experience and that it helps them far more than they initially anticipated. Should you move forward, I hope you someday can say the same and that you are able to successfully address your individual concerns.