I have had, over the course of the last 6 months, 2 different psychotherapists. What I intend to do here is discuss what I have learned about the process, debunk the myths & answer any questions. I will be the most honest here that I can be.
I went to see a therapist at a time of great change in my life. My relationship of 10 years was falling apart. My relationship with my Mother had always been difficult. My upbringing was unusual. My Father passed away in 2009. I have long had issues around who I am in terms of weight and sexuality. The day before I decided to go and speak to someone I felt as though I was completely falling apart and was on the edge of some sort of breakdown.
My partner at the time had been seeing a therapist for around 3 months. A quick call was made and I saw someone that same day. I found myself unloading rapidly & becoming very emotional. There was a fee however often you can find services for free if you are prepared to make some phone calls. My current therapist is free as I am unemployed. You can go through the NHS to gain access to a therapist. I do not wish to alarm you but on average the wait to see one that way can be between 12-18 months.
All therapists work differently. They will inevitably favour one approach over another (there are many different types of theory/approaches in Psychology) and you may find that some work better for you than others. Do not be afraid of shopping around to find the right person for you. You have to trust then and be able to work with them. Be clear with them about what you want. Most of these introduction sessions are reduced rate if you are paying for them yourself. You need to be able to trust them (I accept this may appear difficult at first) and be able to be honest with them.
Acknowledging that each therapist will work in a different way I think it is fair to point out that there are similarities in the process.
• Often the early sessions will be information gathering for the therapist as they try to understand your life to that point.
• They will check you feelings on certain things that have happened to you. Often different times through the process. They do this to see if things have evolved or changed.
• They will try to establish if you are a danger to yourself or anyone else. Do not be alarmed by this. They have a duty of care and are not looking to lock you up.
• They will remember things you have said over the course of the sessions. They will often say them back to you in a different way.
• They will plant seeds as you go. The hope is these will be processed by your brain over the course of the coming weeks and months. A different way of looking at the same problem if you prefer.
What Does Not Happen
Nobody is going to judge you at all. Going to see a therapist should carry no shame. Depending on your therapist they will often give examples of types of people that they help (this varies and never gives any clue as to the identity of any individual). You will learn that a great many people go to therapy and for a great many things. Nobody is exempt. They will not make you talk about things you do not want to talk about. That is not to say that further down the road they won’t return to the issues but by this time you will trust them more and the process should be easier. Everyone has things they don’t think they can say to anyone. In this environment you can. You should find yourself looking forward to your sessions and you should start to notice an improvement. The therapist does not tell you what to do and neither do they try to mess with your mind. The key to your problems is within yourself.
Going to see a therapist is not a weakness in fact it is quite the opposite I believe. You will form a bond with them and you will find comfort in the bond. You will learn as much in between the sessions as you do during them. Things will fall into place afterwards or you will look differently at a given problem and then take that back to your next session to discuss it. It is important to be aware that you can have fixed sessions (of usually 6) to focus on a specific problem or long term psychotherapy can be up to 2 years. This is not a quick fix but that is not to say that it isn’t a fix. Often these problems we have take a long time to be learned and they can take a long time to forget.