Going to therapy is an incredibly valuable experience. That said, if you’re starting mental health therapy for the first time, you might wonder what to expect. Common questions about starting therapy include but aren’t limited to, “how long will I be in therapy for?” “how do I know it’s working?” and “how do I find the right therapist for me?”
Finding A Therapist
Of course, the first thing you’ll want to do is find a therapist if you haven’t already. There are a number of ways to go about this. You can:
- Make an appointment with your primary care provider or general doctor and ask for a referral.
- Contact your insurance company or check their website to see who they cover near you.
- Use an online therapist directory or search the web for therapists in your area.
- Sign up for a reputable online therapy website with licensed providers.
You can also utilize on-campus resources if you’re a student or, if applicable, take advantage of an employee assistance program offered by your workplace.
Preparing For The First Session
Once you find a therapist and make your first appointment, it’s time to prepare for your first therapy session.
Here’s the first and most important thing to remember: it’s okay if you don’t feel ready. Truth be told, there’s not that much preparation to do unless you want to.
Your first session will largely consist of you simply telling your therapist why you’re there. Upon thinking about it you might say something like:
“I just got out of a bad relationship”
“I have social anxiety”
“I think I might have depression”
“I feel ugly, and it’s impacting the way I live my life”
“I struggle with angry outbursts”
“It’s hard for me to open up about my emotions”
“My stress level is overwhelming”
Or, you might say something entirely different. Then, your therapist will likely ask for a brief overview of your personal history. You can share as much or as little as you want to. Remember that having one therapy session with a provider doesn’t indicate a lifelong commitment. If this isn’t the right therapist or type of therapy for you, it’s always okay to switch.
How Do I Know If Therapy Is Working?
You’ve likely heard the phrase, “healing isn’t linear,” and regardless of if you’re in couples therapy, individual therapy, or family therapy, it’s true. The length of therapy and the trajectory of therapy will be different for everyone.
Sometimes, you won’t see progress for a while, and then, out of nowhere, you’ll be struck by how much things have improved. For example, if you struggle with social anxiety, you might feel down and as though nothing is working, but then, it’ll hit you that you can do something you weren’t able to do before. This is a great feeling!
After you’ve been seeing a therapist for a while, they’ll typically ask you to reevaluate your goals and look at the progress you’ve made or if your goals have changed. Setting goals can be beneficial for those who are anxious to know if therapy is benefiting them, and this is one reason why; it’s a tangible thing to refer back to.
That said, if you’re just starting therapy and don’t have established goals yet, it’s okay. Therapy is for you and about you. You get to move at your own pace. This brings us to another common question people ask when starting therapy, which is –
How Long Will I Be In Therapy?
How long you’ll see a therapist depends largely on what kind of therapy you attend, what you’re working on in therapy, and so on. In some cases, people see a therapist for a couple of months or less (this is often the case in, say, premarital counseling), where others are in therapy for much longer.
At the end of the day, you’re in the driver’s seat. You might decide to switch therapists, take a break from therapy, stop therapy, or try a new kind of therapy that you feel is a better fit for you at this time.
Finding the right therapist makes a world of difference. If you’ve been in therapy for a while and feel misunderstood by your therapist in a way that it impacts your ability to make progress, or if you just don’t feel like they can help you – maybe, they’re not giving enough output for you, or maybe you want someone who is better versed in the topic you’re talking about in therapy – this might be an indicator that it’s time to switch or try something new.
Online therapy is an excellent place to get the support that you need from the privacy of your own home, and in the case of platforms such as MyTherapist, it can also help you find the right fit. When you sign up for MyTherapist, you’ll take a short questionnaire that’ll help you match with a provider who meets your needs. It’s also typically more affordable than traditional in-person therapy. Regardless of whether you see a therapist in person or online, you deserve to get the support you need, so don’t hesitate to take the first step.