For those who are new to the therapeutic process, therapy may seem quite intimidating. Like many other things, the media doesn’t always portray therapy in an accurate light, leading to a large discrepancy between the expectations and reality of the therapeutic experience. In actuality, therapy is a safe space that helps facilitate personal insight, the development of helpful coping strategies, and the construction of a life worth living. To help clarify how therapy is a welcoming and worthwhile experience, let’s start by elaborating on the realities of therapy.
Therapy is not a pass or fail grade.
People are often very hard on themselves in and out of the therapeutic environment and may hold high expectations for themselves to “pass” in therapy. Often, these expectations can be intimidating and maybe even a hindrance to attending therapy in the first place. The thing about therapy, however, is that if you are already showing up and participating, you are already passing. Some days are harder than others, but if you continue to show up and participate, you are actively working towards a life worth living, and even the slightest bit of improvement is a movement toward that goal.
Your therapist will not judge you.
The main reason that individuals go into the profession of therapy is not that they want to judge people, but because they want to help people. Further, their main concern is the well-being of their clients, which often means that putting aside judgment is necessary.
Therapy is not a magic cure.
As with most things in life, therapy takes time and effort from both the client and the clinician. Sometimes, clients may come into the session thinking that one session will be a quick fix to long-term experiences of being dysregulated. However, therapy consists of building and practicing helpful coping strategies, talking about difficult subjects, and learning to accept, all of which cannot be retained and accomplished in one session (most likely). But hard work does not mean that it isn’t worth one’s time and effort. Again, therapy allows you to build a life worth living, which is worth more than the time and effort combined.
To help paint a better picture, if you had an infection and a doctor gave you antibiotics, you would have to continue to take all of the prescribed antibiotics to ensure your health. Just taking one antibiotic and calling it good would not suffice to eliminate the infection. The same can be said for therapy. With consistency and participation, one can begin to resume or build a healthier level of functioning, which is likely to improve relationships, self-esteem, mood, and daily living.
There are several types of therapy.
Many preconceived notions about therapy are derived from books, movies, TV shows, and social media, which is not always an accurate representation of how the process works. Many of these media sources present therapy in the same ways, likely where the therapist is an authoritative figure trying to dissect the unconscious mind of their clients. Not only does therapy not happen this way, but there are actually many different kinds of therapy that vastly differ from this popular representation. This variety of approaches allows clients to find one that works best for them and their situation. To use the medical analogy again, there isn’t just one kind of doctor. There are a number of different kinds of doctors (e.g., physicians, oncologists, urologists, neurologists, etc.) who specialize in treating different kinds of illnesses. The same can be said about therapists. Therapists are specialized professionals: meaning if you are having a specific issue, there is likely a therapist that is trained in how to help with that issue.
The list of ways therapy differs from media portrayals could go on and on, but the main point remains the same: therapy is a space of acceptance, safety, and care where individuals can learn how to live the lives they wish to. It is a space where growth is facilitated and cheered on and where all questions and individuals are welcome. So when searching for a therapist and/or mental health professional, don’t let your expectations discourage you from reaching out and showing up. Instead, let yourself experience the reality of it.