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Answers to Your Questions About Starting Therapy

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

by Kerry Beduna, Ph.D

What can I expect in therapy?

If you are considering starting therapy for the first time, it’s normal to be

nervous or anxious about what to expect. While every therapy experience is

different, knowing more about what therapy may be like can help you feel more at

ease going into that first session. Your first session of therapy will typically consist

of the therapist gathering information about your mental health history, family and

relationship background, and symptoms you are experiencing. It may be helpful for

you to think about what you would like to work on in therapy. I tell my clients that

it’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you need to work on yet, and that your goals

can definitely change over time as we work together. Many people feel a sense of

relief after their first therapy session, having a sense of hope that there is someone

who is committed to helping them reach their goals.

How do I find a therapist who is the best fit for me?

If you are looking to work on a specific issue, it may be important to look for

someone who has expertise working with that issue (eating disorders, substance

abuse, LGBT issues, etc). Reading therapists’ statements on or

on their practice’s website is a good place to start. Therapists are trained to help

with a wide variety of issues and may have a particular therapeutic style, such as

cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic, solution-focused, or interpersonal process. It

is important to find a clinician who you feel comfortable with, as you want to feel

safe enough to share things in therapy that are very personal. It may take a few

sessions for you to tell if your therapist is a good fit for you, but you should listen to

your gut feelings, particularly if something feels off. I check in with my clients about

how they are feeling about working with me. If they feel that something is not

working, I try to make adjustments to our approach in therapy. I may help them find

another counselor if they feel I am not a good fit for their needs.

How can I make the most of my experience in therapy?

While your therapist is trained to help you make insights into your

experiences, explore your feelings, and encourage you to work towards your goals,

YOU are the most important agent for change in your life. When my clients ask me

for advice, I help them explore their options and assist them in making the decision

that fits their needs. I like to say that in therapy, the client and I are on a journey

down a road with many paths, in which the client is the driver, I am the passenger,

and my therapeutic style is the GPS/navigation system. My clients and I work

together to determine what techniques will be most helpful in reaching their goals.

You will get the most out of therapy if you are engaged in the process and

challenge yourself to go outside of your comfort zone. This could mean talking

about experiences and feelings that cause discomfort or doing things on your own

time in between sessions to work towards your goals. Sometimes this means that

you will feel worse in therapy before you feel better, but in the end working through

the challenge is what makes therapy so rewarding.

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