Getting support is an exciting first step towards greater mental and emotional resilience. In many ways, finding the right support will make your healing process and self-discovery all the more empowering. But finding the right therapist or counsellor is never a one-size-fits-all process.
Here are the top things to keep in mind when it comes to choosing the right support for you, including our top tips on how to get the most out of the experience.
Why should you get therapy?
People used to treat therapy or counselling as something you sought out only when you were experiencing a difficult, traumatic or stressful time in your life. Nowadays, therapy is a useful and exciting tool in deepening your self-awareness and it’s a practice you can explore even when you aren’t experiencing a particular “hardship”.
Therapy is something that can help you work on your personal development, learn coping techniques for dealing with life and it can offer space to explore and understand your purpose, motivations, wants and needs. Therapy is also a great option if you want to better your personal relationships and feel more connected to yourself and others.
Therapy might help you resolve short-term problems, long-term trauma, bridge communication gaps in your relationships, relieve worrying symptoms, overcome personal challenges and to enjoy life more.
Find the right help
Choosing a support service, therapist or mental health professional you feel comfortable with is important in getting the most out of the experience. Making the right choice for you comes down to knowing your intention, so ask yourself this: what do you want to get out of your therapy or counselling experience?
Some therapists will prefer to look at the right here, right now. In other words: any immediate concerns or problems. Other therapists might have a deeper approach to their practice and they will work to explore any deep-seated issues and where they might stem from in your experiences earlier in life. Both types of therapy help you to better understand yourself and it’s entirely up to you on what modality might suit you bester.
Explore your options
When assessing your options, first ask yourself what you want out of the experience and explore the options you have. Some therapists or counsellors might have an approach where they let you outline the purpose of each session. Others might lead you through a planned series with exercises to help you explore your emotions, like in CBT.
It can be worthwhile trying out both styles to see where you feel most comfortable and get the most rewarding experience.
Tips before starting therapy
1: Trust your gut
Finding a therapist or therapy style that suits your needs is part of the process. Try not to let a particular environment put you off therapy altogether – you can always try another therapist or modality. And the reverse is true as well: if you meet a therapist and it doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to stop seeing them. Therapy will be successful only if you feel 100% comfortable with the other person. In saying that, there may be things your therapist says, particularly in sharing an uncomfortable realisation or exploring an aspect of yourself that you find unlikable. Remember there’s a difference between incompatibility and your therapist challenging how you view yourself.
2: Managing your expectations
Be realistic about how quickly therapy will help you. Every session is a small step towards developing a deeper understanding of who you are and every session won’t provide a cliché life-changing breakthrough. Don’t put pressure on your experience. Problems and issues take time to resolve.
3: Make space for yourself outside of your sessions
Before and after your therapy sessions, give yourself time to prepare and process. Some therapy sessions may be harder than others and it can feel overwhelming to jump into a busy schedule or to immediately socialise. Treat your therapy sessions as sacred me-time, and if your day allows, try doing a solo activity afterwards, such as going on a walk somewhere scenic, having a bath, journaling or getting coffee where you can write about your therapy session. These quiet moments on either side of your therapy sessions is where some of the successes in your self-work take place.
How do I prepare for therapy?
If you’re considering therapy or counselling, whether it’s group or one-to-one, making preparations before each session can help you get the most out of the experience.
A good approach to preparing for therapy is by journaling in between sessions to have a record of the issues you’re struggling with. When you attend therapy, you might feel pressure to say everything at once and end up not knowing where to start or your mind might go blank because you’re nervous. Carving out time before your session to sit down and write down the things you would like to discuss can help you structure your thinking.
Explore your options
When you’re sitting down with a relative stranger and you’re exploring longstanding personal issues, you might relive uncomfortable life experiences. The best way to get the most of your therapy is to be honest and open about your experiences and feelings. For some people, being able to accept the parts of yourself you don’t like is where the real progress is made.