So, you want to start going to therapy but you don’t know what it’ll be like? I personally believe that everyone would benefit from going to therapy at some point in their lives. I understand how scary that might sound; like, oh my god therapy?! It’s okay, there is a common misconception that therapy is for “the crazies” and the therapist will give you some sort of big diagnosis and you’ll be put on medication immediately and some such crap (not there’s anything wrong with taking medication, just that it is not the be all end all, or something that works for everyone). However, therapy is working through your problems, you could get a diagnosis, but it’s not as scary as it’s made out to be. Having a mental illness (or a few) is nothing to be ashamed of.
Now, here are a few things you need to know before your first therapy session:
ONE: Therapy is an investment, choose well
How so? Okay, this therapist you’re going to is the person who is supposed to help you. Finding a good therapist is worth it, if you are planning on regularly going to therapy make sure your therapist is of good repute. The therapist you choose has to acknowledge your problems and help you assess them and work through them, their job is to guide you to healing.
TWO: Therapists are not a one size fits all
The therapist with all 5-star reviews might not work for you, in the same way that the 26 steps “foolproof” skincare routine might not work for you. It is important to pick a therapist that works for you; there is nothing wrong with seeing different therapists to test the waters, but it is important to note that going to the greatest and most celebrated therapist is not what this is about. You need to feel comfortable with whoever you end up sticking with and choosing that person is entirely up to you. You have to pick who you’re comfortable with because this is your mental health, and you’re the one going to this therapist.
THREE: Make sure that this is what you want to do
Healing is a journey, one you will come out of a changed person, whether you’re waylaid in the start or there’s a lull somewhere down the line, you will change. Healing is not linear, right? You need to be serious about doing this for yourself and making sure this is what you want to do right now because if you’re not willing to help yourself, no amount of therapy will help you. A therapist does not fix you, they guide you towards your issues and their potential solutions or coping mechanisms so you can help and heal yourself. It is a lot of effort, you have to be prepared for that.
FOUR: Know what you want to talk about
It helps to know what you want to talk about, and the issues you want to address. If you have a specific problem that you want to address it helps to have them written down, because it’s normal to forget things so it helps to have things written down either on your phone or maybe you could get a notebook to make a mental health journal to log all your concerns as they arise. Sometimes for example on Sunday something might happen but then on Tuesday, something happens that overshadows what happened on Sunday so you go into your appointment on Thursday and you forget to address what happened on Sunday because it slipped your mind.
FIVE: Therapists are not judgemental
Therapists will not judge you, they are there to help you. If you have genuine concerns your therapist will help you because you are there for help. While normal people can be judgmental and critical of the things you tell them, a therapist is a trained professional. However, it is not uncommon for some therapists to be close-minded about certain things or for them not to understand something you’re going through, even as trained professionals, they’re still human. So, if you ever feel like your safety or well-being are at risk, if you feel uncomfortable or judged at any point, walk out. It is your right and nothing is wrong with you.
SIX: Always be honest
Always be honest with your therapist about your concerns or struggles, sugar coating things or leaving out details isn’t ideal. Be honest with your therapist about everything (it’s illegal for any therapist to tell someone else your business due to doctor-patient confidentiality) because A) they won’t judge you B) it will make it easier for them to help you. Therapists will help and advise you based on what you tell them and if you aren’t fully honest about everything they might not give you the guidance you need. This doesn’t mean that you should pressure yourself into pouring your guts out 24/7, you can avoid certain topics if you aren’t comfortable with talking about them yet but for when you are it’s important to include everything. This also includes saying: “I don’t want to/feel comfortable talking about this” if your therapist asks something or prods somewhere you don’t think you’re ready for yet.
SEVEN: Therapy isn’t as easy as you think it is (but in a good way)
Therapy isn’t easy, it seemed to me like I’d go and everything will be magically fixed and I’ll be a whole new trauma-free person. The reality is a lot different, therapy is about unlearning problematic behaviors, learning how to deal with things, healing, changing your beliefs about yourself and others, and sorting out your feelings. You’ll have to deal with working through traumatic events or opening up about secrets you’ve long guarded with everything you’ve got or being called out for doing something that harmed you. It sounds scary to think about but sometimes you need help understanding your emotions or why you have this certain problem, you might start to feel worse and you might get discouraged but trust the process.
EIGHT: You might not always like what you hear
Sometimes your therapist will tell you something and you will not like it, even though it’s what you need to hear. That is completely normal, we don’t always want what we need and that’s okay, that’s why there is a professional there to help you. Being called out is ugly, I know, but it goes a long way to help you recognize where you’re harming yourself where you could be healing yourself. It’ll help you remove your ego a little bit from certain scenarios and understand what you need to do for your own sake.
NINE: Diagnosis isn’t everything
I understand that if you have a problem and you think you know what the problem is and you want a diagnosis, I completely understand that. However, the diagnosis isn’t everything, it’s giving the problem a name or identifying it so you and your therapist know what’s up and can find the ‘right’ ways to help. If you can, try to go to multiple psychotherapists for a diagnosis so you can be sure and receive the most help you can. Also, please remember that being diagnosed with a mental illness doesn’t take away from your worth or value.
TEN: This is just the first step
Going to therapy is a commitment; you are committing to healing and I’m proud of you for taking it. It may seem hard and intimidating because you might have a long way to go (most of us do), but don’t let that discourage you! You’re very brave for facing your problems and struggles head-on and that’s something to celebrate.
It may seem hard at first, it may seem like nothing is getting better, but it will. You took the first step, you are aware of what you need. It takes courage to decide to go on a healing journey. You need to understand that therapy isn’t a badge of shame that says: I’m not normal. I need therapy, many people may not understand why you’re going to therapy but that should never stop you from doing what you need to do for yourself and your well-being. Therapy is for everyone and everyone can benefit from going to therapy, whether or not other people understand that. You are taking large steps towards healing from the past and becoming better equipped to deal with the future, and that in and of itself is amazing, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I wish you as wonderful and pain-less a journey as possible. If you’re Egyptian, you can visit @lilacisreal on instagram or facebook for a ready and reviewed data base of some of the best mental health professionals in the country.