What Happens When You Start Going to Therapy

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health of many Americans has suffered. A lot of people have sought mental health counseling or medication for the first time. Some people who used to have a mental health provider sought to get care again. Therapists are people too, and they have had to deal with the same stress as everyone else, along with the obligation to help people get through it. In a report on Friday, June 25 from the Houston Business Journal, connectedness is a key part of surviving the isolation, loneliness, stress and despair related to the pandemic. If you choose to start telehealth or in-person therapy sessions, it's important to know what to expect from the experience. Keep reading for some insider tips on what happens when you start going to therapy.

Intake Requires One or Two Sessions

There are many types of therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy and more. Before you choose a therapist, you may want to read up on these therapies and find out which methods are best suited to your situation. Keep in mind that while most therapists specialize in one method, they're trained in multiple methods. If you have no idea of which method is the right one for you. Determining the best type of therapy for your issue is usually done during the intake session. For some people, two sessions will be needed for the intake process. During intake, the therapist asks you what's troubling you, your history and other relevant questions, such as whether or not you perform self-harm activities or have thoughts of suicide.

You'll Be Challenged

Therapy and counseling are not the same thing. Expect to be doing real work in therapy. Your therapist will challenge you. It's part of the experience. The job of the therapist is to help you identify maladaptive thought patterns, behaviors and actions that are causing problems. The therapist will ask you tough questions. You may not want to answer them. If you don't answer the questions and you don't do the homework, your therapy experience won't be as deep and helpful as it could be. For example, your therapist may ask you to spend five minutes every day writing a worry journal. Your therapist might ask you to phrase questions differently or to ask yourself why you need to know certain types of information before you make demands of others. This will feel uncomfortable at first. The discomfort comes from the change. Your life can't get better if you don't make the changes to turn maladaptive thoughts behaviors into positive and healthy ones.

It Will Drain You

Many people go to therapy to work through unresolved conflicts or past trauma. It takes a lot of emotional energy to do this. After a particularly deep conversation or recollection of a traumatic experience, you may feel drained. Your energy level could be low for a day or two after the session. This is therapy at work. You're reaching those blocked-off areas of your brain and allowing yourself to feel the feelings. It's normal. Give yourself some grace. Practice extra self-care during this time. It will get better. Let your therapist know how the sessions make you feel and how they affect you for the following days. They can also help you with some coping tips.

You'll Have Strong Feelings About Your Therapist

Most, if not all patients develop strong feelings about their therapist. If you're talking about childhood trauma, and your therapist is a middle-aged man, you may transfer feelings of hate, shame or anger onto your therapist. If your therapist reminds you of your toxic mother-in-law, you may feel scorn toward her. A young therapist might remind you of a needy sibling or your best friend. An attractive, attentive and well-spoken therapist who gets deep into your head may trigger feelings of love, lust or desire that you didn't expect. Whether your feelings about your therapist are welcome or feel uncomfortable, it's important to share them with the therapist. The phenomenon of transference to your therapist can shed a lot of light on the other relationships in your life. If you're a woman going through marriage problems and who doesn't get the professional and personal recognition, attention and words of affirmation you need, it's natural to become attracted to the therapist who provides you with this. Let them know, and they'll help you work through and benefit from it.

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