I’ve been seeing my current therapist since September of last year. It’s the best experience I’ve had with therapy, so I plan on continuing to see them for a long time. But I want to talk about why this particular experience has been so successful.
When you see a therapist, you have to be willing to address your issues. That’s what you’re going for, right? To find and work on the things having a negative impact on your life? A surprising number of people I’ve talked to about therapy go because someone told them they need to, and have an attitude about it. It’s clear the don’t want to be there and don’t think it’s beneficial. As much as I think therapy is super helpful and a good space for me, it’s totally valid that therapy does not work for everyone. And that’s the first rule of successful therapy: willingness to be there and work for it. Seriously, if you’re making the choice for yourself and don’t want to go to therapy, don’t. You won’t get anything out of it and it probably will upset you.
That’s likely a huge reason therapy hasn’t worked for me in the past. I went, but I really didn’t think I needed it. So when I talked to my previous therapists it was about generic issues I felt were safe but common enough for them to take me seriously. There was also an element of distrust with these therapists, too, as they were through my university. Second rule of successful therapy: trust. A palpable difference exists between the licensed therapist that I now see and the students/religiously affiliated therapists I bounced between in my adolescent and early college years. The biggest reasons for the distrust came from my uneasiness with religion and my parents forcing me to sign a disclosure agreement. That’s a completely different issue, but let me say this: your therapist will not tell anyone what you talk about unless you sign one of those. If you have questions on the privacy of what you talk about, ask! Any good therapist will tell you when and why they would disclose what you talk about. It took me a couple weeks to start opening up to my therapist about what was triggering my anxiety, and I only recently opened up about my biggest (Scariest) triggers. Deep trust does not have to be immediate, it can be earned, but if a basic level of trust with your therapist isn’t there from the beginning I seriously doubt it will be there later on.
Rule 3 of successful therapy: allowing yourself to feel the feels. Personally, I choose to minimize my “negative” emotions in public. You know, crying, anger, depression etc. Allowing yourself to fully experience these in therapy is not only helpful to the process, I’d argue it’s necessary. What better place to feel all your feels than with someone in the room that you literally pay to help sort them out? So, when in therapy, ride those emotional waves friend! It might suck in the moment but if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll feel waaaaaaaay better afterwards.
That’s what I’ve figured out so far, and tbh therapy has been a big old ride but so worth it. If you’re on the fence about trying it out, do some research. Find out therapist specialties and pick one that addresses your needs; I picked an office that specializes in queer issues and anxiety/panic disorders and they selected a therapist for me based on a first time client survey asking what I wanted to get out of it. I can’t speak to other places, but most offices in my area have a first time client survey of some kind and will work with you to find the right therapist. Yes, they are getting paid to do this, but therapists don’t get into this line of work unless they want to help people. Would you want to sit and listen to people’s trauma all day unless you felt like you could help?
Here’s a list of other resources you might find helpful:
- 5 Common Fears That Keep People Out of Therapy
- Is Therapy Worth It?
- 6 Misconceptions About Starting Therapy
- Why Therapy Takes So Long to Work
Let me know your experiences with therapy, good or bad. What works for you? Anything I should add to this post?