Therapy sounds like a huge deal, especially when you have no idea what therapy is like. It was what really intimidated me from trying it out for years. I have to tell a STRANGER my secrets?
I remember trudging up a hill in the Auckland CBD wondering what therapy would be like. I thought it would like opening a Pandora’s box where all your issues come flying out like uncontrollable bats and snakes and you won’t be able to deal with it.
However, I’ve been to a few therapists now (normally depending on budget constraints because therapy is NOT CHEAP). But I justified before as - well there’s nothing currently I want more than to find out the root causes of my insecurities and how to overcome them. That’s worth it, to heal my issues to make life more fun and for if I ever eventually become a parent - being a mentally healthy and stable parent has such a huge impact on kids. Especially since not having it is probably what sends a lot of us TO therapy lol.
5 tips for what therapy is like:
1. You don’t have to be in a middle of an mental breakdown to go
I’ve heard from a lot of people who want to go but don’t say that they don’t really have a ‘reason’ to, that although they have issues that currently things are not in crisis mode.
I don’t believe you have to be in a mental crisis to go. For me, holding onto the feelings from situations when you can see your issues surfacing works. Just knowing that when _____ happens, I tend to react like ______ and I want to know why, and to heal it.
An example is, I used to get very emotional over one on one meetings with managers, since my first full-time job was quite toxic. I had just started a new job, and I knew I could not react this way anymore. The therapist really challenged me to stop giving so much power over people in my past in my mind, and to also share with my new manager my past experiences. I nearly didn’t do it, but I was like what the hell. She seemed compassionate and understanding, and I would rather pre-empt a breakdown before it happens. Now I am way more comfortable talking about my past work experiences and meeting my managers don’t intimidate me as much.
2. You don’t say what you don’t want to
When I was thinking about what I used to think therapy was like, I used to imagine that somehow I would spill all my secrets, or that I would just lie my way through things.
But honestly, you can’t spill your life story, and your deepest darkest secrets, and your childhood over 50 minutes. You answer the questions the therapist asks and lots of things you don’t remember too. A lot of the deeper conversations come in the later sessions - the first session is like setting up the scene. Unfortunately it also means that 1 - 4 sessions is not really enough, and you should plan for it to be quite regular.
3. Your therapist doesn’t care if you cry
And honestly, I don’t care either now. I think a lot of people, like your friends, instantly freak out when you cry. Normal people around you instantly try to make you feel better, cheer you up by giving you compliments and not talking about the subject anymore. And honestly, the compliments and stopping is sometimes not helpful when you need to let it out and work it out to WHY.
Honestly, every therapist I’ve seen doesn’t bat an eye at the tears and you just carry on the conversation. They keep going, and keep asking you questions. After all, it’s a normal response when you’re talking about things that have hurt or scared you in the past. You stop feeling self conscious when the therapist makes it feel as natural as drinking water.
4. You have nothing to lose - it doesn’t offend your therapist
This relates to even this scenario - I would love to tell you all what my therapy sessions are about, but I know it’ll affect people I know in real life - friends, family, work. It’s way easier to tell a stranger that when your friend does xxx it reminds you of when your mum did xxx and that’s why you do xxx than someone in your circle, who may not be involved but also know who you are talking about and affect the way they see them.
It may also offend them, when you say for example, it annoys the piss out of you when people call themselves poor when they aren’t, they just spent all their money. Your therapist won’t give a shit and you can get into your relationship with money growing up. Your friends, who might see themselves in that, will.
A therapist also cannot tell anyone what you’ve told them, so a real one fr.
5. Gelling with your therapist is not automatic
Like any relationship, you can’t be best friends with someone after meeting them once. It’s only a few times that you start getting an impression of them, seeing if you trust them, and understanding what therapy is like. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to shop around if you think you aren’t clicking, but in the same vein, sometimes you don’t think you’re clicking until a few sessions.
I know it’s hard to think about shopping around when you haven’t been to a therapy session, but after a while you start thinking you feel listened to, and that the therapy sessions are ‘worth it’ to judge.
Talkingworks is great because you can see therapists in your area, or who specialise in a certain topic, or who have a similar background to you.
I hope this has given you a bit more knowledge into describing what therapy is like, as for me it has been the most helpful thing in turning my vulnerabilities into strengths. Things that I hated talking about, that I wasn’t comfortable sharing 5 years ago are now topics of conversations at dinners. The real you, and your true feelings and experiences finally get seen and explored, and a therapist should help you link it all together (although it takes time).
If you’ve been to therapy before, what would you tell someone who hasn’t, but is scared to?
If you haven’t but want to, what do you think is stopping you?