How Therapy Works and What to Expect

By: Rochelle Perper, Ph.D. | October 15, 2021

Congratulations! You have taken an important step toward improving your mental health. At Therapy Changes we know it’s not always easy to ask for help, and we honor the courage and strength it takes to do so. Whether this is your first time in therapy, or you’ve had therapy before, understanding how it works and what to expect will help you feel more comfortable and make the most out of your experience.

Your First Session

Think of your first appointment as an initial consultation — an opportunity to meet and get to know your new therapist. Your therapist will probably ask what brings you to therapy and what you hope to achieve from it. Tell your therapist what bothers you even if you think your concerns aren’t “big enough.” People come to therapy for many different reasons, all equally valid and deserving of care and attention.

Read: Are My Problems Big Enough for Therapy?

Your therapist will ask questions about you, including your unique background and history, to get a better understanding of who you are. If you’re a person of color or a member of the LGBTQIA+ or other specific community, think about how important it is for you to work with a therapist who identifies with your lived experience. You should feel respected and appreciated by your therapist in all aspects of who you are.

Your therapist will explain their professional role, their style of therapy, and the outcomes you can expect. They will also discuss how confidentiality works in therapy and review important office policies on rates, insurance, and missed sessions.

It’s Okay to Speak Up!

Be sure to ask any questions you may have. It can take a few sessions with your therapist to determine if you’ve found a good match. These initial sessions provide practice time for openness and honesty. We at Therapy Changes encourage you to give your therapist feedback by discussing what works for you and what doesn’t. If your therapist asks you something that makes you uncomfortable to share, it’s okay to explain that you’re not ready to talk about it. If your therapist does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s okay to speak up or to find another therapist. As you build trust with your therapist, you’ll feel comfortable opening up more and more.

Setting Goals in Therapy

Your therapist will help you identify goals and find healthy ways to work toward them. Your therapist will work with you to determine the course and duration of therapy that feels right for you. Most people need more than a few sessions to get the full benefit of therapy. Clients commonly see their therapists regularly for several months or even years.

If you’ve met with your therapist for some time and don’t feel the benefits, it’s okay to try someone new. Even a great therapist might not be the right therapist for you. Talk to your therapist about how you are feeling, and they will help you find someone else with a different approach.

Read: How Can I Tell if My Therapy is Working?

How Does Therapy Work?

Many people associate therapy with talking about your innermost feelings. Sure, you’ll talk about your feelings. You might also talk about your childhood (although this isn’t necessary). It may surprise you to know that you will also learn new ways of thinking, strategies to address problem areas, and how to consider different perspectives.

Part of making therapy helpful includes the chance to challenge yourself in a safe environment with someone you can trust and who can maintain a neutral, objective viewpoint. Your therapist will not judge, assume what is best for you, nor give you advice.

Your therapist will help you in the following ways:

  • Guide you by asking the right questions to help you learn new things about yourself, better understand what troubles you, and consider different ways of viewing problems, relationships, and what is important to you.
  • Teach you new strategies and tools to cope with stressors in your life. You will learn new ways of thinking and how to manage strong emotions. Your therapist at Therapy Changes will use action-oriented therapeutic approaches with proven scientific effectiveness.
  • Encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and challenge you to try something different. This will build your confidence and help you realize your capabilities. Your therapist will stand alongside you, supporting you every step of the way.

Way to Go!

If you’re nervous about your first appointment, that’s to be expected! You’ve already done the hard part by reaching out. Congratulate yourself for making it this far and taking a step towards improving your mental health. Therapy provides a unique opportunity to be as open as you want in a safe environment. Be honest with your therapist and with yourself about what works and what doesn’t. Therapy is your time, and you deserve to get the most out of your experience.

Visit the Therapy Changes Blog for Better Living and Resources for valuable information on a range of topics.

To learn more about Therapy Changes, we invite you to view our core Values, Philosophy and Approach and meet our Team.

If you haven’t yet scheduled your first appointment, click here to contact us and take an important step toward improving your mental health.



Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

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