It’s a known fact that kids don’t like going to the doctor—even despite the promise of a lollipop. But little 5-year-old me took it to the next level. I did everything in my power to refuse or stall getting my temperature taken, my height measured, and (of course) a finger pricked or arm stabbed with a needle. I cried, I screamed, I ran for dear life. My fits were obviously mostly unwarranted. (I mean what’s the worst that could come from my height or weight being taken.) But do notice I say mostly… because the truth is, even as an adult, paying a visit to the doctor can be anxiety-inducing—especially when it’s foreign territory, like a therapist’s office.
Therapists aren’t what most of us think of in the traditional sense of healthcare professionals, but they are doctors in their own right. They specialize in mental health counseling, and they dedicate their lives to serving their patients. Still, some of us feel nervous and unsure about working with them and beginning the treatment that we need. A common reservation being: well, what if it doesn’t work? While I can’t completely rid you of this fear, I can address it and hopefully ease your transition into therapy… using these five tips for succeeding on your therapy journey:
1) Don’t keep secrets from your therapist.
One key to success is your being open with your counselor. And I mean, completely—yes, it makes a difference when you lie about the “little, insignificant” things, like how the fight between you and your partner unfolded this morning. You might not want to tell your counselor how you blew up on your girlfriend, or that they ran out of the apartment in rage. But you need to disclose these details. Similarly, you might not want to tell your therapist about the big stuff sometimes either, like your bad habits—say, binge-drinking or overspending—but it’s so important that you do. Remember this: keeping secrets from your counselor will only sabotage your progress.
2) Understand that it often gets worse before it gets better.
Therapy can be hard. I mean, it can be really hard. It often involves talking about tough subjects, revisiting the past, and confronting difficult emotions. Sometimes you might even leave a session feeling worse than you did at the start of it. But that’s okay, it’s normal—it’s an essential part of the process, of your therapy journey. Change rarely happens overnight, but it does happen. Just keep your eye on the prize and continue working on your progress.
3) Remember that your therapist is on your side.
Your therapist’s ultimate job and goal is to help you become a better you—whether that means breaking harmful habits like gambling or drinking, learning to communicate effectively with your partner, or managing harmful symptoms that come with serious mental illnesses such as depression. They are there to guide you and support you, and they’re also going to challenge you at times. It’s particularly important that you remember, no matter what, your counselor is on your side.
4) Have faith in the process.
There might be times when you feel like throwing in the towel. Or, there might be times where you feel like the job is done—I mean, you had nothing much to say today, mission accomplished, right? Not so fast. In both regards, you’ve got to keep your faith in the process. Think back on what we discussed earlier: it might get worse before it gets better, but you have to keep on pushing. In the latter case, when you feel like there’s nothing left to talk about, but your therapist insists there’s more work to do, listen to them. You might have a session or two where you have nothing much to say; however, you have to see the journey through to the end, and if your therapist says it’s not yet the end, trust that.
5) Acknowledge your time in therapy as valuable.
Therapy is your safe place. This is your time to focus solely on you… which might be difficult for some because they aren’t used to being the center of attention. But that’s what therapy is all about: its sole purpose being to serve you. While it might feel embarrassing or generally uncomfortable at first, you’ll soon get into the natural flow. And you’ll understand just how valuable your time in therapy truly is. Until you reach that point, trust me—believe that therapy is going to help you immensely.