First things first – therapy is not magic. Therapy does produce results, but it requires hard work, commitment, patience, and time.
So what can you realistically expect?
1. You will be listened to.
Therapists are trained at advanced listening. This is not like the ‘listening’ we experience with friends and family, where we are interrupted, the subject is changed, or the other person starts talking about themselves. A therapist listens intently to your words, body language and behaviours, reflecting back what you say and asking careful questions to be sure they heard properly. And he or she will always keep the focus on you, and what you are sharing.
2. You will feel respected.
A good therapist believes in your value as a human being and sees your potential. They do not judge you for what you share with them. They also don’t offer you sympathy, which can feel so belittling. Instead, they work to offer you empathy, trying to understand things from your perspective.
3. You can be yourself.
You do not have to please or impress your therapist. In fact that is not at all helpful to the process of therapy. It’s best to be open about how you are feeling and what you are going through. Again, a therapist is not there to judge.
4. You will be in a safe space.
What you share is between you and the therapist. The only person with whom a therapist might discuss what you share would be his or her supervisor, who makes sure a therapist is offering clients the best possible help. Of course if you share something highly illegal, or share that you intend to hurt yourself or another, the therapist is legally obliged to call authorities (note that for the purpose of therapy, talking about personal drug use is not illegal).
5. You will learn about communication and trust.
Here’s the thing about therapy many people don’t realise at first – it’s actually a relationship. You are relating each week with your therapist. So you can expect talk therapy to teach you about the ways you communicate, and to be an experince where you learn to trust someone.
6. You will get to know yourself better.
There is something about being deeply listened to and heard that seems to be like a magnet, pulling to the surface all the things we have been hiding from our own selves. The longer you persist with therapy sessions, the more you will learn about yourself. You will recognise what really matters to you, and what life you’d actually like to create.
7. You will surprise yourself.
You might learn that experiences in the past you thought meant nothing have left an impact, or that you are upset with people and have been denying it. But you’ll also have good surprises in the therapy room. You will learn what really makes you happy, and that you have inner resources and strengths you hadn’t seen before.
8. You will feel uncomfortable and challenged.
Of course don’t expect all these revelations and learnings to feel like a joy ride. Like we said at the beginning, therapy is hard work! It’s guaranteed that in moments you will feel uncomfortable with the emotions that rise up, or challenged by a question that brings up things you didn’t expect. It’s all part of the process.
9. You will find your own answers.
One of the biggest misconceptions about therapy is that you sit down and are given advice on how to lead your life. Not at all. A therapist is not there to give you answers, but to listen to you and ask you questions that lead to you finding your own answers.