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A Beginner’s Guide to Starting Therapy

A Beginner’s Guide to Starting Therapy

So much of therapy is about “showing up,” connecting with your therapist and developing a treatment-together plan with specific goals. The question of how we “do” therapy isn’t quite like how we engage in other health-related services because therapy looks different for every individual. What is effective for one person may not be as effective for someone else.

Additionally, therapy is often less talked about because it can be a very personal experience. For example, when we find a good massage therapist, we tend to announce it to the world. However, as mental health becomes less stigmatized, people are more open about their experiences. Unlike a visit to the dentist, “Say ahh, rinse, spit,” therapy is not always so straightforward. The following points will not guarantee you that every session will be a transformative experience, but they may help you “show up” in therapy more intentionally and, therefore, more effectively.

  • Prepare for your visit: Consider what you may need to bring with you. Perhaps, you need to bring insurance cards, medications, legal paperwork, pay stubs, prior documentation of other relevant medical or mental health services, etc.
  • Intake session: When scheduling your appointment, a specialist will ask you some general questions during a one-hour intake session to do their best to provide you with a range of individualized services for support. During your intake session, you will be asked about your goals for therapy. Consider what you want to be different in your life. The specialist can guide you toward therapies that can help.
  • First session: This session will be with the therapist that will talk with you regularly. Whether you are new to therapy or seeing a new therapist, you may be a little nervous before your first session. Take a deep breath and do something to calm your nerves beforehand. Take notes about topics you hope to discuss or what your own goals for therapy may be. Your first session will last about 45 minutes to one hour. During this time, you and your therapist will identify your goals and create a treatment plan to help you reach these goals. Services that could support these goals are different for everyone but may include the following:
    • Peer Support: a process through which people who share common experiences or face similar challenges come together as equals to give and receive help.
    • Individual Therapy: a process with one client and one mental health professional.
    • Therapeutic Groups: a process with multiple clients being treated together in an organized therapeutic environment.
  • Duration and frequency of services: This will depend on your individualized goals and is a great question for you and your therapist to periodically visit together.
  • Connecting with your therapist: If you feel like you’re not connecting with your therapist, say something! You can work with your therapist to change treatment approaches, revise your treatment goals, or move to another treatment team that will benefit you.
  • Common questions: If you are curious about the services you are receiving, clients commonly ask about the types of services available to them, what their specific treatment process will look like, and what kinds of services different mental health professionals can offer.

Hopefully, you now feel more prepared for your first leap into mental health therapy! If you have any other questions, Jefferson Center is here to help you navigate our services so that they are beneficial and effective for YOU!

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