How Do I Know If Therapy Can Help?
I genuinely and whole-heartedly believe that everyone has something to gain from therapy, but I also realize people may have had negative experiences with therapy in the past, or heard stories from someone about a nightmare experience. By the time someone comes looking for help, things are already bad- I get people may be fearing making things worse. I often hear people saying that they assumed bringing troubling things up, or "drudging" things up from the past would just make things worse. The short answer is that good therapy, with the right practitioner will always help - therapy works, research tells us that. The important question is, "is this therapist the right one for me"? My suggestion is to try it! You'll know very quickly whether your therapist is a good fit for you and if you feel like they might be the right partner for you on your journey to wellness.
Am I Going to Have To Take Medication To Feel Better?
Although I believe in a wholistic treatment of the person that does not rely on medications, I also believe that sometimes, for specific situations, people have better results when taking medication in combination with therapy. I don't believe that just taking medication is enough for the average person. Depending on what you're trying to manage, medication may be highly encouraged. While it can be confusing to know who can and can not prescribe medications for mental health conditions the general rule is that only someone with an M.D. is allowed to prescribe medication. I always strongly encourage clients to seek the professional services of a psychiatrist because their specialty is in mental health. Although general practicioners can prescribe medication, and often do so with success, you might consider that you wouldn't necessarily want your GP performing surgery on your brain, that's why neurosurgeons exist! A good therapist should always give you their honest opinion regarding whether they think medication might be helpful, but should also support whatever decision you make in regards to what path you will take (as long as your safety and health will remain intact).
How Long Is This Going To Take?
I wish there was a good answer to this question. The truth is there isn't a one size fits all answer. The best answer I can give is, it depends. Typically I find my clients didn't start feeling badly (or start having tantrums and meltdowns) overnight, and they won't feel better overnight either. This is a process. That being said, you're a busy person - I get it! You and your therapist can work together to set achievable goals in a time frame that sounds reasonable to you, with the understanding that there are no guarantees in life, or therapy. Even when I give this answer I still typically get, "right yeah, but like probably how long"? Again, it depends! What is your goal? Do you want to stabilize a crisis situation? You might be looking at a few or 6 - 8 weekly sessions. Are you looking to resolve some feelings or patterns that are the result of trauma or abuse? That's probably going to take some months. I think the most important thing to focus on is how you're feeling, what your symptoms are, and whether that's improving. Setting goals at the beginning give you an idea of what your end point looks like, and when you can keep that in sight, you'll be able to start to gauge how close or far you are from that point on your own as well.
When Will I Start To Feel Better?
Hopefully right away! My goal, and I think the goal of all therapists, is to provide relief to clients immediately just by lending an ear, letting you get some of this stuff off your chest, making sure you feel heard and giving you hope as to how we can fix this. Sometimes people report feeling worse before they feel better, and while that's unfortunate, that makes sense. For some people we're touching on old wounds. For some people this is the first time they've ever spoken about some of these issues, and now talking about it makes it real, and that's hard. The good news is that this stage will likely be brief and relief is just around the corner. The better news is that the majority of people report feeling some type of relief by the end of the first session!
Am I Going to Have to Lay Down on a Couch?
While there is typically a couch in the room, and I'm sure you're welcome to lay on it if you feel the need, no, you will not have to lay on it. Therapy is not everything you see in the comic strips and movies. Often times movies do more to promote stigma around mental illness rather than display it accurately. Most therapist's offices strive to create a warm, inviting, living room type atmosphere. Although every office will look different, the goal is generally to make you comfortable, whatever that means for you.
You Look Pretty Young, How Can I Trust You'll Understand?
Thanks to my primarily oily skin I find that I have aged quite well- almost too well sometimes. I understand that it's not always intuitive to have someone who is younger, or may appear younger than us, take care of us. Totally a fair point. My response to this inquiry is usually 2 parts. 1) If you're worried about whether I know what I am doing, I assure you I do 2) If you think someone has had to live in your shoes to understand anything at all, I want to challenge you on that. At the end of the day we are all human beings with human emotions. Although we may all carry wounds from different battles, we can all relate on some level of hurt, disappointment, sadness, loss, grief, fear, etc.
Going beyond my own experience with people's perceptions of my age, I think we all tend to judge one another on appearance. If you have concerns about your therapist based on what you think they may know, have experienced, etc. the best thing to do is just put it out there and ask! Chances are you aren't the first person to bring it up and you won't be the last. A good therapist will welcome your inquiries and answer as honestly as they can, and you'll feel better getting that nagging thought off your mind, or find out that maybe you really do feel like you need someone you can connect to on a different level.
Sometimes the difference between us and our helper gives us room for growth. People with experiences opposite of us might sometimes be best suited to help us see past our our experiences and the generalizations we make because of them. I'm not saying you should or should look for someone just like you or super different. What I am saying is, if you feel like it's a good fit for the most part, but there is an observation or assumption you're making about your therapist, or concern you have about whether they "get it" that's bothering you a little bit (or a lot!) - bring it up! It could be helpful!
Have questions I didn't answer here? Send me an email and let me know!