What to Expect Part One: Stages
The power of psychotherapy is the opportunity to deal with all of one’s feelings, according to one’s own internal pace, with real assistance. People, including myself, are often nervous starting out, but because it’s also interesting and novel to hear yourself talk out loud about your inner world, people settle in quickly and almost always appreciate the experience. In order for psychotherapy to truly be worthwhile, clients need to start out with (at least a little) curiosity, determination, courage and a desire for more in life.
During the initial appointment I overview my approach, personality and we see if there is a good fit between the client’s needs and my abilities. The first and second appointments are primarily about collecting information the client’s goals and/or problem, and some general background information. From this intake, I suggest a consulting strategy. We further develop this plan together based on client’s needs, goals, time and budget.
I typically meet with clients once a week. In certain circumstances, clients may need to come more frequently. Depending on the client’s presenting problem, therapy can last anywhere from 6 months to 3+ years. People seem to either use psychotherapy as an on-going, open-ended method of self-exploration, or as a means to help accomplish very specific, time-limited goals. I support either model of usage.
Benefits and Risks of Therapy
Most people approach psychotherapy because they are looking for help with hard situations. The ways in which they have been coping with and/or distracting themselves is no longer working.
So, while therapy is about finding positive ways of coping, it is also about dealing with difficulty–difficult feelings and situations-that often don’t feel good. Clients sometimes will feel tired, drained or sad after therapy. Simultaneously, clients will also report feeling a sense of catharsis, (“getting something off my chest”), hope and validation. This unique mix of grief, emotional release and hopefulness is common to the beginning stages of therapy. The middle stage of therapy is typically less emotionally intense.
My role as a therapist is to support clients at all times during the process. I don’t believe healing requires one to “white knuckle” through trauma and talk about every negative life situation. My goal is to avoid re-traumatization and facilitate healing. From the onset, I teach clients self-soothing techniques and encourage clients to take advantage of additional relaxation methods.
Towards the end of therapy, clients will begin to feel consistently better, e.g., more secure, confident and better able to cope with life situations. They often report “getting more done,” and have more overall energy. Often, clients have changed their way of being in such way they have trouble even accessing how they used to feel. These internal changes will often manifest themselves in concrete life improvements, such as a new job, home or relationship, salary increase, improved health, etc. At this time, clients usually look back at the beginning stage of their own therapy and feel quite proud.