What Really Happens in a Therapy Session
You anticipate when you take your automobile to the mechanic that: Your vehicle will be fixed.
You know what will happen when you break a bone and go to the doctor: Your broken bone will ultimately recover after being placed in a cast or splint.
But do you know what will happen when you schedule a session with a therapist? Many individuals are unsure about themselves. Could you just talk? Will you have to talk about your upbringing? Will you be put into a trance? And anyway, what is the “purpose” of visiting a therapist? Why not just speak with a friend?
In our culture, there is a lot of misunderstanding regarding what takes place in therapy sessions, what kinds of challenges and problems are appropriate for treatment, and what advantages therapy sessions might provide. I want to clarify some common misunderstandings and queries about what therapy is, what it isn’t, and how it works.
Q: To visit a therapist, do I need to be “ill” or “disturbed”?
A: No. It’s a fallacy that you must be “seriously disturbed” to visit a therapist.
While some therapists focus on treating severe emotional disorders like schizophrenia or suicidal thoughts, many assist clients in overcoming more commonplace issues like planning a career change, enhancing parenting abilities, enhancing stress management abilities, or navigating a divorce. Psychotherapists may help a broad spectrum of clients with a range of needs and objectives, much as some doctors specialize in treating life-threatening diseases while others treat “everyday” ailments like the flu, cough, and colds.
In actuality, the majority of my clients are accomplished, successful, and generally in good health. Most have difficulties achieving a particular individual objective, such as weight loss, improved work-life balance, better parenting techniques, or resuming dating after a difficult breakup.
Q: How can I choose the best therapist for my objective/circumstance?
A: Choosing a therapist is similar to choosing any other service provider; it’s wise to check the practitioner’s website and read client testimonials or reviews (if they have any—many don’t, for confidentiality concerns). Additionally, seek recommendations from your doctor, family, and friends (and, of course, check to see who is covered in your health insurance network).
Try to locate a therapist who is specialized in that field if you want to focus on a particular problem, such as binge eating, smoking, or changing careers. On their websites, many people indicate their specialty or areas of interest. Some therapists specialize in every problem, objective, or circumstance, including marital troubles, parenting issues, anger management, weight concerns, or sexuality. Call them and inquire about their level of competence if you’re unsure. If they are unable to help you with your problem, they may be able to direct you to a person who can.
Q: What transpires in a therapy session?
A: Each session is, essentially, a session for problem-solving. You discuss your present circumstance and your emotions over it, and the therapist utilizes their knowledge to help you attempt to find a solution so you may get closer to living the life you want.
The therapist usually asks you about your life recently, your thoughts, any problems you’re having, and any objectives you’d want to talk about at the start of each session. You’ll have the chance to speak openly. While you talk, the therapist will listen and maybe take notes; others, like me, prefer to do so after a session. You won’t face criticism, interruptions, or judgment as you talk. The utmost confidentiality will be maintained in your conversation. This is a rare, one-of-a-kind communication where you may be sincere without fear of offending anyone’s emotions, ruining a relationship, or incurring any negative consequences. Anything you want to say is OK.
Some therapists, including myself, may assign their patients homework to do after a session. This homework may include creating an online dating profile, contacting someone for a first date, or working out three times a week. It may be to write in your notebook every night, spend some time each day pounding a pillow to release pent-up emotions safely, or any other number of “steps” and “challenges” pertinent to your objectives. During your subsequent session, you might discuss your progress and any areas where you felt irritated, stuck, or off-track.
There is no one size fits all definition of a therapy session since each therapist is different, each client is different, and each therapist-client relationship is unique. Certain therapists use dream analysis techniques in their sessions. Others use art therapy or music in their practice. Others use role-playing games, meditation, hypnosis, life coaching, visualization, or other techniques to “practice” difficult conversations. The list is endless. In the end, a therapist will listen without passing judgment and assist clients in trying to discover answers to the problems they are facing.
Q: Will I be required to discuss my childhood?
A: No, not always. Many people believe that seeing a therapist entails unearthing old memories from your childhood or discussing how horrible your mother was, among other things. That is untrue. The topics you discuss in therapy will mostly rely on your circumstances and objectives. Depending on your aspirations, you may not share much about your history. Both your current reality and the future you want to build will likely be the main topics of your therapy.
The strength of your desire to avoid talking about your upbringing, though, can indicate that you should if you genuinely don’t want to! It’s usually worthwhile to go further to determine the cause of someone’s very unpleasant feelings, whether they are related to their upbringing or another subject. It is quite possible that whatever is causing them to have such intense feelings about the past also affect their current situation.
Q: How long must I attend therapy?
A: Everybody’s definition of this is unique. I’ve worked with clients who just needed one session to resolve their issue(s); they left without needing further sessions. Sometimes all it takes is one courageous, open talk.
Other clients have scheduled appointments with me over weeks or months, concentrating on a single problem, solving it, and then maybe moving on to the next difficulty. There are also some clients I’ve worked with for a while who value our weekly, biweekly, or monthly “check-ins.” They might express their emotions, improve their life skills as required, or perhaps unwind with a truly nourishing guided meditation or hypnosis session. Every two weeks when we meet, as one client put it, “I leave your office feeling like you clicked my reset button,”
Whatever a client needs, whether it be a one-time discussion, a temporary source of support through a life change, or an ongoing experience to improve their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, is what therapy is all about.
Q: Do phone or video chat sessions with therapists have the same impact as in-person sessions?
A: That depends on your choices and personality. At least one insurer in Hawaii, where I reside, provides coverage for treatment online over video chat (like Skype or Facetime). It is thus a practical choice for individuals. Because they don’t have to take time out of their busy schedules to travel, park, etc., many of my clients choose to have some or all of their sessions through video chat. It’s quite handy for them just to shut the door to their bedroom or office, pick up the phone, or log in, and then we can continue.
A regular, in-person therapy session and then a video session should be tried whenever it is practical to see whether the format is best for you.
Q: Why do people seek therapy? Why not simply speak to a family member or a friend?
A: If you are fortunate to have loving, encouraging family and friends, by all means, talk to them about your sentiments, aspirations, and desires. They make up a significant portion of your support system, and their advice and inspiration may be beneficial. However, people familiar with you may not always be fully unbiased while listening to you. For instance, you may tell your wife about your wish to change careers. She may want to support you fully and do all she can, but she may also be struggling with her feelings, such as worrying about how a career shift would affect your life and finances. She can find it challenging to listen to you and provide unbiased help due to these feelings.
Working with a therapist may be beneficial for this reason. It is a unique chance to express all you’re thinking and feeling and everything you want to accomplish, without interruption, imposition of others’ thoughts, or criticism of your ideas or abilities.
In a therapy session, you may be sincere without worrying about offending anybody. It also implies that you can handle issues more quickly and effectively. That will ultimately be better for you and everyone else in your life.
Therapy is a valuable tool that may aid in problem-solving, goal setting and achievement, communication skill improvement, and learning new techniques for tracking emotions and managing stress. You may use it to build the kind of life, job, and relationship you desire. Does everyone need it? No. However, if you are interested in working with a therapist, you should pursue that interest. Keep an open mind, schedule one or two sessions, and see how events develop. You might gain great insight, self-awareness, and lifelong enjoyment and have little to lose.