What going to in-person therapy is like
I first started “seeing” a therapist in 2014. I put “seeing” in quotes, because I used the app Talkspace for therapy. The app is a great resource for busy folks, people on the go, or people who feel a little anxious about sitting across from a person and talking about yourself/your worries.
I used Talkspace, off and on, for support with my disordered eating until the summer of 2019. I was at a point where I wasn’t really a good fit with my current therapist anymore, and I was interested in actually seeing a therapist, in-person, for the first time ever.
This was a big jump for me. I get sweaty and nervous when it’s required that I talk about hard subjects, and I was envisioning my first session with my new therapist to be an hour of just raw emotions and my darkest secrets.
If you’re like me, let me break down some of the realities of therapy, especially for your first session:
Your therapist is not going to challenge you right off the bat into opening up about your darkest self.
Therapy is there for you to talk about what you want to talk about, not always what your therapist demands you to talk about.
Initial sessions are for both you and your therapist to get to know one another.
Would you spill your guts to a stranger you just met? No way! A therapy, and even a coaching, relationship is about creating a safe space and a foundation of trust. If you push yourself too far too soon, it could disrupt the whole thing.
You’re allowed to not like your therapist and find a new one.
Just like with friendships or other relationships, you’re not going to get along with everyone. We all have different personalities that don’t always mesh perfectly with someone else’s. While it may be difficult to start a search for a therapist over again, it’s okay to keep looking until you find someone you’re comfortable with.
You’re gonna cry.
Now, this isn’t a given. But I’m someone who cries so frequently, even at commercials on TV, that I should just expect it to happen 9/10 sessions in therapy. It can be nervewracking to open up about absolutely anything; remember, your therapist is not there to judge you or to admonish your emotions. They’re there to help you sit with them and maybe dig down as to why you felt the way you did.
It pays off to be a little early.
Giving yourself enough time to use the restroom or get a drink of water, or just do something that calms you down, is a great idea before a therapy appointment or any other kind of session. It’s like a little gift of just three minutes that you can use to center yourself and not worry about having to interrupt your session if nature calls. Give yourself the opportunity to succeed.
While I was nervous to see a therapist in person for the first time, I was really glad that I started doing it. It’s a valuable perspective on your life that you can’t really get from friends or loved ones, since they’re a little close to the action to be an indifferent observer. I’m lucky that I felt like I a good connection with my new therapist almost right away, but I’m also keeping in mind that I can change my mind at any point if it starts to be uncomfortable or just a situation that doesn’t work for me anymore.
It was a risk, for sure! But one that I’m glad I took.