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What To Expect In Therapy

How Will I Feel After A Therapy Session

What to Expect During Your First Therapy Session | Kati Morton

It’s common to feel a range of emotions after a session. For example, you might come out of your session feeling:

  • relieved, if you’ve shared something important and felt heard and understood
  • energised, if you’ve started to understand something new about yourself or set yourself a new goal to work on
  • exhausted, if you’ve found the session challenging or hard work
  • frustrated, if you didn’t get what you wanted out of your session or haven’t felt heard or understood
  • upset or overwhelmed, if the session has brought up very painful or difficult memories or feelings.

“Some days I left therapy feeling tired and drained. Other days I felt relieved, as if a weight had been lifted.”

Sometimes therapy sessions can bring up feelings that are difficult to cope with, and you might feel nervous about going back, or like you want to quit. If you feel like this it can help to:

  • Start your next session by telling your therapist how you felt after your last session, and give them a chance to reflect with you and offer support. You might find it helpful to write down some notes.
  • Talk about how you feel with a or someone you trust, such as .
  • Plan something you enjoy for after immediately each session as a little treat, or to help you relax.

If you feel unsafe after a session

If therapy is bringing up feelings that you can’t cope with and you feel like you’re in crisis after a session, and seek urgent help.

Will Everything I Tell My Therapist Be Confidential

In most cases, yes. Confidentiality is an important part of building trust with your therapist. However, there are some exceptions to this, which allow the therapist to work responsibly.

These are:

  • Supervision therapists always discuss clients regularly with a supervisor who also has to maintain confidentiality. It’s seen as unethical for a therapist to work without supervision because:
  • it helps your therapist look after their own mental health, so they’re better able to support you
  • it means someone else is aware of how your therapist is treating you, to make sure it’s appropriate.
  • Safety if your therapist is concerned that you’re at serious risk of harming yourself or someone else, they may need to inform your GP, a healthcare professional or someone else. They should tell you first if they’re going to do this.
  • Organisational confidentiality if your therapist is part of a GP practice, confidentiality may apply to the practice as a whole rather than to the individual therapist. This may mean that information is available to your GP. Your therapist should tell you if this is the case.
  • Be Open & Honest With Your Therapist

    Keep in mind that honesty is paramount to successful therapy. In order for your therapist to help, they need to know what youre experiencing. Therapists arent there to judge you. They chose their profession so they can help people improve mental health and wellbeingnot to make things worse.

    Your therapist will likely emphasize confidentiality. All therapists are ethically bound to safeguard the information you share with them. Other than a few rare circumstances, such as if they believe you may harm yourself or others, they cant talk about you to anyone else without your permission. During your very first meeting, your therapist will clearly explain confidentiality and its limits. If they dont mention it, you can ask them about it.

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    Jennifer Lopez’s Latest Pedicure Makes A Strong Case For Bedazzled Toes

    Establishing an emotional bond with a stranger can be difficult under any circumstances, but doing so virtually may feel even more awkward. Hill insists, however, that it’s important to push past the discomfort and try to establish trust with your therapist in any way possible.

    “I would encourage anyone seeking to remain motivated in therapy now to keep in mind the reasons they pursued therapy initially and refocus on that,” she says. “While physical and psychological barriers may be burdensome to endure, it is important to remain dedicated to pursuing your mental well-being. Also, talk to your therapist about any challenges you feel that may keep you from continuing treatment. They are the perfect person to help you explore these concerns and troubleshoot how to work through them.”

    Ask For A Phone Consultation First

    What To Expect During Therapy

    If you hate the phone and the thought of talking to a therapist youve never met in person causes anxiety, just jump ahead to the next section. Having a phone consultation before you begin therapy is an option, not a requirement. If its helpful to you, you have the right to do so. If it isnt, you can confidently forgo this option and wait until your first session to ask questions.

    While its not mandatory, many therapists expect you to want a brief phone consultation because they understand that choosing a therapist is a big decision and you might even feel some anticipatory anxiety before your session. You might have many questions that your therapist can answer to alleviate anxiety before you have your first session.

    Here are some helpful questions to ask during a phone consultation with a potential new therapist:3,4,5

    • How do you approach helping people?
    • Do you have experience working with people who have concerns like mine?
    • Do you make treatment plans? If you do, will I be involved in creating and monitoring mine?
    • What can I expect during our sessions?
    • What will you expect of me? Will I have homework?

    Your initial phone consultation may help you prepare for your first counseling session by removing some of the mystery from the vague and often-intimidating idea of therapy.

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    My Experiences With Fears About Therapy

    As I said before, fears about not being bad enough were what encumbered me the most before going to therapy. But when I was told by my doctor that cognitive behavioral therapy was highly recommended, my fears reached a peak.

    I staggered to the car, unsteady and silent. Theres no way. I dont deserve it. Im not bad enough.

    The ride home, the whole afternoon, my dark anthem kept echoing. Im not bad enough. Im not bad enough. Im not bad enough.

    While visiting friends that night, my eyes never left the floor.

    I like your shirt, my friend said, ducking to meet my eyes.

    Huh? I asked. Oh, thanks. My voice sounded distorted, and the sounds rearranged to form my anthem. Not bad enough. Not bad enough. Not bad enough.

    I crawled into bed that night, but as tightly as I squeezed my eyes, it couldnt keep out the thoughts. My heart raced. My teeth clenched. My stomach lurched. One a.m. Two. Three. Not bad enough. Not bad enough. Not bad enough.

    My eyelids flickered open, and I felt my stomach turn. I felt queazy. Good. I dont deserve therapy.

    I launched out of bed and ran to the bathroom. I clutched the toilet seat and gagged, then gagged again. This cant be happening. I dont deserve this. Im not bad enough. Someone worse than me deserves my slot.

    Even though my fears, insecurity, and anxiety made me physically sick, I still didnt feel bad enough.

    What Will Be Covered In A Therapy Session

    Over time, the purpose of therapy is to really get to the bottom of your mental health problems and equip you with the tools to cope or overcome your difficulties.

    Following your initial getting to know you session, your therapist will use your sessions to explore your problems and use tried and tested therapeutic techniques. You can expect to cover a whole range of issues as part of your subsequent therapy sessions. These can include:

    • How youre feeling, how this is impacting on your behaviour and how its affecting other people in your life
    • Whether you can identify any triggers for the way youre feeling. For example, have you gone through something stressful or traumatic thats causing you to feel the way you do?
    • The relationships you have in your life e.g. a partner/spouse, friends, family, colleagues, and the role that these relationships may be playing in your current struggles
    • Your childhood and any negative experiences you had as a child that may be influencing you today
    • Any issues that came up in previous therapy sessions that you may have had chance to reflect on
    • Coping strategies that you can use in your daily life, that will help you to overcome your symptoms and view things in a more positive and healthy way

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    What Should I Expect At An Intake Appointment

    In the initial stages of counseling, you must first complete an intake appointment. As with any other doctors appointments, this will involve filling out some necessary paperwork, answering basic questions, and covering the basics of confidentiality. Marsh explains how exactly you can expect this to unfold:

  • Filling out paperwork: Your first counseling session doesnt have to be awkward or uncomfortable. Hopefully, you have already made a connection by getting to know your therapist online and during a consultation meeting or phone call, to see if you are a good fit. During the first session, you can expect to fill out paperwork, just as you would the first time you go to a new doctor or dentist. This will range from your family history and medical history to your insurance information. Fill it out as completely as you can, to give your therapist a good background and a feel for where you are coming from.
  • Answering basic questions from your counselor: Once youve filled out this paperwork, your counselor will run through it with you and maybe even ask you some of the questions to make sure they understand your needs. When you finally sit down across from your therapist, they will probably ask you again many of the same questions you answered on the paperwork. This is normal they want to clear up any potential misunderstandings and hear some of your history from you, yourself, rather than just reading about it, Marsh explains.
  • Important Note About Your Commitment To Therapy:

    What to Expect in Therapy

    You do not have to stay committed to a therapist who doesnt feel like a good fit.

    If you have reservations about your therapist, its important to address them with your therapist. Your reservations may be projections or misunderstandings that you can work through. But having reservations could also be a sign of a bad fit.

    Important questions to ask yourself if youre unsure about committing to your work with your therapist:

    1. Do I feel heard and understood?

    It is important that your therapist ask clarifying questions. Your therapist will sometimes be a bit off in their interpretation of what youre saying and will seek to understand better. Its important that you communicate with your therapist to help them understand. When youre both trying to achieve clarity, your response to a therapists reflection may sound like, No, Its more like Not really. I dont think so Thats not it at all You can even say to your therapist, I think youre wrong.

    Whatever you do, dont hold back from correcting your therapist. They shouldnt be defensive. Theyre just trying to clarify and understand.

    2. Do I feel respected and supported?

    Your therapist should make every attempt to keep your appointments, show up on time, and give you their full attention during your sessions. Emergencies happen to everyone, even therapists, but if you notice a pattern where you feel disrespected by your therapist, its time for a change.

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    Is It Normal To Cry During A First Therapy Session

    It is absolutely normal to cry during the first session. Crying is a great release for the body and should not be seen as a weakness. We are all on a unique emotional journey that requires various emotions. Crying should be normalized in therapy and in life in general. Adria Hagg, LCSW

    Crying is a normal emotion when we express our feelings and it helps to let it out. People usually feel overwhelmed about therapy that when they finally have the chance to release those guarded emotions, they become more emotional in the moment and leave feeling lighter. Jaclyn Gulotta, PhD, LMHC

    Safety and trust are necessary components of a therapeutic relationship. If you find yourself crying during a first session, especially if you are NOT typically a crier, it means that these two elements have been established. It is a great sign that this particular relationship may be right for you. Carissa Hodgson, LCSW, OSW-C

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    Going Through The Practicalities

    Following initial introductions, you and your therapist may need to run through some of the practicalities of therapy and some simple housekeeping points. These might include:

    • Details around how long your sessions will be individual therapy sessions usually last for around 50-60 minutes but sessions may be longer if youre attending group therapy
    • How often youll be attending therapy if youre an outpatient, youll normally attend therapy sessions once a week. If youre an inpatient, its likely that therapy will happen daily
    • How long youll be attending therapy this can depend on the type of treatment programme youre on and your unique needs
    • Information regarding confidentiality and risk management processes

    These are just some examples, and there may be other practicalities to go through depending on your therapist and your individual circumstances.

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    What Can Arts Therapy Help With

    Arts Therapy can help with numerous physical and emotional issues that everybody faces at some time or another.

    These can be:

    • Improving your career or business
    • Traumatic experiences such as car accidents or acts of violence
    • Coping with health issues such as cancer, dementia or loss of a limb
    • Family relationships

    What Will I Gain From The First Session

    What To Expect During Therapy

    Before we finish, youll have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about therapy. Ill feedback to you what my initial reflections are about your problem/s, how I think therapy could help you and what committing to therapy would entail practically. Youll leave the session with a clear plan of how I can help you and what that help will look like.

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    How To Know The Right Time To Stop Therapy

    Your relationship with your therapist is an important one. They see you through some of your most vulnerable moments. They spend time trying to understand how you think, feel, and navigate difficult circumstances, and they hopefully help you learn healthier coping skills to use in the world.

    From dealing with a divorce or breakup to finding ways to cope with depression and social anxiety, most people can benefit from seeing a therapist. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed most of us to social isolation, loss of jobs, and other challenges that most of us haven’t experienced before. As a result, there was a spike in the need for mental health support, according to American Psychological Association.

    While many choose to remain in therapy sessions throughout their lives, others meet with a professional to work through a specific issue and may no longer find it necessary once that has been dealt with in its entirety. But, how do you know when it might be the right time to stop therapy?

    If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact theCrisis Text LineNational Alliance on Mental Illnesshelpline at 1-800-950-NAMI , or visit theNational Institute of Mental Health website.

    You Can Expect To Feel Comfortable With Your Therapist

    A therapist may ask uncomfortable questions, but you should feel comfortable in their presence and in the setting. Ask yourself: Are you comfortable? Do they seem like they understand and care? Do you feel like coming back? If the answer to these is yes, then commit to a few sessions and see how it goes. But if the answer is no, its okay to try out different therapists to see what styles you like. Therapy is not a one-size-fits-all thing, and neither are therapists. It doesnt mean that therapy isnt for you, it just means you havent found the right therapist.

    But that said

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    What To Expect In Your First Therapy Session

    The first visit you have will likely consist of your therapist asking a lot of questions to get to know you and what brings you in. Typical questions therapists ask in the first session can include:

    • If youre feeling anxious, when does it happen the most?
    • How do you feel your symptoms impact your life?
    • Tell me a bit about your background and family life.

    Additionally, you may be encouraged to share your reasons for seeking therapy at this time. These questions help therapists understand what youve been struggling with and help identify what your goals may be in therapy.

    Who Receives Psychotherapy

    Infusion Therapy: What to expect – Gundersen Health System

    Most people, at one time or another, need some help. For some, talking with a therapist helps them understand ways to improve their life. Sometimes people seek therapy at the advice of a physician or a health agency. Sometimes its overwhelming life stress or a particular crisis that causes a person to decide to go to therapy. And many times people enter therapy to gain insight and acceptance about themselves and to achieve personal growth. Psychotherapy is for anyone who is unhappy with the way he or she acts or feels, and wants to change.

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