What to Expect From Therapy

Signing up for your first therapy session can be a daunting task. Maybe you have reached a point where you know you need support, or have been encouraged to see a therapist by someone in your life. Knowing what to expect from therapy can make getting started in the process a bit less stressful. 

Woman looking at sunset over lake. Representing what to expect from therapy.

What to Expect From Therapy: An Active Process

Modern, evidence-based therapies are implemented through an active process that relies on collaboration between the client and their therapist. This means that you can expect therapy to have a structure and direction, and for your therapist to share with you their expectations of you for each session. In addition, to make sure you feel heard and understood, therapists using evidence-based techniques will also devote session time to helping you learn and practice skills to actively cope with symptoms and stressors. Effective therapy should help you feel as though you have gained new skills and insights that you can take with you, rather than just having spent time “venting.” 

Preparing for Therapy To Maximize Impact

Learning new strategies for coping will take some time and practice. For this reason, therapists make the most of between-session time by planning practice assignments (or, the dreaded term “homework”) in collaboration with you. While this might conjure an image of being hunched over a desk, between-session “homework” can take many forms. This can include anything from relaxation or mindfulness exercises, tracking thoughts and feelings on a worksheet, changing something in your routine, or simply noticing something such as a trigger you identified in session and how you responded to it throughout the week. 

Your Voice Is Important 

Your feedback is essential for helping your therapist create a plan for your treatment based on your goals and preferences. It is not only okay, but preferred, for you to speak up about your preferences for treatment. Things you might give feedback about could include changing the pace of therapy, adjusting treatment goals, or clarifying something your therapist misunderstood. Your therapist will ask you to share your thoughts, questions, and concerns throughout the process, and will also be open to any questions you may have about what to expect from therapy.

What is Therapy Like? 

Outpatient psychotherapy typically involves weekly, hour-long sessions. The first session will consist of your therapist getting to know you by asking about what has brought you to therapy and what you would like to get out of the process. The initial session will be quite structured and touch on a lot of different topics. After this, there will be more flexibility in terms of how session time will be spent. Regarding the length of treatment, therapy is not meant to be “forever.” Some people choose to stay in therapy longer-term, based on their needs and preferences. However, many can make significant gains with an 8-week course of treatment. Your therapist will talk to you about knowing when the time is right to bring your work together to an end. 

If you have decided that it is the right time for you to engage in therapy, knowing what to expect can help you feel more confident in taking the next step. Request an appointment to meet with one of the expert, compassionate therapists at Freedom Within Center.