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What is therapy like?

Thinking about starting therapy? Here are a few things to think about - written from my own experience.

I started psychotherapy at the age of 26. Back then in the late 80's it was very different to today. Pre-internet, pre-mobile phones (can you even imagine). There was no Zoom, no virtual therapy sessions. Some chose to conduct them over the phone, but mostly people met face-to-face.

So what was the first therapy session like? Well, my therapist was recommended to me. I was pretty green back then. I didn't know what to expect. And I don't remember exactly. However I stayed with my therapist for 10 years and also joined a group therapy she facilitated for five years. I was just very lucky. I had a fantastic therapist.

What I do remember is going back into therapy in my late 30's for another five years, but this time I went 'therapist shopping'. I asked my old therapist for some recommendations. Now so much more experienced I trusted myself to know when I find the right one.... and out of three it ended up being the third one, another woman.

I feel lucky that the second therapy experience was a good one too. But not everyone is so lucky. I know many people who've not had a good experience. As a result they feel therapy is not for them. That's a big shame because your first therapy experience does not define how successful therapy could be for you overall.

The best way forward is to make a shortlist of therapists - maybe ask people who've had a good experience - and try again. Then go talk to your shortlist until you meet someone you feel comfortable with.

That's of course if you're looking to be in therapy for a while and not just for a one-off session. Those people who didn't try again did themselves a disservice because the issues they had and wanted to explore in therapy never got explored. 

So what are the first few sessions like? Well, that depends what you're like. Opening up emotions can be daunting for many. If you don't feel ready to talk about something, then don't. You'll know when the time is right. Go with your intuition. 

What I will say is try not to have too many expectations straight away. It takes a little time to open up to a stranger and it takes a little time to notice changes within you. It's a process and like all processes we have to be a patient.

You might find talking to a therapist is comforting and that's good. If you want to see changes and results, these will come from doing the work outside the sessions. What this will look like depends on the kind of therapy you have.

Therapy can be life-changing. I'm obviously a big fan as I had long-term psychotherapy. If you commit, it can be transformative and really enhance your life for the better.

One word of caution. Please make sure the therapists are accredited. 

Here are two websites that I recommend:
The Self Space

If you're not sure what to talk about in a session, why not take a look at our What's Bugging You? map - a seven step coaching session. You can use it over and over again and discover what is bugging you....

white cover with words what's bugging you in yellow blue and pink against a patterned background