Counselling or therapy involves a lot of, well… talking. The premise it pretty simple to grasp: you talk to a professional about your thoughts, feelings and experiences. That’s it, right?
Well, not entirely. Although this is the core of talking therapy, there are a lot of other things to consider and be aware of when you get started with this type of therapy.
I’m nowhere near an expert on the subject, but I have tried a couple of different types of therapy, with different professionals and through different routes so I just wanted to share the things I have learned for those who may be considering it or thinking about going back to a form of talking therapy. As always, please speak to a professional for help and advice, this is just my personal experience.
Therapy is not linear
I wish I could say it was a simple process of going to a therapist and leaving feeling better. But that’s not always true. Sometimes you will come away feeling so much lighter for having talked about your challenges but it’s a good idea to be prepared that things may get worse before they get better… but they will get better. Recovery is a journey, not a destination.
It’s okay to start again
It can take a while to find a therapist that you ‘click’ with and feel comfortable speaking to. Therapy will require some work on your part but it’s important that you feel you’re getting what you need from the sessions too. I didn’t connect with my first therapist but that’s okay – finding the right person is part of a process that can take time.
Find the medium that works for you
So far, I have tried face-to-face, phone and online messaging as forms of therapy. Depending on your needs, you may find one works much better than the others.
Personally, I found phone therapy too awkward and messaging too unreliable. At the moment, face-to-face is helping to create that human connection that I think is important when sharing emotions.
You’re allowed to be nervous
You may feel a bit apprehensive about the session or unsure about what to discuss but that’s natural. The therapist is there to help shape the conversation and often you’ll find that the anticipation is actually worse than any nerves you feel during the therapy.
Be gentle with yourself
Be gentle with yourself after therapy. Your feelings might ebb and flow after the session. It’s natural that you’ll be thinking about what’s been discussed and different feelings might come to you over the following hours or days.
It can help to recognise if there’s any patterns in how you feel afterwards. If you can, prepare for that by allowing yourself some time afterwards to do whatever makes you feel better, whether that’s reading a book, taking a walk or seeing a friend.
It’s not always the right time
I’m pretty open to the idea that therapy is good for anyone, regardless of whether you’re experiencing challenges with your mental health or not. It’s easy to keep things bottled up and talking to someone impartial can be such a relief.
However, you sometimes need to be in the ‘right place’ for therapy to work. I’m aware that sometimes people need to be brave and push through those feelings to see the benefits of therapy and that it’s not always easy, but personally I know that I have responded much better to it when I have been ready to talk and open to learning.
Previous sessions felt like the wrong place, wrong time, wrong person and so I gave myself a break. I allowed myself to step back, look at other options and then return to it when I felt ready to – and now it feels right. Remember it’s okay to look at the situation and work out whether it’s something you’re just (naturally) feeling anxious about, or if it’s not working for you in some way.
It takes work on your part
Unfortunately, your therapist will not solve all your problems or concerns for you. They will be there to help you work through and understand them, but it’ll require you to put in the commitment and effort to be able to help yourself.
Talking to someone is a huge step and should show you that you do have the courage to take those steps forward.
Make your mental health a priority
I’m so aware that I am in a privileged position to be able to afford private therapy but it’s also taken me some time to get to a point where I recognise that my mental health is worth my time and money. It recently dawned on me that I will pay for other ‘necessities’ like my car and food – but why didn’t I see my mental health in the same way?
If you are able to, please consider the benefits to your overall wellbeing if you can start making your mental health a priority. It may take some time to get used to, but (if you’re anything like me) you have to live in your head all day, every day so it may as well be as comfortable and welcoming a place as possible.
If you’re unable to afford private therapy, consider other options such as charities, speaking to your local doctor or even a low cost option. Some therapist will offer discounts for people in different circumstances and this may help to make it more accessible.
Be proud of yourself
Above all, if you’re trying to make your mental health a priority and trying to find ways to feel well then you should be proud of yourself (something I try to remind myself too). It’s a massive step that will hopefully have a positive, lasting impact on your life. It’s hard but important work.
What have you learned through doing talking therapies? Let’s chat!