Therapy can be a strange, confusing and even confronting experience, particularly if you have never been involved with a mental health care professional before. Below are few things to remember that may help you as you begin that process of therapy:
1. Therapy is a process that occurred between people – you and the therapist. Sometimes it may involve you in a group of other people. But it is still about people. Therefore as in all encounters between people that come to matter, there needs to be respect on both sides. The therapist needs to offer respect but also you need to be able to give it also. Our basic humanity and respect for each other is still the core of therapy
2. Know how important it is to tell your story as you know it. Your therapist cannot clearly understand if they are blindfolded by your telling only parts of your story. It may take time for you to trust your therapist with some parts of the story. But when you feel that trust is there allow that story to be fully told
3. Be prepared for some discomfort. Therapy is not always just a nice chat with a nice person. Some aspects of your story can be painful to tell and you may feel even worse when you first tell them. This is because for you there may have been some difficult underlying ‘festering wounds’ that have caused you distress. Sometimes to clean out these wounds we need to pull off the bandage. This can be painful. But is can also be the first step in healing.
Sometimes the discomfort comes during therapy when we are challenged and have to face things about ourselves that we would rather not. But in facing these things we may find we can mend damage done and find a new way to live in the future that causes less distress.
At other times therapy will seek to have us do things that we would rather not. We may like to just keep doing things as we have always done them. But you came to therapy because the ways of the past may not have brought you a world in which you wanted to live your life. Change can be hard but a changed world may be a wonderful possibility worth the risk and the effort of change.
4. Be kind to yourself. Often we are much harder on ourselves than we would ever be on others. Therapy that asks us to change or face some discomfort toward a better future for us can be hard. It can take time and sometimes we can feel like giving up. Then we can feel like we have failed again or are weak and hopeless. When you are a bit tired and feel that but know you want to keep going, be a little gentle with yourself. When a little child is learning to walk sometimes they stumble and cry and refuse to get up. But we don’t berate them for falling. We put out our hands and encourage them to stand again knowing they will get there. In therapy we are at times learning anew. If it becomes hard tell your therapist and be gentle with yourself with your both knowing you will stand up again and will get there.
5. Just sometimes you need to relax. Sometimes when you are trying so hard you just need to relax and give yourself some space so you can find the energy to begin again. Your therapist may encourage you to find ways to relax yourself. You may have your own ways also. Some use relaxation techniques, meditation, mindfulness or yoga. Some people already know
ways to find some peace for themselves through things like exercise, gardening, music, reading or being with friends and family. Be careful though that this need to have a break can be a dangerous time if we go back to old ways of relaxing that have actually led to your distress in the first place like taking substances or gambling or self-harm. Please tell your therapist if the hard work you have been doing together is becoming overwhelming
6. Don’t forget to care for yourself physically. Our minds and bodies are fully intertwined. Caring for yourself psychologically can be helped by caring for yourself physically. Try to get a reasonable 6-8 hours sleep a night. Take care of your diet eating a balanced diet and avoiding too much processed food. Try to get some regular exercise even if you don’t feel like it. Take it slowly at first doing something you like even for a little while and then build it up. Even a short walk is a good start. Try to do things you love doing so your life is not revolving around therapy only. Sing or dance even if you only do it when no one is around. Read a book with a great storyline. Watch a favourite show especially one that makes you laugh. Spend time with people who make you feel safe. Take up that hobby again or plant something and watch it grow.