Starting therapy is something to be proud of 2019 statistics indicate that 19.2% of adults in the United States received mental health treatment of some kind over the course of a year and that 9.5% had received therapy or counseling specifically. While this is by no means an extensive list, research indicates that therapy is effective for a wide variety of concerns, including but not limited to:
- Treating mental health conditions or symptoms in individuals
- Helping couples improve (or even save) their relationship
- Coping with grief and loss
- Stress management or navigating life stressors and challenges
- Moving past social isolation or other matters related to one’s social life
- Helping people through life changes
- Coping with breakups
- Increasing one’s level of happiness and satisfaction in life
- Improving self-esteem, self-compassion, and self-acceptance
- Communication, decision making, and boundary setting
- Working through trauma
- Gaining distress tolerance and coping skills
- Navigating matters related to family life
- Sleep issues
The truth is that anyone can benefit from therapy. Whether you’re seeing a new therapist after having spent some time in therapy before or seeing a mental health professional for the first time, here are five things to keep in mind.
1. You Won’t Have To Share It All Right Away
Here’s what you can typically expect for a first therapy session with a new provider:
Likely, you’ll be asked to show up about 15 minutes early to fill out paperwork prior to meeting with your new therapist. This may include information about your family history, your personal history, and a short questionnaire. Sometimes, you’ll have already done this online. Fill it out as well as you can, and don’t worry if there’s a question you can’t answer.
Once you’re face to face with your new therapist, you’ll be asked to tell them a little bit about why you’re there and your history, typically as it relates to your mental health or the topic at hand. You can share as much or as little as you like. Some people are ready to share it all, where others have a harder time opening up at first.
Remember, therapy is for you and about you. As long as you’re honest with yourself about what you need to do to progress, remember that you’re in the driver’s seat.
2. Every Therapist Is (Very) Different
Every therapist is different, and the right therapist for one person won’t be the right therapist for the next. Here are some examples of what you might look for in a mental health therapist or counselor:
- A therapist who specializes in working with a particular demographic, such as an LGBTQIA+ affirming therapist or therapist of a specific religious affiliation.
- A therapist who specializes in working with specific conditions or concerns. For example, if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, you might decide to see someone who specializes in OCD.
- A therapist who practices a specific modality that you feel would be a good fit for you, whether that is EMDR, art therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or something else.
It’s okay to be specific about what you want, but it’s also okay if you don’t have too many specifications at all. For example, maybe you’re simply looking for an individual therapist who can work with anxiety.
3. If You Need To, You Can Switch Providers
To add to the point that every therapist and therapy modality is different, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to switch providers if you need to. If you see a provider and they aren’t a good fit, it is okay to switch or stop seeing them at any point in time. The same is true if you don’t feel as though the type of therapy you’re getting is right for you. If you’ve been in therapy before and are returning, you may want to go to the same provider, but you may want to see someone entirely different.
Either way, if you check in with yourself and realize that there are limitations with regard to how much someone can help you or that this person isn’t the right fit at all, it’s okay. Remember that a therapist is there to answer your questions. If you’re looking for a new therapist, don’t hesitate to call or email them with questions such as what concerns they’re most experienced with, what modalities they practice, or anything else about how they work, who they work with, or the history of their education and practice.
4. You Might Want To Be Mindful Of Scheduling
It’s true that your first couple of sessions aren’t likely to be too intense. However, it isn’t a bad idea to schedule therapy sessions for after work or school, a day that you are off work or school, or at least when you have an hour two to process things afterward. You’ll know what’s best for you, and this may not be true for every person, but it is a preference for some people depending on what they are talking about in therapy. If you’re looking forward to a particularly intense session at any point in time or have something significant you want to share, keep this in mind.
5. Having Goals Can Be Helpful, But It’s Okay If You Don’t Yet
Many people find it beneficial to set goals for therapy. Some people enter their first session with goals in mind (for example, “I want to improve anxiety symptoms so that they no longer impact my work,” “I want to learn how to stand up for myself,” “I want to feel ready to date again,” and so on), where some know the basics of why they’re in therapy (for example, “I just got out of a bad relationship,” “I’m coping with grief,” or “I have depression”) but don’t necessarily have set goals. Either one is totally okay! Often, your therapist will check in with you after you’ve been seeing them for a while to reassess your goals. If you think of a goal that you want to set at any point in time, simply let them know. Everyone’s different, but it’s a great way to keep track of your progress and remind yourself why you’re there.
Above all else, the most important thing to know is that therapy is worth it.
Online therapy makes it easy to get the support that you need from the privacy of your own home. Often, online therapy is more affordable than traditional in-person mental health counseling or therapy, but that does not mean that the quality of your care will be compromised. When you use an online therapy website like MyTherapist, you can be certain that any provider you see will be licensed to practice, and your privacy will be protected. Using a platform like MyTherapist comes with many benefits. You’ll be able to start seeing a therapist sooner than you typically would be with traditional in-person counseling or therapy, and when you sign up, you’ll take a questionnaire that’ll help you match with a therapist who meets your needs. It makes it easy to switch providers if you need to, and you can cancel your services at any time for any reason. Whether you see a provider in person or online, you deserve to get the support that you need, so don’t hesitate to take the first step.