How Does Therapy Work Anyways?

By Carissa Weber, MA, LPC, CSAC

Credit to Carissa Weber at www.thatdarnamygdala.com

The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month. For therapists, like myself, May is a chance for us to shine. The opportunity to bring mental health to the front and center. Honestly, this is the kind of stuff that I love to do.

For this week’s post, I wanted to outline one skill that will help your mental health: seeing a therapist. By the time you are done reading this one, I hope you have an understanding about the importance of this amazing resource.

What Is Therapy Anyways?

Maybe I’m biased, but I think therapy can be for everybody and anybody. Therapy is not only an investment in yourself, but it’s an act of self-compassion and self-care that can have profound & far-reaching effects.

Therapy offers a space to confront and process through our challenges and difficult emotions, and it can give us the tools to better manage our feelings of distress. Therapy can also help us improve our ability to cope with life’s curveballs, build insight into ourselves, and create meaningful, lasting changes that help us feel connected to our most authentic selves.

That being said, therapy can be a longer-term investment, and it works best when you, the client, are invested in the process. That’s why it’s so important to find the therapist & type of therapy that works best for you.

What Can I Expect from Therapy?

Your first appointment with a therapist will include a review of your history, your primary concerns, and what brings you to therapy at this time. You’ll talk about your goals in life for your mental health (which will be reviewed regularly throughout treatment). Your therapist will review some important documents to help keep your therapy running smoothly:

  1. Informed consent (which includes your rights to confidentiality, what you can expect from therapy, and some good and uncomfortable things that come from participating in therapy)
  2. Insurance or payment verification
  3. A telehealth consent form if you are meeting with your therapist by phone or video
Credit to Carissa Weber at www.thatdarnamygdala.com

After that initial session is done (which takes a lot of energy out of people), you will start ongoing therapy. Ongoing therapy sessions will be a unique experience tailored to your needs and the goals you and your therapist identified together during your first session. Your sessions will likely include a blend of different kinds of therapy styles (like what I talked about with CBT and DBT posts).

The length of time you’re in therapy with me will depend on a variety of things, including:

  • The severity of your symptoms
  • Whether you’re looking to solve a single issue or work on deeper issues
  • How much time you’re able to dedicate to working on skills between sessions
  • Your financial needs

As therapy continues, you and your therapist will talk about your progress in therapy periodically and adjust your therapy plans according to your needs. If there is a specific style of treatment you’d like to engage in, let your therapist know. If they don’t offer the type of therapy you’re looking for, they can work with you to find someone who does.

How Do You Know if You and Your Therapist Are a Good Fit?

When you start working with a therapist, it might feel a bit awkward at first. You will know they are a good match with you when:

  • You feel validated and heard in your sessions
  • There is mutual respect between the two of you
  • You are able to be your genuine self and have honest communication with your therapist
  • Your therapist takes your experiences and helps create coping skills that fit with your needs

As you feel these things, it allows you to do some pretty cool things:

Credit to Carissa Weber at www.thatdarnamygdala.com
  • be brave enough to tell your therapist “No” or that they are off base (e.g. – “That isn’t really working)
  • Increase your comfort levels with being vulnerable and honest about your experiences
  • Accomplishing the goals you want to accomplish

Sometimes, it takes a few meetings to know if you and your therapist is a good match. What happens if you are not a good match? Switch to a different therapist!

As therapists, we understand if you don’t feel connected to us, it will be hard to develop a relationship that supports your growth and your goals. Sometimes, personalities don’t mesh. That’s okay. If that is the case, therapists are able to give you referrals to other therapists that could be that match for you.

Do I have to be “Crazy” to go to Therapy?

Absolutely not!

Therapy is not just a great way help you get healthy and understand your mental health, but also stay healthy. For many, therapy gives you a place to:

  • Process stressful situations
  • Receive a new perspective on a current situation or thought
  • Learning to communicate your needs with friends or at work
  • Check-in on any potential concerns before they become problematic
  • Practice self-care and self-love
  • Identify where you need to set boundaries in your life to stay healthy
Credit to Carissa Weber at www.thatdarnamygdala.com

You don’t need to have a diagnosis in order to be in therapy (although insurance companies often require therapists diagnose you with something in order to use the benefit). All you need in order to go to therapy is the desire to improve your life.

Remember, therapy is tailored and individualized to what your needs are. Some days, that means taking time to vent about recent frustrations. Other days, it is about actively learning (and practicing) new and healthy coping skills. Some days are all about processing those tough feelings. Some days it will be all of the above. It’s just best to keep in mind that therapy is about what you need most during your sessions.

How long do I need to be in therapy?

That is an answer I’m sure everyone wants to know. When it comes to therapy, your services and treatment are based on your needs. For some people, therapy can last one or two sessions. For others, it might be a month or so of sessions, maybe more. As therapists, we use some of the following information to help gauge how long therapy may last:

  • Severity of symptoms
  • If there are multiple concerns present
  • How much support you have with implementing changes outside of the therapy sessions
  • What insurance will cover (this is where private pay comes in handy)
  • How ready you are to create a change in your life

Remember, therapy is a partnership. The therapist will move at your pace and help you set goals that are realistic for you and meet your needs.

Carissa Weber, That Darn Amygdala

What are Some of the Benefits of Seeing a Therapist?

This is one of my favorite things to talk about!

Some of the bigger benefits from seeing a therapist include:

  • Having healthier and stronger relationships with the people in your life
  • Feeling confident and empowered in your life
  • Gaining new insights
  • Developing new ways to react to situations
  • Learning new and healthy ways to communicate your needs to the world around you

Those aren’t the only benefits from therapy. Therapy also offers you:

  • A safe place to heal from past hurts and trauma
  • A supportive place to practice new coping skills
  • A confidential place to process the frustrations of life
  • A judgement-free place to learn (and re-learn) about who you are

If you think the list is done, I haven’t even come close! Other benefits from therapy include:

  • Relief from anxiety symptoms
  • Decrease in physical health symptoms (therapy has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve sleep, decrease the amounts of headaches and body aches)
  • Improve motivation when depression zaps it
  • Increase your ability to focus on tasks
  • Help you return to enjoying and thriving in life, not just merely surviving in it

So, in my excited and hyper fixated ADHD energy, I threw a lot at you. I thank you for reading and learning more about therapy and what you can expect from it.

To recap this post:

– Therapy is a wonderful tool you can use to help make life more manageable

-Therapists are specially trained to help you achieve your goals

– It is okay to find a therapist that fits with you!

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4 thoughts on “How Does Therapy Work Anyways?

  1. Therapy has been SOOOOO good for me. My therapist helped me get my psychiatric service dog. We have improved my communication skills. We have worked on my PTSD. I’ve learned soooo much!!!

  2. Thank you for clarify what therapy is. When you recommend mental health therapy to patients, not all of them are receptive of the idea. They think that therapy is not for them since they are not “crazy.” Thanks for the post again.

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