Key Takeaways

  • If you’re wondering what happens during therapy, you’re not alone. Many people who are new to therapy wonder what it’s like to attend sessions and what they’ll talk about with their therapist.
  • Some of the most important steps in therapy are finding the right therapist, preparing for sessions, setting and prioritizing goals, and practicing what you’re learning outside of sessions.
  • Therapy can help you achieve your goals and improve your mental health. Your therapist will be your guide in this process but it’s ultimately up to you to stay engaged. You can do this by actively participating in your sessions, voicing your concerns, and asking questions.
  Therapy is a valuable tool for personal growth and mental well-being. But if you’ve never been to therapy, you probably have lots of questions about what really happens in those sessions and what you can expect from them.  Due to the stigma that sometimes surrounds mental healthcare, many folks are hesitant to speak openly about what is ultimately a very private experience. This can leave you wondering how therapy works and what you should talk about in therapy sessions.  Therapy doesn’t have to be mysterious. It all starts with learning more about the therapeutic process and finding the right therapist for you. 

Find the right therapist

Finding the right therapist isn’t always easy, but it’s an important step in getting the most out of therapy. Some of the first questions to ask are:
  • Does this therapist treat the condition(s) I want to address?
  • Do they have openings that fit my schedule?
  • What will my out-of-pocket cost be?
Beyond these important practical concerns, you also have to find someone you feel like you can really open up to and trust fully.  While this might sound like a complicated process, rest assured that with help from Rula, you can find a therapist who’s right for you.

Goal setting and collaboration

After finding a therapist, one of the first steps in therapy is setting goals. Most people seek treatment when they’re struggling in some capacity and you probably have a general sense of why you’re considering going to therapy at this time.  Don’t worry if you don’t have a clear vision of what you hope to achieve in therapy. Your therapist will partner with you to uncover your strengths and challenges while prioritizing your time together based on the goals that matter most to you.  If you come to therapy with a big-picture goal (like wanting to treat your depression or better control your anger), your therapist will help you take small, achievable steps toward those broader goals. And as you gain a deeper understanding of yourself, you may find yourself wanting to shift directions and work on new things.  Throughout your sessions, your therapist will observe your progress and support you in creating new goals as circumstances change.

How to prepare for a therapy session

Sometimes our busy lives can make it difficult to make time for ourselves and get to therapy consistently. That’s why it’s so important to make the most of your sessions by taking the time to mentally and emotionally prepare.  Here are a few tips for getting ready:
  • Before your session, try to unplug and limit distractions. Silence your phone. If you’re meeting your therapist virtually, close any extra tabs on your computer and silence notifications. 
  • Give yourself a buffer of at least a few minutes to settle your mind and body before beginning your session. 
  • Take some time to reflect on the thoughts, feelings, and experiences you’ve had since your last appointment. Consider what feels most important to discuss today and what type of emotional support you may need. 
  • Some people find it helpful to keep a therapy journal to track progress between sessions and document insights they want to eventually share with their therapist.  
As you get a few appointments under your belt, take note of what works for you. Use those insights to create a routine that helps you best prepare for sessions. 

How to be an active participant

Showing up to a therapy appointment is the easy part. But in order to get the most benefits from the experience, you also need to be emotionally present and engaged, too.  Your therapist is there to guide you through this process and support you in your healing journey. But you are ultimately responsible for enacting positive change and achieving your goals.  So how do you actively participate in therapy, especially during those inevitably challenging moments? Start by embracing vulnerability and acknowledging that sometimes therapy is hard work. Then if something uncomfortable comes up, talk to your therapist about how you’re feeling and voice your concerns.  If you ever feel confused or unsure about something your therapist does or says, don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for something different.

Practice between sessions

In the grand scheme of things, therapy represents a very small part of your life even if you attend weekly sessions. Throughout therapy, you’ll unpack and explore emotional challenges and practice skills that can improve your mental health.  But it is outside of these sessions, as you implement what you’ve learned, that some of the most powerful changes can happen. As you bring the lessons of therapy into your daily life, you’ll gain the opportunity to experiment with new ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.  Sometimes these “experiments” will be successful and sometimes they won’t go as you intended. It’s all a learning process. What’s most important is that you’re willing to try new things and continue to work on yourself.

Taking the next step

If you’ve ever felt unsure about what to expect from therapy, know that you’re not alone. In taking some time to familiarize yourself with how therapy works, you’ll feel more empowered to make the most of the experience.  At Rula, we know that finding the right therapist and starting therapy can feel overwhelming. So we’re here to pull back the curtain on how the therapy works and remove any uncertainty that might be preventing you from accessing the mental health care you deserve.  To get started, our streamlined matching (and simple re-matching) process can help you quickly and easily find a therapist who’s a fit for all of your unique needs. 

Find a therapist with Rula.

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