Thinking About Going To Therapy?

The Best Gift You Can Give Yourself & Your Loved Ones is Psychotherapy

There has been times when we all have considered talking to a professional about something that has been occupying our minds for some time. Some might have not gone through with it, but the thought has been there. In the African community, usually such a thought is the very last option. It comes after church, pastoral counselling, talking to friends and family, or even after self-administered remedies, have not been fruitful, or are not as fruitful as preferred.

Not to say that there is anything wrong with any other way of seeking help, assistance or support. But often times than not, a lot of us continue to struggle with what ever we might be experiencing because we do not want to be perceived as weak, sick or “crazy” by those around us. Of course, that is normal, but sitting through such a predicament also highlights how we perceive ourselves. It brings to light the notion that what other people think of us is more important than what we think of ourselves and how we are feeling; which is not ideal, nor healthy.

So, if you have been thinking about seeing a psychotherapist for what ever reason you may have (be it life changes, trying to understand your emotions, personal development, dealing with stressors, substance abuse, etc.), RQ Psych highly recommends it. Sometimes, a lot of people find themselves avoiding psychotherapy because they do not know what to expect from such an experience. It is normal. Fear of the unknown is a real thing. The beauty of psychotherapy is that, as scary and tedious as it might feel, it is still very rewarding. It is rewarding to the one going for psychotherapy, as well as those who get to experience them. Healthy people, or people trying to be healthy, in all aspects (biopsychosocially), end up having much more healthier relationships with themselves and those around them as self-awareness and insight get heightened and patterns of behaviours that might have been unhealthy tend to be challenged, making room for meaningful and healthier relationships.

Starting Psychotherapy

Step 1: Do Your Research

Once you start thinking that you might need to see a professional or a psychotherapist, you might already have an idea of what your concern or struggle is. We seek help, assistance or support when we can feel or see that we are no longer able to do things the way we have been doing them, or the way we would like to. As human beings, most of us always try to mitigate risk or manage our anxiety, especially when we are trying something new, so one of the ways of doing so is doing research about what kind of services you feel might meet your needs.

In your research, try to find out who are the service providers (i.e. psychotherapists) in your area that you might be willing to work with. Taking a step further, you can do more research to find out more about the service provider(s) and their services in more detail to ascertain if they would be aligned with, or be able to meet, your needs. By doing this, you might be able to manage you expectations about psychotherapy or the service provider(s), and it helps you slowly clear up any misconceptions you might have. It might also help you be clear about what kind of psychotherapist you might prefer (demographically), considering the kind of person you are and what your most significant need is.

Step 2: Set The Appointment & Show Up

The most difficult part is actually making contact to set an appointment, and showing up for the appointment. This part of the process tends to make your experience of needing help more surreal. In a way, it would be you admitting that you are in need of psychological services, which is a big step and something to be proud of. It would be a sign of you prioritising your wellbeing.

Leading up to, and when showing up for, the appointment, it is recommended that you try to approach it with an open mind, and little expectations as this helps mitigate disappointment. This would be the first interaction with the service provider, so going into it with the understanding that you are there to learn more about what is offered, helps lessen your anxiety as well. Try not to think of the experience as some sort of test of your “sanity”.

Step 3: Ask Questions

A lot of people are usually scared to ask psychotherapists questions because they are afraid they might be perceived in a negative light (e.g. irritating, not committed, avoidant, etc.). If anything, asking a lot of questions might give the psychotherapist the impression that you might be committed to your process and want to understand what you are possibly committing to. It suggests depth and not superficiality.

Be sure to ask questions that are relevant. For example, questions about the psychotherapeutic process, how often sessions would be, what is recommended for you, what would be needed from your end, etc.

Step 4: Take Note Of The Experience (Do Your Own Assessment)

As much as the psychotherapist is assessing you and the need you present to them, you would also be assessing the interaction to determine if you and the psychotherapist have a connection. However, it is important to note that a connection does not have to happen immediately.

During the interaction, try to take note of how you feel. Try to ascertain if the feelings you are feeling are brought by the content that was shared or the interaction itself (e.g. gestures, mannerisms, body language, expressions, etc.). From there, you would be able to decipher if the pairing works for you or not. Nonetheless, it is usually recommended that you give it 2-3 sessions to see how the psychotherapeutic relationship, and its impact, unfolds, before making a decision.

Step 5: Commit To A Decision

After doing your assessment, a decision is needed. Some individuals choose to stay in the psychotherapeutic relationship even when they do not think it is fruitful; trying to protect the psychotherapist’s feelings. That is a human thing to do, but it is important to know when something does not serve you and need to walk way. Psychotherapists cannot take that personally because they have the understanding that human beings are all different and one psychotherapist/person might not be able to meet every single person’s need. So clearly communicating that there might be a disconnect and you might want to move on, is normal, and would give the impression that you are taking responsibility of your process and feelings. After this, a discussion to try address your concerns might take place, and/or the psychotherapeutic relationship might be terminated. Trying to find the best fit for you will take Trial-and-Error.

If you do decide to continue seeing the psychotherapist you have met and assessed, it is very important to take note about the importance of your role in the process. It is not the psychotherapist’s responsibility to make you want to commit to the process, it is your own. For the psychotherapeutic relationship to work, commitment and patience from both ends is very important. If a concern arises, it would be your responsibility to raise it and discuss it with you psychotherapist. The process of committing to the psychotherapeutic experience in hopes for an improved state of being is ongoing.

What To Expect in The First Session:

Let us start off by saying that it is normal for you to be anxious about the first session, or any session at all. Before the session begins, the psychotherapeutic process and what to expect is usually explained to you. Thereafter, your written consent to participate in the professional relationship/psychotherapy is requested.

In the first 1-3 sessions, the psychotherapist usually spends time trying to gather information from you regarding what brought you in for psychotherapy. The questions will be centred around your presenting concerns, as well as your background and history. This might feel tedious, almost like an interview, but it helps the psychotherapist to ascertain which approach or modality might be most appropriate for you or your needs. So, try to be open to the process and be patient with it. It is a collaboration from both you and the psychotherapist; hence therapeutic goals are usually set together.

A diagnosis is not something that usually happens immediately or in the first session but when it does happen, it happens once the psychotherapist feels like they have gathered enough information to make a diagnosis.

It might feel like it is taking time for the puzzle pieces to come together, but they will eventually… A day at a time!

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