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What really happens in the therapy room?

During my time in practice, I have noticed that many clients come into therapy with an idea of what therapy is. This idea is commonly adopted from TV programmes or movies with an often incomplete understanding of what is expected of and the different roles of the therapist and client during the therapeutic process. So, I’ve decided to outline the therapeutic process and expectations which is simple but necessary to understand if you are planning to embark on your own therapeutic journey.

So how does therapy work? Therapy is a collaborative process between the client and the therapist. The therapeutic process enables you, as the client, to develop an understanding of yourself and others and make changes to your life. Additionally, it can lead to an improved ability to cope with stress and difficult situations. Usually, therapy involves you talking with the therapist or psychologist about how you are feeling and things that are concerning you. In return, the therapist is to listen carefully and think with you about your concerns. The therapist will be trying to understand things with you rather than giving you advice or telling you what you should do. A therapist should not offer simple or textbook solutions. Instead, she or he will help you arrive at your own conclusions about your concerns.

You generally meet with the therapist on a regular basis (preferably weekly) for about 50 minutes, in a private room. Some clients may only need to attend three or four sessions while others may require a few more sessions. The service we offer at Meaningful Minds is both short and long term therapy. When selecting a therapist, it is important to know that different therapists practice from different paradigms. This means that depending on the paradigm, different therapists approach therapy differently. The first session or two is about gathering a shared understanding of what is going on psychologically – what is causing you emotional distress.

As mentioned, therapy is a collaborative process, which means that you have a role to play in the process. Your role includes being active in the session by initiating and taking part in the conversation as well as reflecting on the issues discussed. During these conversations, it is important that you are open and honest with yourself and the therapist. By doing this, you are able to face issues head-on and make changes to your behaviour if necessary. Often, the therapy process requires a weekly commitment to attend sessions. Yes, life does happen and you may not be able to attend every week. Occasionally, you may not want to attend the sessions due to feelings that have been aroused. However, attending sessions on a regular basis is important for the therapy process to be effective and, with time and acknowledgment; these uncomfortable feelings will be more manageable. Another matter which enables effective therapy is realistic therapy goals. Therapy is easier if you are working towards achieving something. As therapy progresses, the goals can be reconsidered and changed. Lastly, when entering into a therapeutic process, be prepared to tolerate a bit of discomfort or uncertainty as you discuss difficult issues. Oh, and be on time for your appointment. If you are unable to make the scheduled appointment, cancel or reschedule within 24 hours to avoid being charged for that session.

Ok, so that is your role. So, what exactly does the therapist do? Well, the therapist will create a safe space for you to share your problems or concerns. He or she will listen to you and treat you with respect while being open to discuss anything you wish to discuss. However, as therapists are just people, some topics may be off limits to particular therapists. For example, a therapist who is pro animal rights may not wish to work with someone who treats animals poorly. This is a personal choice and the therapist is expected to have a discussion with you and, if necessary, refer you to another professional. With this being said, you may expect any therapist to deal with you in a professional manner and maintain the highest ethical and legal standards of confidentiality. When discussing topics, the therapist is likely to bring about a different perspective, to challenge the everyday view and to possibly create insight into your thoughts and behaviours. This is in addition to the therapist’s skill in understanding what aspects contribute to your emotional pain and how it can possibly be adjusted.

From the above, it may seem as though you have the bigger role to play but this is your process; no one knows your life better than you so why take a back seat when implementing change or developing yourself. Take charge of your development by being an active participant; in therapy and in your life.

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