Engaging in therapy can be a new experience for many. And it’s even more daunting because one usually goes to therapy when they vulnerable, exposed, empty, hopeless etc. Through therapy you are actually putting yourself in a position when you will need to talk about your pain, vulnerability, emotional or relationship difficulties. Sometimes you are facing all of the above at the same time and it just feels too exposing and shameful to go and talk to a stranger about it. This is normal and almost every client, even those with previous experience with therapy have such fears and dilemmas. However, your therapist fully understands this very ‘human’ challenge and coupled with their knowledge and experience, is able to facilitate your change.
Your therapist is there to help you, to facilitate you, ease your pain and focus on what is meaningful to you. They are not there to change you, but to help you change yourself. They are there to help you see that there are other ways of managing your distress, that there are other ways of viewing yourself and that in your life you can have relationships that will feel authentic and genuine. However, you play a big part in your change.
You, as other people, are essentially OK and unconditionally worthy, however our behaviour, thinking and feeling might have become outdated and not work for you any longer. You might feel that you are caught in a vicious circle or a pattern of damaging behaviour, worrying thoughts or overwhelming feelings. None of this defines who you are as change is possible for us all.
Therapy is a non-judgemental space
Therapeutic space is a non-judgemental space. Your therapist is there to listen to you and is a professional that is trained to appreciate a very wide range of our human ‘problems in living’. And so are used to hearing stories and experiences that others in your life may not understand or be empathic to.
Even though it may seem hard for you to open up, the therapeutic space is designed for this at a pace that is manageable to you. A therapist will know that sometimes a client may find it hard not only to open up before others, but also to open up to themselves.
Therapeutic relationship, contact and trust
The emphasis your therapist will put on the therapeutic relationship, i.e. the relationship between you as a client and your therapist, the relationship will be viewed as significant aspect of therapy itself. The therapist will therefore be looking with you at ways you see yourself, how you see others and how you see the world partly through what happens in the relationship with your therapist. They might be looking with you at how your early developmental patterns act out in the here-and-now of the therapy space.
The level of trust you build with your therapist will support the progress you make in therapy. It might be scary to let go the safety of the edge, but the therapist is there to hold you and guide you through the darkness.
Objective of therapy
You as a client are in the driver’s seat. You are the main negotiator in the objective of therapy and the one to say how and in what way you want to change. You might not know what you want from therapy at the beginning and that is OK. Your therapist will help you in determining the goal.
Therapy is the space to face your fears
A therapeutic relationship is a special one. It is unique. A therapist is there for you. They are there to listen to your angst and confusion. Your therapist will not consider anything you have to say as shameful or worth judgement.
A therapeutic relationship is however not a friendship nor is it an ordinary business relationship. It is a relationship with one sole purpose, to facilitate a change in you and to do it non-judgementally, respectfully and professionally.
Uncomfortable feelings and thoughts may arise through therapy
As you work with your therapist and explore your issues, feelings about the therapy or the therapist may arise. These can be quite varied. Often clients will present with anger, hate, shame and embarrassment, guilt, anxiety, fear etc. Feelings can arise about the therapy process, about you as a client or about the therapist. It is important to bring these feelings into the therapeutic space, discuss them with the therapist and work through them. They are very likely a reflection and indication of how you see yourself, others or the world outside therapy. They can, therefore, be used for therapeutic purpose.
Therapy may become painful
Therapy is not necessarily an easy process, sometimes ‘it gets worse before it gets better’. Often such experiences are an indication that something significant is happening. Discuss these with your therapist.
Don’t be overly preoccupied with the need to understand
Many clients struggle with the need to control the process and understand what is happening. It is OK to do so and it is OK to ask your therapist about the process.
In today’s world, we are taught to think and intellectualise, by our parents, peers and the society. It is therefore so deeply ingrained in us that we consider it the only understanding that is of worth. However, this often closes us off from our internal affective experience and the feelings that arise and your therapist will often encourage you to get you more acquainted with the experiential, affective and feeling aspects of your life.