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What is therapy? Part 3

What to expect from therapy?

No two therapists are the same, not even two therapists working under the same professional title, using the same orientation and applying the same techniques. The good thing about this is that you don't need to write off an entire approach if you are unfortunate enough to have had a bad experience with one therapist. Try someone else; you might be pleasantly surprised. There are some things that you can expect from most therapists. Most will want to meet once or twice weekly for under an hour (45 – 50 minutes). During this time, you will probably do much of the talking as your therapist works to understand the nature of your difficulties. Think of these meetings as an opportunity for the two of you to get to know each other a bit and decide if this relationship will work. Some therapists will approach these initial (and perhaps later) meetings in a structured way, asking questions and gathering details about what brings you. Others might follow your lead and quietly form an impression of how to be helpful. At the end of your first session, some will invite you to return to continue where you left off, while others may have already formulated clear ideas about how to proceed. Neither approach is better or worse; the important thing is that the two of you are starting to clarify your expectations, establish a good rapport and build a connection.  It's understandable to want a professional who will tell you how to go about fixing things, but this is rarely the best approach. As the word suggests, psychotherapy is a therapy of the mind. The aim is to help you to change internally so that you can live more productively. Having a therapist solve problems for you or tell you what to do 'out there' feels nice, but it is a red flag and fosters dependence. Be prepared for the process to unfold gradually, to work together with your therapist, and to take risks as you feel ready and able to. This includes things like being open to feeling vulnerable, acknowledging the part you might be playing in something, or allowing yourself to trust your therapist.  Working towards trust is an important part of most psychotherapies. You probably sought help because you have been suffering. Therapy involves talking about this and so stirs up painful memories, feelings of frustration, and sometimes shame-filled disclosures. A good therapist will guide you through this and will understand that this is difficult and takes time. Feel free to let them know how you are feeling, even if this involves your negative or positive feelings towards them. It's okay to have mixed feelings about therapy and to let your therapist know if you have doubts about the sessions. 

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