Some people arrive at therapy ready with questions to ask, ideas to share, memories to unpack, and a color-coded to-do list. The majority of people, however, don’t even know where to begin when it comes to therapy. The good thing about therapy is that there’s no required packing list for your first session – it’s simply come as you are.
For those considering therapy, you might still have a few questions about what it’ll be like before you book your first session. Here, we’ve answered your top therapy questions to give you an idea of what therapy could be like for you and how it can benefit you in all areas of life.
What is therapy like?
Therapy looks different for every client, every therapist, every type of therapy, and every setting. Even between the same therapist and client, therapy sessions look different from week to week.
In general, therapy is a dedicated time set aside for you to talk. Talk about what? That’s for you to decide and your therapist to support. You can talk about what’s on your mind today, or what you went through in the past. You could also talk about the future, your aspirations and your plans. Your therapist is a sounding board, someone who will listen intently to what you’re saying and help you draw meaning. They’ll also offer you a different perspective from which to see things.
In therapy, you’ll learn a lot about yourself. You’ll also learn new tools and strategies to use in moments of distress, conflict, or even peace. Therapy can be difficult and there will surely be sessions that leave you frustrated or sad. But there are also sessions that leave you feeling whole, fulfilled, and joyful.
When should I see a therapist?
There is no “right” time to see a therapist. Some individuals start a relationship with a therapist in reaction to a negative experience, such as after a break-up, accident, or major life transition. Other people decide to begin therapy because they feel stuck in their lives or because the monotony of their daily routines doesn’t lead to fulfillment. There are also individuals who want to work with a therapist as a way to prevent poor mental health or to enhance an already-established positive mental health. People also see therapists to help them support friends or family members that have mental health conditions.
For individuals who are struggling with their daily lives, including at work or in relationships, starting therapy becomes a priority. This includes people whose mental health symptoms can include unhealthy substance abuse, self-farm, or suicidal thoughts. Those in crisis might find working with a therapist extremely helpful as they work through their heavy thoughts and feelings.
How does therapy usually start?
When you begin working with a therapist, the first few sessions are generally spent getting to know each other. The therapist will ask about your background, which could include questions about:
- Where you were raised
- Who is in your family
- Your family’s history of mental health conditions
- Your educational background
- Your professional background
- Your dating or sex life
- Your religious beliefs
- Your drug or alcohol use
- Who is in your social support system and how often you connect with them
Your therapist will also ask you why you want to start therapy and what your goals are for your time together. After that, your therapy sessions may begin by revisiting ideas or concepts from the last session, exploring the week’s events, or checking in about your progress towards your goals.
How do I get therapy when I can’t afford it?
The best way to make therapy services more affordable is to use health insurance, if you have it. When you use your health insurance, your sessions with a therapist might be covered completely – or at least a percentage of the original cost. The lowest cost option is generally to work with a therapist who is in-network with your health insurance, however many health insurance plans also offer coverage with out-of-network therapists.
Another way to make therapy more affordable is to ask if your therapist offers sliding scale payment systems. A sliding scale payment system is one that charges clients of lower ability to pay less per session than clients who have a higher ability to pay. Not all therapists offer this option, however it can be a great way to meet with a therapist without breaking the bank.
If these options are still too expensive for you, you might consider attending group therapy, which is generally cheaper than one-on-one therapy sessions. This way, you can still access the support of a therapist (and a few peers!) without having to take on too much financially.
In general, seeing a therapist in private practice is more costly way of seeking therapy – but it’s not the only one. Hospitals, universities, clinics, and community organizations often offer low cost or free therapy to those in need.
Should I go to therapy when things are going well?
Yes, you should go to therapy when things are going well! While many people see therapy as a way to feel better when things aren’t going well, there is also merit to working with a therapist when you’re feeling comfortable and happy in your life.
Life comes with many ups and downs. When things are going well for you, it’s an opportunity to reflect on what got you to this point. A therapist can help you work through your strengths and values, as well as teach you how to practice gratitude and self-compassion.
Curious what others have learned in therapy? Read through the ways that therapy has positively impacted the Zencare team.
How long does therapy take to work?
Therapy varies in the amount of time that it takes to work. The factors that play into how long it takes for therapy to be effective include:
- Why you started therapy
- What type of therapy you’re receiving
- Your motivation for engaging in therapeutic work, including homework
- Your openness to the therapeutic process
- Your therapist’s style
- How often you see your therapist
- The setting of therapy
Clients who are working through complex trauma may take longer to see results than clients who want to improve communication skills. There are some therapy modalities that only take a few weeks to complete, while other therapy modalities require months and even years for the desired outcomes.
If you’re concerned about how long you’ll be in therapy, talk this through with your therapist or a prospective therapist. For those who are looking for a short term therapy experience, therapists can help you set realistic goals for that time period.
How do I get therapy without insurance?
While it seems like the world runs off of health insurance, there are ways to get therapy without insurance. The most direct way of accessing therapy when you don’t have insurance is to pay for it outright. Therapists charge different session fees, depending on their location, experience, and practice operating costs.
If you’re a student, your university might offer free or low cost therapy services. Many companies also offer free therapy through Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), where employees can access a limited number of sessions with a therapist about matters inside or outside of the workplace.
What should a therapist not do?
There are many things that therapists should not do, including discriminate against their clients or make them feel uncomfortable based on an identity. Not only is discrimination or disrespect countereffective for the client’s mental health, it’s also extremely unprofessional and can be grounds for the therapist’s license to get revoked.
Therapists are there to listen to clients and to offer perspective, tools, and compassion. When a therapist stops listening to a client or becomes judgmental or critical, they lose the client’s trust. Without a trusting relationship, clients can be less engaged and less likely to be vulnerable in therapy, which are two vital components of effective therapy.
Therapists make mistakes – yet, part of their training is to own those mistakes and empower clients to call them out. If you don’t agree with something that your therapist says or if something makes you uncomfortable, speak up for yourself. You’ll learn more about yourself this way than if you keep it to yourself!
How often should I go to therapy?
The frequency with which you attend therapy depends on several factors, including the reason you started therapy, the type of therapy that you receive, your budget, and your availability. Most clients attend 45-50 minute therapy sessions once per week. However, many clients feel comfortable seeing their therapist once every two weeks, especially after having been in therapy for a long time.
When deciding how often you should go to therapy, consider the urgency of your therapy goals. How severe are your concerns? Are your mental health symptoms painful or harmful? If so, it might be in your best interest to see your therapist at least once a week – or even more. However, if you’re attending therapy as an avenue to self-discovery, it could be appropriate to meet with your therapist less regularly.
It’s also important for you to be realistic about how often you go to therapy. Therapy is an excellent tool that can be utilized at any point in the week, however if you find yourself stressing about affording weekly therapy or making the long commute across town after a busy work day, going every other week could make therapy sessions more comfortable for you.
Who is therapy for?
Therapy is for everyone who is ready to engage in vulnerability, self-growth, discovery, or change. Anyone can benefit from therapy, though it’s important to be ready and willing to work with your therapist, especially knowing that there may be difficult sessions.
Therapy can be life changing. Not only is it life changing for those going through difficult times, but also for individuals who generally feel comfortable and happy in their lives. Therapy is for children and parents, teenagers and the elderly. It’s for people whose routines have remained the same for years on end, as well as for people who just moved across the world from their home, just lost a loved one, started a new career, or ended a long term relationship. Therapy is for people who are curious and open minded. But it’s also for people who are in pain and who are scared to talk about that pain. Therapy is for people who are perfectionists and who know exactly what they want. It’s also for people who aren’t sure where to go next and for those who want to know more about life’s purpose. There are so many reasons to work with a therapist, some of them might even surprise you!
Think that therapy is for you? It very much is! To find a therapist that is right for you and your motivations for seeking therapy, check out the Zencare therapist directory. By clicking through therapist profiles, you can find the therapist that offers exactly what you’re looking for. And if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, view the introductory videos and simply find a therapist that appeals to you. By making a few consultation calls, you’ll find someone with whom you click – and then the real journey begins.