Therapy can be a daunting thing. The prospect of “wait I have to tell all my problems and what I’m worrying about to a person I don’t even know!?” can be pretty daunting. Currently I’m in treatment at CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) I’ve been there for almost two years and I’ve seen two psychologists and a psychiatrist over that time. I thought I’d put together a help guide for new people starting therapy, that being CAMHS, adult services or any other practise that offers therapy because I know how nervous it can make you feel, so hopefully this can help dissipate some of those fears.
Tip #1 – Psychologist’s are not there to judge you.
Therapy is a place of confidentiality. That meaning unless you are a risk to yourself or others, what you say in therapy will be private. That rule is for all ages. If you’re a teenager like myself, you may be worried that everything you say to your therapist will be passed onto your parents, but that won’t be the case unless you are a risk to yourself or others. However, if your therapist does suspect that they may have to break confidentiality, they will assess the situation and let you know in advance if that is a measure she/he may have to take. Psychologists are not there to judge you. They’ve most probably heard a lot of the things before! They’re there to help you, guide you, not to judge you.
Tip #2 – Be as open as possible.
The whole basis of therapy revolves around honesty. If you don’t tell your psychologist what you’re struggling with or what’s going on, it’ll be a lot harder for you to make progress with them. Unfortunately psychologists can’t mind read, so unless you talk to them, they won’t get an accurate view of how you’re doing. Admittedly, this is a very difficult thing to do for most. It probably took me over a year (having had a transfer with psychologists in that time) to be 100% honest in every session. Not that I was lying, I would just water down my feelings. I would never truly say how I felt, which didn’t necessarily make therapy not useful because it really was useful. I just wasn’t making the progress that was really expected. So, it may take time to truly open up to your therapist, but as time goes on and the relationship in therapy grows, it should become a lot easier.
Tip #3 Make a list.
Most therapy sessions last roughly around an hour. If you think about it, that’s not that long to talk about everything that you may have built up in a week, or even two depending on your appointment schedule. Sometimes you could leave therapy without addressing a certain issue because you either ran out of time or forgot (which I’ve found to be extremely common because in therapy there can often be lots of repressed feelings which can often make you forget some things you might want to bring up) So, I would recommend writing down everything that you might want to bring up in session and either keep it with you in session or give it to your therapist so they know what you want to cover. It can often be a really good way of processing through everything without leaving with the sinking feeling that you’re going to have to sit with an issue for another week.
Tip #4 It’s okay to cry.
It really is! Crying is an excellent release, especially if you’ve been struggling and therapy is a safe, non judgemental place to do so. Now I’m not saying go straight into your first session and immediately start crying (although I’m not saying you can’t! It could be quite helpful) but allow yourself to experience your emotions. I still struggle with this too, although my therapist always knows when I’m holding tears back in session so she asks me about and that really helps me to just let it all out.
Tip #5 – Complete your therapy homework!
Now I know what you’re thinking, homework!? Hell to the no. Especially for teens, since when do we want more homework? However, I highly, highly recommend you try to complete it. It really is going to help you in the long run. Most probably the homework (or work, I should really just call it work, I think it sounds better) so, most probably the work will challenge you. For example, at one point my work was to complete an exposure against my OCD and another piece of work that I had to do was to keep track of positive things during my week. It can really vary, but it really can help you if you do complete it. If you feel uncomfortable with the task that you have been set, you can always talk about it with your therapist, so that you can adjust it to what suits you. Remember, your therapy is all about you!
Hopefully these tips helped you! If you have any questions regarding starting therapy or just therapy in general, I would be more than happy to answer them.