What happens in a therapy session?
Updated: May 14, 2019
Exploring personal thoughts and feelings in a therapy session can feel daunting. In this blog post I want to share what a first therapy session with me would be like.
It's a big step to make contact and go to that first session with a complete stranger!
What actually happens in a therapy session? How can just talking about my problem possibly help? What will the therapist think of me? ...
So what happens in a therapy session?
The first session is an opportunity to meet and get an idea about how you feel about working with me and the location (either therapy room or outdoor space).
Once you decide to stay for the session, we would explore how we can work together on any problem that you would like counselling for. It doesn't matter if you have a clear cut idea of a specific issue or if you just have a nagging feeling that you want help.
Part of that exploration is also agreeing on a contract for our work.
The contract is an agreement between you and me on how we want to work together; what you want from therapy and what I can offer. This contract is a living document that can be reviewed at any time.
If we come to a mutually acceptable agreement you would then decide on your way forward. Whether you want to have further sessions and how often. It is perfectly alright to walk away and think about it. There is no pressure at any point and no expectation from me that you need to make up your mind on the spot. We would agree on a time frame for your response and it is perfeclty ok to let that lapse without any explanation necessary.
It is also perfectly ok to contact me again at a later date. The whole point about therapy is that you need to feel it is right for you.
How can talking about this possibly help?
There are all kinds of different therapy models and they all have their pros and cons. What I have found on my own journey is that the therapy model itself is not nearly as important as your relationship with your therapist. Whatever the therapist does has to feel safe to you in order to help you.
My preferred therapy model is person-centred. I will use other strategies/therapies as necessary but mainly I find person-centred therapy very effective. It can feel slow to potential clients. Unlike solution focussed therapies, it doesn't appear to have the same focus/ forseeable number of sessions. It doesn't fit into a neat tickbox.
Talking about your problem helps when it is done in the quiet of the therapy room, focussing completely on yourself and exploring your feelings and thoughts with a person who is not invested in you as colleagues, friends and family members might be. Speaking your worry out loud removes it from your person. It is now "that thing" and it becomes something separate that can be looked at from different angles. I will listen to you and we will look at your world from your own perspective. As you explore your world I help to focus your attention at times to something I notice: a pattern in relationships, the way you hold your breath when you speak of certain things.... I am there to notice and gently draw your attention to whatever I find. This gives you the opportunity to explore this in more depth.
What will the therapist think of me?
As a person-centred counsellor I work with empathy and I don't judge you. I am there to help you explore and find your own way forward. I may mention things you might find helpful but it is entirely up to you if you want to take these up. There is no "homework" and no "checking up". It is your therapy session.
I work open-ended with my clients. Sometimes we find that the problem that brought us to therapy in the first place is only the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes clients like to take a break from therapy for a while to work on the things they have identified.
Personally, I will always see my therapist on a regular basis as I find that time for personal reflection incredibly useful. It's an appointment. My phone is off! People can't reach me. But most importantly: I can't hide from anything that might be bothering me that I would rather ignore. Sharing my thoughts and feelings with an empathetic person who has tuned in to my personal world and gives me their full attention, I recognise and face my troubles and celebrate my victories over personal battles. These are not things I would necessarily discuss with family and friends as they are often involved/invested in some way and my therapist is truly impartial. She is not my friend. She is a compassionate facilitator who helps me clear my head and explore my thoughts and feelings in the quiet of that safe space: the therapeutic relationship.