In the therapist’s office:  What to expect?

Have you wondered what it might be like to go to a therapist? Do people really lay on the couch; how long is it going to last; how much does it cost? Maybe your child needs help but you are not sure what to expect at the therapist’s office. Read along for some answers.

I remember making the phone call – I had the name of a therapist that came highly recommended. I knew I needed to talk to somebody. I was nervous, had no idea what to expect and was worried about whether I could afford it. She sounded nice on the phone; I had also seen her picture on a website and read a little bio. We scheduled an appointment and I made my way to the office. The hour went by in a flash – I was not used to talking about myself but she asked questions, made comments, explained the process and seemed to understand where I was coming from. We agreed on a price I could afford and set up a session the same time every week. I worked with her for close to two years; my issues resolved and I felt much more in control of my life.

The truth is that there are many different kinds of therapeutic approaches and every therapist has their own style, theoretical orientation and length of treatment. Psychoanalysts still use the couch but most clinicians are not psychoanalysts. Depending on your problem, therapy can last between three to six months or even a year.

Typically, all therapists recognize the importance of the therapeutic alliance with you, the client. Depending on whether your therapist is in or out of network, you will probably have a copay or agree on a reasonable price that you can afford. The therapist listens, asks questions, does not judge and accepts you for who you are with your pain, symptom or problem, and guides you to a solution. If you are a parent, bringing your child, the therapist will interview you as well, get your perspective and hear your concerns. Many therapists collaborate with parents when working with their children, while maintaining a safe place for their kid to work on their struggles. The therapist will maintain confidentiality and everything you say remains between the two of you, unless you make a specific threat to harm yourself or somebody else. In that case, the therapist is required by law to ensure your safety.

Everything can be spoken about in the therapist’s office; there are no taboos on your thoughts, feelings, questions. It is your time to use. The therapist is there to listen, guide, offer new perspective; some offer suggestions, others do not. If talking is not your cup of tea, and especially with young children and adolescents, art, spontaneous play and games are ways to communicate as well. The therapist may collaborate with other professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, teachers, pediatricians or school social workers to ensure quality of care.

More often than not, the therapist becomes a part of your life, a professional confidant, a life compass, pointing in four different directions. Which way you will choose to go will be up to you!

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