“I should have come to see you years ago, I don’t know why I didn’t.” – this was something said to me this week whilst booking a Discovery Session for a potential new client. There are many reasons why we wait to get support:
“I am scared to open up to a stranger and can’t even talk to my partner.”
“I’m not sure if I even need therapy or if it will really help me. I think I’m coping ok.”
“I’ll feel weak because I should be able to sort it out myself.”
It can be really hard to take the first step in getting to see a therapist. How do you know it’s the right person for you? What if you find you can’t open up to them? It can feel really frightening. Hard enough to do when you feel well and in control but even harder when you are struggling or are in emotional pain.
There can also be a tendency to think that if you ‘need’ therapy then that means there is something ‘wrong’ with you. There is a lot of shame associated with admitting a problem. You might tell yourself you are a grown person and should be able to work it out yourself. “What difference can talking about it make anyway?” “I shouldn’t be feeling like this”.
Taking the first step is the bravest and hardest part of therapy because you do that part on your own. You pick up the phone or write an email asking for the first session. It can feel a very isolated, lonely and scary place. Try to see this as a healthy action. You have taken the first positive step to take control of your emotional health and to feel better.
Therapy is an opportunity to have an honest, non-judgemental relationship with another and to learn to have a different relationship with yourself. It is sometimes the first time in someone’s life that they have been really heard and allowed to express their feelings. In the past this may have resulted in the other person expressing anger, resentment or ridicule and this has not been a supportive experience for them to start to confront the problems. Based on that experience, it can be hard to imagine that seeing a therapist would be any different.
In order to start, you have to find your courage to make that first contact and reach out. You don’t have any way of predicting what will happen but you can maybe just promise yourself that you will do this one session and then see how it goes from there. The first session may well be about your fears around going into therapy and the response of the therapist will give you a good indication as to whether you can work together on the deeper issues.
If you are worried about how to get started, speak to someone who knows the therapist, look at their testimonials and whether they have a focus for the work they do and if this is a good fit for you.
Once you’ve opened up about your initial fears and have agreed on the basis on which you are working together you will feel more at ease. Therapy is sometimes uncomfortable and can be a struggle but you will have the therapist there to support you, that is their role, you are no longer on your own, dealing with emotions and thoughts that you may not understand. You have a support system.
A therapeutic relationship is a way to ease difficult or uncomfortable feelings and to help you build a path forward, away from pain and distress, towards ease and happiness.
If you are worried about starting therapy, remember that even your therapist had to start somewhere and many people struggle in this way. You are not alone in that. The way forward is to commit to one session. Your mental health is as important as your physical health, the two are inter-linked.
You are brave for getting started – just focus on the first session and see where you go from there.