Most people have no idea what to expect when they walk in to see a therapist for the first time. Anxiety often builds up in anticipation of the therapy experience – at least initially.
The American Psychological Association has found that media portrayals can influence how people perceive therapists and the therapy experience as a whole. Negative expectations based on depictions from movies or TV shows cause newcomers to expect a stiff-lipped, notepad-bearing therapist with no sense of humor. They expect the therapist to ask the client to lay down on the couch for an awkward first session.
Some people assume there is something mystical about the world of psychotherapy. People seem to think we can see into the souls of every person we meet. While this is not the case, most of us have developed a keen understanding of human behavior. We are often more aware of subtle nuances and inconsistencies than most.
Yet we are only human. We retreat to our own families at the end of the day just like everyone else.
Therapists will NOT call you crazy. This is not a term we use and is a dismissive, uninformed, and flippant way of regarding a person and their problems. We respect you more than that.
Therapists don’t sit around and talk about you over lunch or with our families. We deeply value confidentiality.
Many of us are funny and playful. Therapy does not have to be serious all the time.
You cannot shock us. As uncomfortable as it may be to share something deeply personal, we’ve likely heard it before and are well-prepared for any disclosure you make.
Most of us have been or are in therapy ourselves.
Over the past 15 years of practicing psychotherapy, I’ve come to realize that there are no new problems. This is not to minimize the problems that exist, but to suggest that humans are humans. As different as we are, we are all remarkably similar.
Therapy is not mystical. Problems (although deeply painful for the individual) are not new. Each of us experiences waves of sadness, grief, excitement, despair, joy, anger, frustration, and euphoria. It is the essence of the human experience.
Problems and pain do not discriminate. Pain is universal. Do not assume others do not struggle. They do. Christians and atheists, doctors and lawyers, teachers, students, rich and poor, black and white, married and single, thick and thin, pastors and plumbers, new mothers, the newly retired. We all struggle.
Therapists see versions of the same problems over and over. Infidelity, substance use, anxiety, depression, sexual abuse or assault, work-life balance, low self-esteem, comparison to others, marriage problems, spiritual wounds, grief, fertility issues, parenting and family problems, disordered eating, domestic violence, family of origin issues, setting boundaries in relationships, burnout, sex and pleasure, racism, sexual orientation. Remember, there are no new issues.
There is a certain strength in asking for help. Neglecting to help-seek is not an indication of superb inner fortitude. It could be stubbornness or a conditioned sense of self-sufficiency. It may be also be a sophisticated and ultimately believable defense mechanism, but it is rarely a sign of strength.
Therapists care deeply about their clients. That’s why we chose to do what we do. With that said, we are all different. We have different personalities and styles. The most important part of creating a successful therapy experience is the relationship between the therapist and client. It’s okay to “shop around” until you find the right therapist.
Don’t knock it ‘til you try it. Many skeptical people have acquired a deep appreciation for the therapy process.
Andrews & Associates Counseling is owned and operated by Dr. Stephanie Wick, who is a long time resident of the Manhattan area. She is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist (LCMFT) and Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor (LCAC) in Kansas.