By Stephanie Wick, Ph.D., LCMFT, LCAC
Most people have no idea what to expect when they walk into a therapist’s office for the first time. Anxiety is often high. Expectations are often based on depictions from movies or tv shows. This means newcomers may expect a stiff lipped, notepad bearing therapist with no sense of humor who asks the client to lay down on the couch for an awkward first session.
There is something mystical about the world of psychotherapy, as if we can see into the souls of every person we meet. While this is not the case, most of us have developed a keen sense of human behavior and are more aware of subtle nuances and inconsistencies than most. However, in the end, we are just human like everyone else and retreat to our own families at the end of the day.
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, and 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.
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, or perhaps a sophisticated and ultimately believable defense mechanism, but rarely a sign of strength. Before considering or bowing away from therapy completely, consider the following: