116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Taking the first step in seeking mental health therapy is twofold: finding the right therapist; and stepping into the first appointment. Last time I talked about finding the right therapist, so now let’s turn our attention to the first appointment. A lack of familiarity with the therapy process may prevent some people from seeking help out of fear of the unknown. Having insight into what therapy may look like and what to expect might help provide a sense of comfort and allow you to take that step more confidently.
Television and movies don’t exactly help this cause. From oversized leather sofas and quirky hypnotists to giant beanbag chairs and foam bats, media portrayals of therapy can range from comical to dangerously inaccurate. In reality, therapists recognize the uneasiness someone might have and are trained and eager to make things as safe and comfortable as possible.
Often the first step will be to complete required paperwork. This may happen in the office before your appointment or at home in advance. The paperwork typically consists of a combination of insurance information, privacy policies, medical history, a symptoms questionnaire and a services agreement.
As you talk, remember that you can ask questions to determine your level of comfort with the therapist. The therapist will ask questions to get to know more about you. This might include things like discussing your symptoms in more detail, the reasons why you chose to seek therapy and background information about your family, career, hobbies, medical history, education and other details you wish to share.
One common hesitancy from those considering therapy is the notion of sharing personal details of one’s life with another person. It is important to understand that licensed therapists are professionally and ethically bound not just to the regulations set forth by professional licensure boards, but also to a specific code of conduct to ensure confidence and trust in the profession. This includes rules around privacy and confidentiality. Generally speaking, what is discussed in therapy will be kept confidential with few exceptions, such as when disclosing information that is required by law or is necessary to protect the client or others from serious and foreseeable harm.
As you continue, the therapist will discuss setting goals for your treatment. This is a collaborative process in which you and your therapist work together to establish clear, meaningful goals and then formulate a plan to accomplish them in the most effective, efficient and appropriate way.
The therapist will use research-based treatment methods and interventions to support you in resolving issues and making positive changes in your life. The number of sessions and length of time for treatment can vary depending on each individual’s situation.
Keep in mind, it isn’t necessary to always have deep, meaningful topics prepared and ready to discuss before each session. Some sessions may be more intense while others may feel relaxed, but the therapist will always be prepared to ask questions and listen. Perhaps most important, therapists exist to help, not to judge. So while some conversations may feel uncomfortable, your therapist isn’t passing judgment, but rather is intent on listening, understanding and providing support toward improvement.
In the end, therapy is work. It can be both challenging and enjoyable. More than anything, it can help better your life. Being willing to put in the time and energy to that end is a courageous and admirable step.
Bryan Busch is a licensed mental health counselor in Cedar Rapids. He also works at Folience, the parent company of The Gazette. He can be reached at email@example.com.