I’m an Outpatient Mental Health Therapist. I love my job and I am honored that people want to share their stories with me. I’m grateful they come back each week and that I can provide a sense of stability and comfort to them in their time of need. Although, I could go on to say more wonderful things about being a therapist, I want to hit on 6 things your therapist may want you to know as you begin therapy. I will say this is primarily my experience and the experience of some of the therapist that I have interacted with, but it in no way shape or form represents all therapist.
1. You’re NOT a Mess
I want to make this one clear. YOU ARE NOT A MESS FOR ATTENDING THERAPY. Being in therapy doesn’t make you any less of a person. We all experience different things in our lives and they have an effect on us whether we’re ready to admit it or not. I commend each client that comes through my door because it takes a lot to 1 discuss your issues with a complete stranger and 2 to face your anxieties and fears. You are taking the correct steps to better yourself, I don’t know what’s more commendable. The self-discovery journey is the hardest one of them all and here you are embarking on it. Remember, we live in a society where everyone wants to look like they have everything together. Truth is, they don’t. Everyone has their moments, your therapist has a therapist, and we are humans not robots.
2. We Are Not All-Knowing
We don’t know everything. As a new therapist, I thought it was my duty to know everything and to not be struggling in any area of my life. I figured I should have this extraordinary inner peace so I could teach my clients how to obtain this as well. If a client asked me something I didn’t know I would come up with the best answer I had but the truth was I didn’t know. I’d get down on myself for not knowing and immediately hit the books to figure it out. Reading and keeping yourself informed is a huge part of being a therapist but some things you learn as you experience life. We are here to help as you navigate through difficult situations but understand if you’re therapist says they don’t know it doesn’t always mean they are incompetent and it may have taken a lot for them to say they don’t know. Many people assume it is our job to answer the questions you can’t. Remember that you and your therapist are on a journey together, in no way are they responsible for giving you the answers to your life.
We provide a service, this means that when conflict arises we are to handle the situation in a very professional manner. We are also therapist so it’s a safe space to express frustration, anger, fear etc. This has limits, just because we are a place where you can express yourself, doesn’t mean we are punching bags or that we will tolerate bad behavior. There are 2 sides to this coin, one being that we are human just as you are, we don’t like being berated just as you don’t. The second side being, if this is how the client acts out in the world it is our duty as therapists to help them understand that their behavior is causing turmoil in their life and it’s something to be worked on. Like any relationship, respect is necessary to move forward and grow with one another.
4. We Are NOT Psychologist
Oh gosh, this should have been my first one. I have so many clients, friends, and family members that think I’m a psychologist. I’ve had clients call me Dr. Johnson and as great as that sounds I don’t want to give out misinformation. I’ll keep it short. Doctors get doctorates and they primarily have a PhD or a PsyD which takes further schooling after obtaining a Masters. Most therapists have a Master’s degree and that’s it.
5. Team Work Makes the Dream Work
Some clients come in with the idea that the therapist will provide the answers to your life as I said above. This is a common misconception; some people don’t know how therapy works and to be honest therapy has changed over the years so it’s understandable. Understand that if you don’t do work outside of therapy not much will change in your life. My example I will use for this is Mindset. If you set out to create a positive mindset and you are consistent for 3 months and then you stop putting forth the effort all together, you’ll revert. You’ll become negative again and you’ll begin feeling how you felt before. So, I say this to say that the lessons from therapy aren’t things you can do when you feel like you have to remain consistent if you truly want things to change for you. Your therapist will act as a partner and help provide the tools, it’s up to you to figure out how to use them.
6. Connections Can’t Be Forced
The therapeutic relationship is the most important aspect of therapy. Without trust and a bond therapy won’t progress. It’s okay to not like each therapist you encounter. Just like connections with friends or a partner can’t be forced, neither can a therapeutic bond. It’s okay to advocate for yourself that you feel you may benefit from a different therapist. There’s a difference between not connecting with a therapist and not liking any form of feedback you view as negative. Before ending the relationship address this and if things still feel like they don’t align, then it’s time to part. There’s no shame in moving on, you’re paying for a service.