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  • Sam Tetzlaff, MS, Counseling Intern

What You Need to Know About Therapy (Even If You Don't Want to Hear It)

If you’re contemplating starting therapy, first off- awesome! Making a first appointment really does take courage and is a big step. To prepare yourself, you may have googled, “What to expect in a first appointment,” and likely read that you’ll be asked questions about your current stressors, about your history, and of course, what you’re hoping to get out of therapy.

**Check out these blog posts for more info on first starting therapy:

Now, maybe you’re like me, and after reading about all the benefits of therapy, you still wonder…so, what’s the risk? If therapy is so great, why do some of my friends walk away more frustrated or decide to discontinue therapy altogether?

Well, those are some loaded questions, to be sure, with a plethora of potential reasons that we can’t all address in one blog post. What I can tell you and what I’d like to share today are three aspects of therapy that can be tough and cause some of us to end therapy before getting to the good part.

My hope in sharing these points isn’t to scare you away or to discourage you from starting therapy—quite the opposite! My hope is that in knowing the nitty-gritty parts of the process ahead of time, you’ll feel more prepared and this will help you push through to reaping the rewards of therapy.

  1. Chances are, it will get worse before it gets better. Talking about difficult topics can be really hard. It can be painful to think about the past we have been running from or to sit in uncomfortable feelings we have been numbing out. I​t’s important to know that you might not always leave a session feeling “better” right away, and this is a normal part of growth and change. At the same time, things shouldn’t feel unbearable after a session—you should definitely bring it up to your therapist if you’re consistently leaving sessions feeling terrible. You and your therapist can then have a discussion about how to end sessions differently, perhaps, or your therapist can offer strategies and skills to support you in tolerating your discomfort. Feeling too much discomfort can also be a sign of moving too quickly...which brings me to my next point.

  1. In most cases, it will take time. Sometimes the issue you come into therapy with can be resolved within just a few sessions, but this is not the norm—many mental health concerns are not a quick fix. The reality is that your concern didn't come about overnight, and neither will its resolution. What progress and change look like to you can be a helpful discussion for you to have with your therapist—this way you can both be on the same page in terms of time frame. Overall, though, long-lasting change takes time.

  2. It will be work. To get the most out of your therapy sessions, you can expect to be putting in effort other than simply showing up to sessions. This might mean coming into therapy with something specific you want to work on, being open to trying new things, or completing homework your therapist may ask you to do. Looking to your therapist to make change happen in your life for you is not a realistic expectation (Typically your therapist is only with you for an hour per week, at most!) Long-lasting change happens based on what you take from therapy and apply to your life. Similarly, your therapist can offer suggestions on what might help, but it is ultimately up to you to try it and see what works for you.

This process is not expected to be easy, but worth it. And when you get to the place you’ve been working toward, you can thank yourself.


If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Sam, you can reach her

via email:


call our intake line: 608-709-6972

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[This article does not create a client-counselor relationship. This article is general counseling information and is not to be considered legal or medical advice. Please consult with your mental health professional before you rely on this information.]

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