Building a strong relationship with your chosen therapist is an essential cornerstone of successful therapy. That process starts when you first make contact with them. But your part in the process can start before then, and it involves giving some thought to what it is that you want from therapy.
Somewhere in the first session with your therapist, they are going to ask you this question, or something very like it:
There are many variations on this essential question. “What brings you here?” “Has something in particular prompted you to make contact now?” and “What are you hoping for from this process?” are three, but there are many others. They are all looking to shed light on what you’re looking for from therapy, why now is the right time, and where the focus of working together needs to be.
What do you want from therapy?
People come to therapy for three main reasons. Some may want to learn new skills or knowledge, such as how to better manage stress or negotiate relationships. Others may be interested in personal understanding, growth or development. In my experience, however, most people tend to come with some level of distress or suffering which they want to stop.
As I outline in my free ebook, therapy needs to have goals, a sense of how you and your therapist will work toward them, and a strong bond between you and your therapist. But you don’t need a therapist to start working on what it is that you want from therapy. In fact, that clearer you are about what you want from the process, the more likely it is that you’ll find a therapist to help you achieve that.
Don’t think about the start of therapy, think about the end
To help you get started on what you want from therapy, don’t get too hung up on that first meeting with a prospective therapist. Think instead of what you want to go away with when you’ve finished. It’s easy to just focus on what’s going on for you now, but it will really help if you can think about what life will look and be like when you’ve got what you came to therapy for. Visualising can be helpful in this process. Here are a couple of suggestions that may help:
Think about the three reasons for coming to therapy that I outlined above. Which one applies most to you? It may be more than one. Think also about why now feels like the time to seek help. Has something specific propelled you into seeking help, or do you simply feel that you’ve had enough of feeling the way you do?
Alternatively, you might imagine that it’s your last session of therapy. You are feeling pleased and proud that you’ve come such a long way in your journey. Maybe further than you could possibly have imagined. What’s changed for you? How is life different? And how does that change, and that difference, feel?
Don’t limit your aspirations
My final piece of advice is this: As you think about what you want from your therapy, don’t limit your aspirations.
At its best, therapy is life changing. However long it’s taken you to get to this point, let me assure you that life from hereon in really can be different. I’ve been doing this long enough to have seen clients make some really remarkable changes. Often, changes they wouldn’t have believed possible at the start of their therapy journey.
So, please don’t allow what you want to be limited by what you think is achievable. Think instead about what, in the best of all worlds, you’d really like to go away with.