Portland Therapy Blog

Portland Therapy Blog

Local experts share the latest information and resources on all things mental health.

How Do You Know When to Start Therapy?

Posted: May 31, 2014 by info@uncommonlovepdx.com

Friends and family often ask me for tips on starting therapy off on the right foot. It can be scary to make your first appointment with a stranger. But investing in good counseling can be one of the most valuable decisions you ever make.

Here are seven things that may help you if you’re considering therapy.

Therapy is for you and you alone

One reason some folks decide to start therapy is because someone has told them they should. If you are reluctantly attending, or feel obligated to go for someone else’s benefit now may not be the best time to start. It’s much more effective to come into therapy of your own volition. Even though others may benefit from you having treatment, therapy is a personal choice because it’s right for you and you alone.

No two therapists are the same

There are a lot of different ways therapists work and no two are the same. Our training and techniques are as varied as you can imagine and no one way is best for everyone. If you start with a therapist who is not a good fit, that doesn’t mean it won’t work to try someone else.

You may find one therapist is too quiet for you, or too talkative, or you may realize their office location or price range just doesn’t work for you. Whatever the reason, you can always change therapists. It is our job to help you, and if one therapist isn’t helping ask for a referral to another.

It is also very important if you are a member of an underrepresented population, or if you have a very specific topic you want to discuss, that you ask your therapist if they have experience and training in the area that interests you. Don’t forget: you have the right to a specialist who truly understands you.

I often suggest new clients shop around and meet at least three different therapists for consultations before selecting one to work with. See how you react to their voice, the information they give you and your gut feeling.

Not every session will be the same

Some sessions will be mind-blowing. Others might feel mundane, frustrating, or even a bit confusing. Allow some time for things that come up in therapy to marinate and see what you learn in the process.

If you have something specific you want to talk about, don’t hesitate to bring it up at the start of the session. There is a natural ebb and flow to therapy, and you get to help direct the flow in session.

Be honest

Therapy works best if you are able to be completely honest with your counselor. It will benefit you most to talk through events, feelings and thoughts as they really are without modifying what you say because you’re worried about what the therapist might think. Facing challenges authentically will help make your therapy more successful. If you feel there is something in the way of being honest with your provider, tell them or hire a different therapist.

Things might get worse before they get better

For some people, therapy can stir up history, memories, and old wounds like a snow globe. You might encounter tough new feelings along the way, but remember the ultimate goal is a greater self-awareness that will allow you to make decisions and important changes.

Talk about sex

My clients are all too often reluctant to talk about sex. So many of them worry what I will think, but the truth is you are your own worst critic. Whatever you share is guarded by my professional ethics around confidentiality and honestly, will likely seem far less shameful to me than it does to you. Talking about sex in a supportive environment is often one of the most empowering parts of therapy.

It is not selfish to talk about yourself

It your therapist’s job to hold space for whatever you want to work on- or to refer you to someone who can. Your decision to hire a therapist means you get to take up space. If you feel uncomfortable talking about yourself, or some little voice keeps telling you you’re selfish, mention it to your therapist.

I would be honored to help support you as you start your journey into therapy. Please don't hesitate to set up a consult if you would like to work with me. I would also be happy to help you find someone who can support you.

Gina Senarighi, MA, MS, MFTI, is a relationship coach, couples counselor, sex educator, and blogger in Portland, OR. You can find out more about her practice by visiting her website or her profile.

Tags: mood and feelings, life transition, treatment orientation