What Is Therapy?

This is part 3 of a guidebook on how to find a therapist. Check out the introduction to get started.

You may know some information about therapy, but I want to cover this because finding the right therapist is a complicated, nuanced process. It’s like applying for college or a competitive job.

You don’t just go online and start sending out applications. Being informed about therapy and having realistic expectations will make your experience a lot better.

Overview

Let’s start with the basics. Therapy is a treatment for mental health issues that involves talking and working with a professional. It’s usually one-on-one, but you can do couples, family or group therapy as well. There’s a lot of talking, but you may also do exercises, such as journaling, role-playing or mindfulness. 

It’s usually 50-60 minutes a session. We strongly recommend starting out once a week. Expect to be in therapy for up to 15-20 sessions. The first 1-3 sessions (usually just the first session) are spent understanding your challenges, seeing if you’re a good fit for each other, and agreeing on goals for the therapy. Then you work towards achieving those goals.

Therapy Is Like A Healthy Relationship

If you haven’t been in therapy before, you may expect it to be like going to your primary care physician. When you go to see your primary care provider for a cold, he may not be in a good mood, it’s very rushed, and there’s no personal connection. But he prescribes cough syrup, you take it for a week and you’re better.

Therapy is very different. It’s like being in a healthy relationship.

First, it takes a while. Like I said, expect to go up to 15-20 times. You will see results, but they may not be steady.

Unlike seeing a doctor, you can’t just show up once a week and expect to get better. I know this is hard - life is hard. First, you have to put effort into changing yourself outside of therapy. Based on our personal experience, and the 30+ people we’ve talked to who’ve had mental health issues, you’re much more successful if you make lifestyle changes and don’t just show up to therapy.

Second, your attitude to therapy really matters. If you don’t have a positive attitude towards it, and you expect it to work really fast, it won’t work. We all have similar experiences when we try to make changes in our life. We want to work out or eat healthier. But when we start, we don’t enjoy the process, it feels like a chore and we fail.

Again, I know this is hard, but try to be committed. Try to have a positive attitude towards therapy, accept that it takes time and effort, and want to put that time and effort in.

Everyone gives advice and doesn’t tell you how to implement it, so I’ll give you one suggestion. What works for me is first thing in the morning I remind myself of what I want to do and why.

I go over the most important goals and changes I want to make in my life, and why. It just takes a few minutes.

Finally, just like in a relationship, the right person really matters.

Summary

  • Therapy is 50-60 minutes a session, once a week.
  • Expect to go for 15-20 sessions.
  • Therapy is like a healthy relationship.
  • Progress will be slow and unsteady, but it will happen.
  • You have to put in effort outside of the therapy sessions.
  • You have to try to have a positive attitude towards the therapy and be committed.
  • The right therapist really matters.

We Can Help

Neb can handle this entire process for you and find you the right therapist, free. If you’re interested, please check out our website.

Next: The Right Therapist

Click here to go to the next section.