Therapy 101: How to Prepare for Therapy

Therapy 101: How to Prepare for Therapy

So, you know you want to begin therapy, but how do you actually prepare for therapy?

You’ve thought about it, read about, maybe talked with some loved ones about it.

You think you might benefit from therapy, and you’re ready to start working with a professional therapist.

Congratulations! It takes self-awareness and courage to ask for help making changes in your life. Give yourself credit for taking this step, and trust that your decision will be rewarded in time.

Read on for 7 ways to prepare for therapy:

1. Reflect on your past

No matter what’s bringing you to therapy right now, taking time to reflect on the events and relationships that have shaped your life so far can be an important step in preparing to implement new changes. It doesn’t have to be an exhaustive process; even a few moments of thoughtful reflection can yield valuable insights.

Prepare for therapy: 

  • Think through the major events (“good” or “bad”) in your life. What have they meant to you?
  • Think through the key relationships in your life. What have they meant to you?
  • Think of times you have struggled in the past. What did it feel like? What helped you most?
  • Think of times you have been most successful (whatever that means to you) in the past. What helped make that possible?
  • Talk to friends or family, if you’re comfortable doing so, and ask them to share their perspectives. Take notes if it’s helpful.

2. …and envision your future.

Just as reflecting on your past can help you prepare for therapy, taking time to picture the future you hope for yourself can unearth lots of helpful information.

Depending on what you’re dealing with right now, it may be difficult to envision anything other than what you’re currently feeling. If that’s your experience, it can be helpful to ask a trusted friend or family member for help.

Prepare for therapy: 

  • Imagine yourself enjoying an emotionally well life. What does that look like for you?
  • How will you know when you are living the kind of life you wish for yourself? How will things be different than they are right now?

3. Get clear on your goals.

Once you’ve envisioned the future you wish for yourself, take it one step further. Identifying some specific examples of the changes you’d like to see can help prepare you for a discussion of goals with your therapist. Even if you’re not a “goal-setter” by nature, don’t skip this step. It’s one of the key ways you and your therapist will be able to track how it’s going in therapy.

Prepare for therapy: 

  • Get clear on your thoughts: What thoughts do you tend to have most often? What changes would you like to see in your thinking over time?
  • Get clear on your emotions: How do you feel most often? What changes would you like to see in your feelings over time?
  • Get clear on your actions: Which of your own behaviors are frustrating or concerning to you? What behavioral changes would you like to see in yourself over time?

4. Cultivate honesty and trust.

It can feel scary (especially if dishonesty and mistrust have been part of your experience in the past), but approaching therapy with an open mind and a trusting heart is essential. Your therapist’s role as an ally and support to you is only as strong as your willingness to share.

Prepare for therapy: 

  • Commit to total honesty with your therapist. This doesn’t mean divulging every last thought and feeling you’ve ever had. Rather, it means being as open and transparent with your therapist as you can. The value of your therapy truly depends on it.
  • Trust that your therapist has your best interests in mind at all times.

5. Accept responsibility for your therapy…

It’s completely normal (especially during times of challenge and struggle) to feel somewhat lost or directionless. It can feel tempting to hand over all responsibility for your emotional wellness to your therapist. An important part of emotional wellness, however, is an appropriate sense of personal responsibility for your life and health.

Prepare for therapy: 

  • Make the commitment to giving therapy your best shot. It might help to give yourself a little pep talk: I am ready to make the most of therapy. I will trust my therapist and the process of therapy. I am ready to follow guidance and take risks in order to enjoy emotional wellness.
  • Ask for what you need. Was a particular style of therapy helpful in the past? Share this with your therapist.

6. …but allow yourself to be guided.

In therapy, the responsibility for your wellness is shared. Both you and your therapist have a strong, vested interest in helping you live your best story. At times, this may mean loosening your control over the process.

Prepare for therapy:  

  • Trust that your therapist has spent time and energy preparing for each session. Listen to their comments and suggestions with an open mind.
  • Remember that therapy is a safe environment in which to experiment with new ways of thinking and relating to others. Trust that and allow yourself to be guided in new directions.

7. Set yourself up for success.

When we give therapy a chance to work, it can help us make real transformations in our lives. By planning ahead and making some adjustments to your schedule and lifestyle, you can help ensure your therapy is a success.

Prepare for therapy: 

  • Clear time in your schedule for therapy sessions (and time between sessions for homework). Guard this time fiercely!
  • How’s your self-care? Review your self-care plan and make changes as needed.
  • Give yourself some space. Therapy can be a positive, life-changing experience, but it asks a lot of you and can feel potentially draining at times. This is not the time to take on new projects and commitments. Give yourself and therapy some space to work.

Enjoy this post? You might also like:

Therapy 101: 7 Signs You Might Benefit from Therapy
Therapy 101: Who Goes to Therapy?
Mindful Goal-Setting

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