Managing your expectations throughout therapy.
If you’re here, it’s most likely that you’re considering therapy for yourself or for someone you know, and that you understand that therapy is for everyone—though not everybody has the courage to really face what they’re going through and to ask for professional help— therefore, you deserve an applause for thinking about therapy.
It’s also likely that you’re going through something challenging right now that’s making you feel stressed, anxious, depressed, or even traumatized; or you may be overwhelmed and confused in the midst of making an important life decision; or simply desire professional help in the form of emotional support. Either way, you’ve come to the right place!
Today, we’ll be giving you 3 Myths about Therapy (some use the term “misconceptions” instead), along with a brief conclusion of 3 Things to Know Before Attending a Therapy Session (plus 2 bonus must-knows).
Moreover, your therapist will assess how you respond to your emotions (and the emotions of others) so that you can be helped to regulate your emotions betterEhrenreich et.al, 2008
3 myths about therapy
“Talking and listening is all that ever happens”
No doubt that the basic template of therapy involves back-and-forth communication between client and therapist, but bear in mind that therapy is goal-oriented, meaning that together with a therapist, you will devise a plan on how you shall be helped. In other words, emotional support is one aspect of therapy, but remember that therapy also involves moving towards what you want to achieve in therapy in a time-limited fashion. And depending on what you bring to therapy and on the approach your therapist uses¹, this might mean moving towards a stronger sense of self, better relationship, social, or self-management skills, improved trust in others, increased self-acceptance, better coping skills, or insights that help you make decisions. So yes, talking and listening is definitely not all that ever happens in therapy. On that note, when the therapist talks, it is not a therapist’s job to tell you what you should do.
“Therapy is an easy ride”
The truth is you will be challenged by an empowering therapist. You will need to think, reflect, and try out strategies to feel and live better. At times, you’ll even be asked questions that could startle you simply because no one has ever put them out to you before: questions like “how might you be perpetuating your difficulties subconsciously (self-sabotaging)”, in other words, how are you causing the situation to worsen². In addition, you’ll learn about yourself, about mental health, and how to cope and care for yourself more effectively, all of which requires effort inside and outside of therapy. And depending on your personal goal, effort may also include behavior change to move towards a version of you or of life that you want for yourself, and to make choices that may feel uncomfortable to you at first.
Remember, insights gained in therapy are only half of the picture and that the therapist is a helper, not a magician—the solution to your problem will manifest itself as you attend therapy, reflect, learn, apply strategies gained, and persevere and overcome barriers towards your personal goals.
“We will jump straight to action”
Some clients may prefer that the therapist jump straight to talking about behaviors (what to do, etc) and may subconsciously wish for therapy to be about changing the behaviors of those around them. We adore your enthusiasm in spotting something you’d like to change about yourself and think it’s totally appropriate to bring up what you’re unsatisfied with about someone in your life, but therapy is not therapy if you’re not going to be asked to feel, face and talk about your feelings towards whatever you’re experiencing—and perhaps even share about past experiences that continue to affect the way you experience things now, which means you will likely be triggered along the way, albeit in a safe, non-judgmental, caring, and empathetic space (where you’ll also be helped with feelings that result from being triggered). Moreover, your therapist will assess how you respond to your emotions (and the emotions of others) so that you can be helped to regulate your emotions better ³. That’s right, most therapists believe that suffering is rooted in feelings and how your feelings affect you, so go ahead and open up your heart to your therapist.
Now for the finale, 3 Things to Know Before Attending a Therapy Session (+2 Bonus)
- Therapy is goal-oriented, and you’ll be the one choosing your direction in your therapist’s office.
- Therapy will most likely not be a smooth ride. It’s not an escape from your challenges, and you’ll be expected to do the necessary work to move towards the direction you want.
- Therapy will have you pour your heart out about your struggles and will have you take personal responsibility for what you want instead of speaking about others. Remember that it’s your job as the client to bring up what’s happening in your life and to talk about what’s upsetting you, including bringing up any difficulties you face which your therapist may not notice occasionally. Do help your therapist understand you, your situation, and your needs better.
- Therapy itself is life-changing but what happens outside therapy is just as crucial. For example, continuous social support and practicing what you’ve gained in therapy are musts.
- Therapy is a learning process, which means the number of sessions you’ll have varies depending on what your goals are and what you think you need. Never compare your mental health journey with another person’s.
That being said, however challenging things get in therapy, you can be sure that a good therapist would make things easier by being right by your side throughout your healing journey (which is totally worth it).
Now that you’ve come so far, we’d like to say congratulations for taking the time to educate yourself on therapy! What did you think about the therapy myths we shared? Was anything new to you? Let us know by sending us a message on Instagram at thinkint.connect and feel free to ask us any questions about mental health be it through our website or on Instagram.
 American Psychological Association, 2009 (n.d.). Different approaches to psychotherapy. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/psychotherapy/approaches.
 Souders, B. (2021, June 4). Classic therapy questions therapists tend to ask. PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/common-therapy-questions/.
 Ehrenreich, J. T., Fairholme, C. P., Buzzella, B. A., Ellard, K. K., & Barlow, D. H. (2007). The Role of Emotion in Psychological Therapy. Clinical psychology : a publication of the Division of Clinical Psychology of the American Psychological Association, 14(4), 422–428. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2850.2007.00102.x
Written by Iffah Suraya Jasni, a provisional counsellor from the Master’s in Professional Counselling at the University of Malaya. Currently a Crisis Team Member with MIASA and has working experience as a content writer. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Boston University and is interested in trauma, mindfulness, spirituality, body image, and helping humans cope with adversities.