What is therapy?


What can I expect from therapy? How can it help? Who is it for?

Accessing mental health services can be overwhelming at times. It can be challenging to know where to start and many people have a lot of questions about the process, what it looks like, how it can help them and who it can be helpful for.

Is therapy for me?

Psychotherapy (therapy) can be helpful for a wide range of experiences such as stress, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, behavioral concerns, relationships, and trauma to name only a few. One misconception about therapy is that you must be in high distress for you to reach out for support. Therapy can be helpful at all levels of distress; from struggling a little bit to struggling a lot. One thing to keep in mind is that when we are struggling it is often hard to validate our own feelings and experiences and so we often feel like we are not deserving or needing help. We may find ourselves thinking things like: “my problems aren’t that bad”, “I would just be wasting the therapist’s time”, or “I should be able to figure this out on my own”. If you feel like you are struggling but notice that you talk yourself out of getting support or catch yourself minimizing your own feelings, then you may find it harder to feel that you deserve support - the answer is you do!

It’s also about wellness!

Another misconception is that therapy is only for people who feel that their mental health is seriously impacting their ability to function in everyday life. While therapy can help folks struggling to complete everyday tasks, it is also helpful for people who want to reduce distress levels in general or who want to work on mental wellness. Wellness goes beyond just the absence of mental health concerns. Wellness looks at quality of life and feeling a sense of presence, enjoyment and peace in your life. Exploring wellness in therapy might look like working on feeling balanced, grounded, at peace or working on wellness goals such as understanding your body better, increasing joy and satisfaction in your life or in your relationships, increasing awareness and the ability to be present in your life.

Getting started

Accessing therapy or looking for support can often feel overwhelming, and it is not uncommon for folks to not know where to start or how to start. Research has shown that one of the most important factors in the success of therapy is how connected you feel to your therapist. In therapy terms we call this the therapeutic relationship. Having a strong connection with a therapist helps to build a good working relationship and often means we feel more comfortable and willing to open up. Feeling connected is something you can judge for yourself by taking a moment to reflect on how your initial interactions go. Therapists are people and not everyone is going to be our cup of tea and that is okay.

What can I expect?

Often folks ask what can I expect from therapy? What will it look like? Sometimes what we imagine when we picture therapy comes from inaccurate portrayals from things we see in the media. Misconceptions about the people who seek therapy as well as what the process looks like.

Therapy can be helpful for a wide range of folks. In session, the therapist will work with you to establish the kinds of change you want to make. In your first few sessions the therapist will focus on gaining insight into you and your life and will then help you to set some initial directions. Sometimes we know why we want to come to therapy and sometimes we don’t and that is okay. The therapist will help you establish a direction and while this may change over time you do not have to come into therapy with a clear direction or answers - this is something the therapist can help with. At times we just know that we don’t feel good or that we are struggling. We don’t have to know why or what direction we want to go in to access services. Other times we may simply want to come to therapy to learn about ourselves and to gain more understanding and awareness, we don’t always have to have a concern.

Once the therapists and you decide on a direction, the therapist will help you to create the desired change. There are several ways a therapist might do this depending on your direction, and at this point, they will walk you through a tailored plan on how you will work together to create change. Keep in mind that change means being uncomfortable; we do not learn in our comfort zones. The therapist will help you move into discomfort and thus change. This can look different for each person depending on your desired outcomes and the barriers you may be facing.

Why talk about emotions?

One thing we often associate with therapy is emotion. While there are many aspects of therapy, emotions are an important piece that will be explored. Why do we care about emotions? What is the point of learning about our own feelings? Emotions play a major role in how our body operates. Emotions serve a useful and meaningful function for our bodies. Emotions are signals from our nervous system to our brain. It is the body's way of communicating. The experience of physical pain is also a signal from the nervous system and serves a similar function to deliver information to the brain. In the case of physical pain, the nervous system is signaling to the brain the presence of an injury. Emotions serve the same signaling function. For example, have you ever experienced agitation or anger due to being hungry (Hanger)? The nervous system may send hunger pains, but it will also likely send emotional cues such as irritability to signal to the brain food is required. Learning about our emotions helps us to better understand our own bodies and nervous systems and address any concerns that may be arising. This is why emotions are helpful and useful to understand and look at.

Although it can be hard, it is good to start by booking a free 20-minute consultation. Take some time to read the bio’s of our available therapists and pick someone that you feel drawn too (Meet our team). It is okay to try a couple of different therapists to see who you feel most connected with.

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