What to Expect Out of Therapy

As I, and even other colleagues, have had conversations about therapy, we have noticed there are a couple of misunderstandings and assumptions that are generally made around it. Clarification about what to expect from mental health therapy is important to ensure a positive outcome. 

Goal-Oriented Therapy Plan

Is important to understand that there is a difference between counseling and therapy. Even though with both (counseling and therapy) you can discuss what is going on in your life, what stressors you have, and anything that could Arise, in therapy, we are also focusing on your goals. Whatever difficulties or issues you may be facing, your provider will help with setting goals to improve and target these, as well as work towards a plan as to how to manage said difficulty. 

As a patient, you should expect to leave any mental health provider’s office with a clear plan to improve the stressors and issues in mind. You should know the plan and if you don’t feel clear about it, ask your provider!

Ongoing Support and Partnership

Another necessary clarification about therapy is how often or for what period you need to attend. The misconception at times is that you may go 1 or 2 times and feel better.  You might feel better after a visit with your provider, but it is necessary to continue attending to meet those goals you and your provider set in place.

You should expect to feel comfortable with your therapist but also be prepared for uncomfortable conversations. Sometimes difficult conversations must happen to get to the goal you have, but you should be comfortable working through it with your therapist and it will take time. 

If you are feeling that you are not getting anything out of therapy or are bored, that may be a cue to change something. After at least 3 months or about 6 visits with your provider, if you don’t feel like you are making progress, talk to your provider to see how you can adjust your plan or be referred to a provider that might better fit your needs. 

Think about therapy as a car. You are in the driver’s seat! You must crank it, put it in drive, steer it, brake, and accelerate to get where you want to go. Therapy is a learning process for you to realize yourself – discovering what makes you better and what makes you worse. It gives you tools to get you to a better place.

By: A. Johanna Lu, MD, ABPN
Psychiatrist, Co-Founder and Medical Director

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