How does therapy work? What to expect

Therapy is a great way to improve your mental health. Understanding how it works can help you feel more comfortable when you go.

There are many different types of therapy, and every therapist is different. That said, there are a few things you can generally expect.

Your first session

Your therapist will probably start by asking what brings you to therapy, and what you hope to get out of it. They might explain their style of therapy and ask if it sounds like a good fit for you.

You set your own goals

Therapists work with a lot of different people, each with different needs and backgrounds. Your therapist is there to help you identify your own goals and find healthy ways to work towards them.

You don’t have to share anything before you’re ready

If your therapist asks you something and you’re not comfortable sharing, that’s okay. Just explain that you’re not ready to talk about it. As you build trust with your therapist, you’ll feel comfortable opening up more and more.

Therapy isn’t just about your feelings

Sure, you’ll talk about your feelings, and you’ll often come away feeling better at the end of a session. But therapy is about more than that. You’ll learn to question your negative thoughts and change your behaviors. Your therapist will encourage you to confront things you’ve been bottling up.

This is all important for your recovery. But it’s also challenging. Some days you might leave the office feeling sad or angry… but it’s all part of the process. Sometimes things get harder before they get easier—but they do get easier.

Homework

To really get the most out of therapy, sometimes you will have “homework.” This isn’t like the type of homework you get at school. It’s practical things, like “write down how you feel each day,” or “introduce yourself to someone new.” If your therapist asks you to do something you don’t feel ready for, you can ask for something more manageable.

You’re not stuck with the first therapist you try

If you’ve been meeting with your therapist for a while and still aren’t seeing any benefit, it’s time to reevaluate. It may be that you just need to open up more… Or it might not be a great fit. Even a really good therapist might not be the best therapist for you. Don’t be afraid to switch therapists if it seems like you need a different approach.

Long-term therapy

Most people need more than a few sessions to get the full benefit of therapy. It’s common to see a therapist regularly for several months or even years. Your therapist will work with you to determine the best option for you.

Treatment & Resources