You have taken a determined, courageous step to reach out for therapy, to be open and vulnerable to a stranger. You have taken a step that will likely benefit you in a number of ways and leave you in a better space than before you began the process.
On your first therapy session, you will engage in an assessment process during which you will talk about your concerns, goals, and dreams. We may begin to address your concerns in the first session; that work will be determined by your needs and wishes. The therapeutic environment is private, safe, and secure. Your identity and everything you discuss is entirely confidential with the exception of specific situations where your safety or the safety of another is at risk (these are the exceptions and will be discussed at your initial session).
Your therapist is a skilled listener and a safe witness as well as a trained professional. Therapy is a collaborative process – you and your therapist decide together on the goals that you will work on and on the approaches that will be taken. In addition, you will decide together on an initial commitment to the length of time (number of sessions) that will be helpful.
Therapy will help you to work through concerns, solve problems, heal trauma and grief and loss, heal relationship hurts, resolve conflicts, find solutions to a variety of life questions, and grow socially, emotionally, and spiritually. Therapy is not just about healing and solving life’s difficulties; it is about dreaming, exploring, and thriving. Your therapist will see you as the expert on you; you know yourself better than anyone and possess a wealth of awareness, skills, and inner resources. In other words, you have many of the answers that you are seeking and the therapeutic process can help mirror your strengths and capacities. It will afford an opportunity for you to self-reflect and to self-inquire.
Therapy is also a resource for information, for skill-building, for relationship-building, and for healing a range of mental health concerns i.e. addictions, mood disorders (depression and anxiety), and healing trauma. Below is a list (although not exhaustive) of some of the available therapies and a brief description.
Body-based therapies: Somatic experiencing, sensorimotor processing, Internal Family Systems, and others. These types of therapies focus on healing through connection with the body and its internal processes – felt experience of emotions, sensations, etc. The body is seen as the primary source of holding pain and the fundamental source of healing.
Psychodyamic Therapies: These humanistic approaches will explore your personal background including your childhood. By achieving awareness and understanding of our personal histories and healing same, we can move forward. These approaches include humanistic psychology including Gestalt and client-centered therapies as well as the psychoanalytic schools.
Interpersonal Therapy: This approach focuses on our patterns with interpersonal relationships and the emphasis is on communication and learning specific skills. These skills also apply to building self-confidence and self-acceptance.
Trauma Therapies: There are a wide range of trauma therapies and some are included in the above list. In addition, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) has proven to be highly effective for healing trauma.
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) explores our thoughts and behaviours. The emphasis is on learning to understand our patterns of thinking and behaving and their relationship to our current functioning and challenges. We can learn new patterns of thinking and behaving that are helpful for improving mood and relationships. In addition, our beliefs strongly shape and influence our decisions and our behaviours. Beliefs can be reshaped and transformed to become instrumental in our well-being.
There are also newer types of CBT that are helpful:
Mindfulness Based Practices for Stress Reduction – the emphasis is on practices and skills to remain present-focused.
Acceptance Commitment Therapy – this approach is a combination of traditional behavioural therapy and cognitive-behavioural therapy. The emphasis is not an avoidance of pain and discomfort but an understanding that pain and struggle is a part of life and the focus is on strategies for acceptance.
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy – this is a skills-based therapy to help people to live their best life. The focus is on both acceptance and change. Many strategies for coping with emotions, working with thought patterns and beliefs, and learning interpersonal skills are taught and practiced in therapy.
The therapeutic process is organic and evolving and you will assess and evaluate your progress as you go. Your wishes and goals may change and can be modified on an ongoing basis. The primary aim is that you receive the help that you need to lead your most fulfilling life.