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  • Writer's pictureEmily Weis, LPC

What is Therapy? A Beginner's Guide to Understanding Psychotherapy 

what is therapy

Signing up for therapy is a big deal, especially when most people think a trip to the therapist is just as scary as a dental checkup.

But, therapy is an investment in yourself and your happiness — not something you should be scared about!

You might be considering therapy for the first time, or maybe you've been curious about it for a while. Either way, this guide will give you a solid foundation to understand what therapy is, how it can benefit you, and how to get started on your journey towards greater well-being.

What is Therapy?

Therapy is a collaborative process where you work with a licensed therapist to explore your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 

It's a safe and confidential space to address challenges you're facing in your life, whether it's anxiety, depression, relationship issues, past trauma, or simply a desire for personal growth. 

Therapists like me are trained professionals who use various techniques and approaches to help you:

  1. Gain self-awareness: Therapy helps you understand your inner world – your emotions, thought patterns, and how they influence your actions. This self-knowledge is crucial for making positive changes.

  2. Develop coping skills: Life throws curveballs, and therapy helps you find the right tools to manage stress, difficult emotions, and challenging situations in a healthy way.

  3. Improve relationships: Through therapy, you can explore communication styles, set boundaries, and build healthier connections with loved ones.

  4. Resolve past issues: Unprocessed past experiences can hold us back. Therapy provides a safe space to explore and work through past hurts and traumas, allowing you to move forward with greater freedom.

  5. Enhance overall well-being: Therapy isn't just about fixing problems; it's about creating a life filled with purpose, joy, and fulfilment.

Who Can Benefit from Therapy?

The truth is, everyone can benefit from therapy. We all face challenges, experience emotional ups and downs, and sometimes need support navigating life's complexities. 

Here are some common reasons people seek therapy:

  • Mental health concerns: Anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, substance abuse, and other mental health conditions can be effectively addressed through therapy.

  • Life transitions: Major life changes like career shifts, divorce, grief, or becoming a parent can be stressful. Therapy provides a supportive space to adjust and build resilience.

  • Relationship issues: Whether it's with a partner, family members, or friends, therapy helps you learn better communication skills, develop healthy boundaries, and create more fulfilling connections.

  • Personal growth: Even when things seem okay, therapy can help you gain self-awareness, understand your values, and reach your full potential.

What Happens in Therapy Sessions?

Every therapy session is different as it all depends on the therapist you’re working with. Typically, a session will last about an hour – either weekly or bi-weekly.

As your online therapist, we'll conduct our sessions via secure video conferencing platforms that are HIPAA compliant to the federal standard. 

The first few sessions are all about getting to know each other. After all, you’re going to be opening up a lot, so you’ll want to actually like your therapist.

We'll discuss your concerns, goals, and your background. As the sessions progress, we'll delve deeper into your thoughts and feelings, exploring patterns and identifying areas for growth. Therapy is a collaborative effort – you actively participate in the process, asking questions and sharing your experiences openly.

Is Online Therapy Right for Me?

Therapy was something that used to nearly always happen in person but now, thanks to the internet, online therapy is also an option.

Online therapy is great for folks who may not be able to go to their therapist’s office every week but still want to receive professional mental health support – maybe you live in a remote area, have a super busy schedule, don’t want to deal with traffic or parking, or maybe just feel more comfortable opening up in the privacy of your own home.

You can log into your online therapy from your phone, although I always recommend clients to get comfy at a desk with a computer, if possible.

Taking the First Step

Starting therapy can feel daunting, but it's a brave and positive step towards a better you. You should be super proud of yourself for even thinking about going to therapy, a lot of people don’t ever get past this stage!

If you’re at the point where you want to get therapy, but are not sure how to find a therapist who’s going to be able to help you, here are a few starting points to consider:

  1. Do your research: As I mentioned, there are lots of different therapists out there and not everyone is going to be right for you! I’d encourage you to learn about different therapy approaches and find a therapist whose style resonates with you. 

  2. Schedule a consultation: A lot of therapists will offer a free consultation where you can ask questions and get a feel for their approach – this is just a short chat, not a full session! Although this can be done by phone, doing it via video chat will also give you an idea of what sessions are really like. 

  3. Don’t be scared to shop around: If you don’t feel a connection with a therapist, there’s nothing wrong with looking for others instead. Finding the right therapist is crucial for a successful therapy experience! I encourage everyone to “interview” as many therapists as they can. 

Therapy is an Investment in Yourself

I know that there are a lot of misconceptions about going to therapy, but it’s completely your decision if you think it’s something that could help you.

You don’t have to have severe mental health concerns to start therapy – therapy is for everyone, no matter what your personal circumstances are.

After all, therapy is an investment in your well-being. It can empower you to navigate life's challenges, build healthier relationships, and create a more fulfilling life. It's a journey of self-discovery and growth, and while it may take time and effort, the rewards are significant.

I’ve seen so many clients over the years, and it’s been so rewarding to support people on their journey towards a happier and healthier life, I hope I can provide you with the same support.

Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Take care, and I look forward to hearing from you!

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