5 Things You Should Know About Psychotherapy

A Few Things You Should Know Before You Start Psychotherapy

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If you are thinking of trying psychotherapy for the first time, there are a few things you should know. One of the cornerstones of successful psychotherapy is a strong client-therapist relationship, yet this relationship can sometimes be confusing, especially for those new to the process.

Your psychotherapist might rely on a range of approaches, from cognitive-behavioral therapy to humanistic approaches. No matter what kind of talk therapy technique is being used, a certain level of trust and intimacy is required. You will be sharing some of your deepest secrets and innermost thoughts with your therapist, and this level of self-disclosure can be both intimidating and even confusing at times considering the distinct boundaries maintained between the client and the therapist.

So if you are considering therapy, here are a few things you should probably know beforehand.

Your psychotherapist is not your friend.

Kind psychotherapist
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During therapy, you will probably be telling your therapist things that you may never have told anyone, not even your closest friends and family. Good therapists are attentive listeners and will offer empathy, acceptance, and unconditional positive regard. Because of this, people often start to feel that they actually share a close friendship with their therapy provider.

The important thing to remember is that real friendships are marked by a give-and-take, a mutual sharing of information. Therapy, however, is all about you.

Through the process, try to remember that your therapist is a compassionate professional that you have hired to help you with the problems you are facing. While your therapist might not be your friend, trusting this person is essential to success. Remember that your therapist is bound professional and legal rules to protect the confidentiality of what you say.

Commitment to change is critical.

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Simply talking about your problems with a trusted professional might help you feel better, but talking alone probably won’t result in lasting change. Changing a behavior is never easy, but having a strong commitment to change can make the process easier and more effective. While in therapy, continue to think about the reasons why you want to change and the things you can do to effect that change in your life.

Don’t expect immediate results.

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Therapy can take some time, but the amount of time varies from person to person. According to some experts, most people can expect significant results after attending weekly therapy sessions for a few months.

One study found that about 50% of people in therapy saw significant improvement after just eight sessions. After six months, about 75% saw improvement.

Your reasons for seeking therapy, the type of therapy that is used, your relationship with the therapist, and the type of change you are trying to make can impact how long it takes for change to happen. There are, however, plenty of things you can do to help the process along.

The first thing you can do is to fully commit yourself to making a change. Don’t sit back passively and wait for change to happen – be proactive and take steps to make yourself ready and able to change.

Remember that you are in charge.

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While your psychotherapist will help you explore many different aspects of yourself, including your feelings and behavior patterns, your therapist will not make decisions for you. Therapy is not about telling a mental health professional your problems and expecting them to tell you what to do about it. It’s about taking stock of your own experiences, learning to take responsibility for your own actions, and developing the psychological skills you need to make good decisions about your life.

Expect a challenge.

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Your therapist will help you explore your feelings, attitudes, experiences, and behaviors, which can help you become more confident in your ability to deal with the challenges in your life. But don’t expect this process to be easy. Therapy often involves facing your fears or challenging some of your most deeply held ideas about yourself and others.

Psychotherapy might make you feel scrutinized in a way that you don’t particularly like at times, and it can even provoke anxiety and anger. These steps toward progress might be painful at times, but it is important to remember that analyzing your past mistakes can lead you toward a healthier and happier future.


Howard, K. I., Kopta, S. M., Krause, M. S., Orlinsky, D. E. (1986). The dose-effect relationship in psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 41(2), 159-164.

McNeilly, C. L., & Howard, K. I. (1991). The effects of psychotherapy: A reevaluation based on dosage. Psychotherapy Research, 1, 74-78.

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