What therapy involves
Coming to therapy for the first time can often feel a bit daunting. So what can you expect?
There are many different types of psychotherapy, and many different therapists applying their own approaches in practice. However all therapy generally involves the following components:
A safe space
Having a safe therapeutic space is one of the most important aspects of therapy. Its important for you to experience and explore yourself freely in therapy. This means that therapy is by nature a non-judgemental, confidential and contained space, grounded in the therapeutic relationship between you and the therapist. There are many different theories about what constitutes the therapeutic relationship, ranging from the psychoanalytic ‘blank screen’ approach to more relational ways of working.
A focus on you
Talking to a therapist is not like a regular conversation with a friend or an acquaintance because the focus is on you. As mentioned, the tenet of a safe space is the freedom to explore and express yourself. This is why therapists don’t talk about their own personal life to clients, so as not to inhibit this expression and exploration, and keep the space safe and contained. Relational therapists tend to include how they might experience you in the here-and-now of the therapeutic space, which can be an important aspect of integration; this is different from disclosing personal information.
Regular, consistent sessions are important part of therapy. Regularity is part of what makes therapy containing. If sessions are inconsistent or ad-hoc, it can feel unsafe for clients. Therapists will generally suggest meeting weekly at the same time and have their own contract regarding holidays, missed sessions and payment. Therapy can often be a challenging journey so it is important that it is contained within an explicit framework both you and the therapist commit to. Weekly sessions may feel challenging for some, especially in longer-term arrangements, but therapy is transformational in its unique capacity to explore rather than avoid challenges.
As therapy is a safe space, confidentiality is paramount. Therapists usually have a confidentiality clause which is part of their therapeutic contract. This generally means that whatever you talk to the therapist about is confidential, except when what is being disclosed poses a serious risk either to yourself or somebody else. Therapists will usually make every attempt to talk through this eventuality with you first, if it arises, before breaking confidentiality. Accredited therapists adhere to an ethical code of conduct as prescribed by their regulatory bodies, usually BACP or UKCP, which outlines such exceptions to confidentiality.
Read more about my own therapeutic approach.