What to expect....
Not a Day at the Beach
While of course the overall reason that most people decide to start therapy is to feel better, the reality is that it won’t always feel good. The first few sessions are usually about the client and clinician getting to know each other and beginning the process of building a healthy and productive therapeutic alliance. This may be the first time that someone really listens to you, without judgment, and actually wants to understand your perspective. The first handful of sessions you will likely leave feeling pretty good. This is the “Getting to Know You/Getting to Know Me” phase of the process. Not a day at the beach for sure, but……coffee and bottled water will always be available to clients to enjoy during the session.
Being a Detective
Next, is the “Identification” phase, where we hone in on the issues and challenges that actually brought you in to see me. We play detective. I will have a good idea of what’s going on by this point, which will be further through assessments I provide you within session and you complete mostly via the office iPad. The whole purpose of these sessions is to get a relatively clear picture of what you are experiencing and hopefully gain a solid understanding of why. Through this phase, a treatment plan will be created that we both agree seems reasonable. No change or improvement occurs if a treatment plan is created but goes nowhere. There is no doubt in my mind that the therapeutic process needs to be collaborative. As the old saying goes, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” Though there is a “me” in team, but I guess it doesn’t count because it’s backwards….
The Really Challenging Work Begins....
The next phase is where the main work occurs, the “meat and potatoes” section of therapy. Because the very nature of improvement and growth will require us to tackle some pretty heavy stuff, it ain’t gonna feel like being licked by kittens. Some people leave sessions feeling lousy. And that’s good. It means we’re getting somewhere. It is also an opportunity for you, the client, to practice some of the skills learned in session to assist you in “riding out the storm” (gosh, I’m never used so many metaphors …..). The other cool thing is that by using these healthy and productive skills, you will gradually boost your self-esteem and challenge old unhealthy beliefs that you unconsciously learned over the years–such as, “You can’t handle it.”
The Final Bow, The Finale, Denouement, It's Been Real!
Traditionally, the last step or phase of therapy is known as termination. Don’t you love that word? Sounds so warm and fuzzy. It’s like an adorable puppy saying, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out!” That being said, it is a very important component of the therapy process. It is a process in itself.
Termination may happen for a number of reasons, and the reason being “you reached your goals of therapy” is the one we want. Throughout the termination phase we will discuss and process the rollercoaster journey you completed–the ups and downs–and prepare you to handle on your own any future related situations that may appear. It is a goodbye of our working relationship, but also a a resource that is available to you in the chance you need assistance in the future. Hopefully this last step also provides a healthy model for any other relationship closures you confront. Most of us have gone through life without having learned how to successfully and in a positive way end a relationship. Here is a great opportunity to acquire this skill.