If this is your first foray into therapy, and you are unsure of what to expect, here are some of the things I tell people in our first visit. First, therapy is all about process. It differs from consultation and advice-giving in that you learn about yourself in therapy not so much from what I say to you, as from what you hear yourself say. We are all somewhat blind to our underlying beliefs, but even though these beliefs are largely unconscious, they have a powerful influence in determining how we think and how we behave. As we talk about our dissatisfactions and our expectations in therapy, we gradually reveal the ways in which we are limiting ourselves . Once these underlying beliefs are made conscious, we are free to accept or challenge them—something we couldn’t do when we didn’t know they were there. This all takes time and patience and persistence. As a culture, we are short on all three of these qualities these days. So therapy can be hard to commit to. But the payoff is big. Growth is its own reward, and will save you so much pain in the long run.
Because the therapeutic process is incremental and intense, it is best carried out on a weekly basis. Many clients are trying to conserve their time and their money, and so would rather not commit to this frequency. I will try to accommodate these concerns, but it is my experience that when people come less frequently than weekly, particularly if they come less often than every other week, the meetings become simply reporting sessions, catching me up on what has transpired since the last session. This leaves little room for the process of examination, and can actually be a form of resistance to the revelations that might otherwise take place. On the other hand, if we start out with weekly sessions, the themes of the particular client’s therapy become established. Then cutting the frequency of sessions can be effected without diluting the opportunities of growth.
I also tell new clients that they should feed back to me what they are experiencing in terms of satisfaction with the style and tempo of the sessions. This is particularly important for those who have had an experience with another therapist that disappointed them. Often when this happens, it is because the therapist wasn’t as directive as the client wanted them to be. This might happen again if there is no feedback. Popular images of therapy are chock full of smackdowns and Ah-ha moments. This can cause a person to feel like they aren’t getting their money’s worth from a therapist whose main modality is attentive listening. While I have my own characteristic style, I can be somewhat more or less directive if it will promote a client’s comfort. So please speak up.