Many people don’t know what to expect when starting therapy. You might envision sitting on a couch while your therapist writes notes on a notepad. Maybe you’re worried that therapy is a lifelong commitment. You may even have concerns that all therapy is the same and that talking about your feelings won’t do anything. Due to the many misconceptions, you may be reluctant to try it out. You may even be wondering what therapy can do for you.
So—let’s explore and find out how you could benefit from therapy. We’ll cover some things you should know about it before starting, signs you might benefit from therapy, and how it can help with anxiety and depression. Finally, we’ll give you some tips for getting started, what to expect, and how to make the most of it.
What therapy can do for you: The four things you should know
First—when considering therapy, there are a few things you should know before getting started.
1. There are different types of therapy.
When hearing “therapy,” many people envision traditional, open-ended conversations about their feelings. In reality, there are several different types, including evidence-based, skill-building approaches like CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), which most reliably help you feel and function better.
CBT is a short-term, structured, and goal-oriented form of therapy that utilizes a practical approach. The goal of CBT is to identify and change unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving. Therapy can include a mix of exercises that help you problem solve, recognize faulty thinking patterns, change unhelpful behaviors, and develop confidence in your ability to manage challenging situations. CBT has been demonstrated to effectively treat a wide range of concerns from sleeping challenges and relationship difficulties to substance use, anxiety, and depression.
2. Therapy doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment.
Approaches like CBT help you achieve goals and feel better in a set amount of time. Designed to be a 12-week program, CBT can help you better understand and address your challenges and get back to being you. Going to therapy does not have to be a lifelong commitment.
3. Staying open to the process is essential.
Therapy is a personal and vulnerable experience. You can take it at your own pace, but it will inevitably involve getting a little uncomfortable. Stay open to the process; don’t be afraid to ask questions, and give your therapist feedback.
4. Therapy is an investment in both the present and future.
The skills you learn and the support and insight you receive will not only help you with the situation you’re in but will become part of the “toolbox” on your lifelong journey.
Signs that you could benefit from therapy
Now that we’ve covered some things you should know before getting started, let’s explore some signs that you may benefit from therapy. It is a good idea to seek professional help if you’re experiencing any of the following:
- You’ve got a lot going on, and you’re feeling overwhelmed.
- You are trying your best to manage your stress or emotions but feel like your efforts are coming up short.
- You’re having trouble talking to your friends and family about what is going on.
- You feel like you’ve run out of resources.
- Your loved ones are concerned about you.
- You’re having difficulty focusing/concentrating.
- You’re experiencing physical symptoms.
- You’re feeling isolated or alone.
- You’re ready for a change.
If anything on this list hits close to home, there is no shame in reaching out for support.
How therapy can help with anxiety and depression
Depression and anxiety can have a direct impact on how we think, feel, and behave. While your goal will be personal and tailored, therapy may help alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression by allowing you to:
- Understand how your thoughts and behaviors contribute to your symptoms and learn ways to change them.
- Identify and understand how past or current events may have led to the development of unhelpful patterns of thought or behavior that can be maintaining your distress.
- Develop skills to manage intense emotions that may be interfering with your ability to live life the way you want.
- Set realistic goals for your future.
- Improve your relationship with others.
- Increase confidence in your ability to handle challenging situations.
Therapy can help you break the negative cycle of anxiety and depression. It can also be a helpful tool if depression and anxiety are getting in the way of feeling your best and living the life you want.
Tips for getting started
Therapy can give you the structure and support to help you get through difficult issues, including space to reflect, process challenges, and build skills.
Here are some tips for getting started and how to prepare:
- Set your expectations. Know that your therapist will be getting to know you across various topics during the first few weeks. Don’t expect to be “cured” right away.
- Identify your “why” ahead of time. Remind yourself of it when things get uncomfortable. Knowing why you are in therapy can act as a North Star when therapy gets difficult or challenging.
- Honesty is the best policy. What you share stays with your therapist and is entirely confidential, except in two instances: if you indicate you are considering or planning suicide or if you indicate you may hurt someone else.
What to expect & how to make the most of therapy
Therapy is a time-tested approach that’s more accessible than ever, so some form of therapy should be part of any anxiety and depression care plan. However, it can also be a very a personal and vulnerable experience. You can always set your own pace, but remember that it will inevitably involve getting a little out of your comfort zone. Remind yourself why you are there and know that sometimes the only way out is through.
Remember to stay open to the process, and don’t be afraid to ask your therapist questions and give feedback. There is more than one way to approach care, and if something isn’t working or doesn’t feel right, there may be an alternate approach that you may feel more comfortable with.
Now that you know the realities of therapy, you still may feel nervous about trying it yourself—and that’s okay. Therapy is challenging but incredibly rewarding, so why not give it a shot?
Here at Brightside, we use only evidence-based approaches to treat adults with anxiety and depression. 83% of Brightside members feel better in as little as 12 weeks. If you’re ready to take the plunge into therapy, click here to get connected with one of our providers today.