1. Nerves…. At least initially
Going to therapy can be and often is a very daunting prospect. I remember my very first therapy session, I was a nervous wreck! However, this is completely natural. First of all, you are meeting someone new for the first time, you don’t know whether you will like them, you will probably have to say something about yourself which you may not feel like doing. No wonder you can be left feeling like a huge bundle of nerves (and that’s on top of the difficulties that bring you to therapy). HOWEVER, don’t let that put you off. Really! Because once you sit down and start talking (or even just listening if you feel too anxious to talk) these feeling will go away. Ok, they may not go away completely (mine didn’t), but there will be a definite sense of relief that you have met someone who is willing to listen and help.
On a side note, if you do find yourself dreading going to see your therapist every single session then it may be time to discuss this and perhaps think about whether this is the best person to help you. Therapy can be difficult and often stirs up painful feelings (after all you are not there to chat about what you had for lunch) but you should feel that whatever you say is in safe hands. If this is not the case, then listen to your gut and look for another therapist.
Yes, expect a lot of silence. Therapists have different styles depending on their personalities and which therapy they practice, so some may be completely quiet in the beginning and let you take the lead. Some may give you a short explanation of what to expect and discuss issues like confidentiality.
You may have a therapist who is quiet also during the sessions. This does not mean that you are just paying for the chance to talk at someone. In fact, therapists work very hard during these silences. They are constantly thinking, noticing, and formulating what is happening in order to ask you a question or offer an interpretation that will help you better understand your situation and find a way to manage it. However, there should generally be a good balance between listening and talking. That goes for both the client and the therapist.
3. Advice? Yes and no
Some therapists may offer little to no advice. Instead they may use their skills to help you reach the answer you are looking for yourself. Other therapists may offer advice that is completely appropriate and necessary. This may range from practical advice on what agencies to contact to receive support that extends beyond your therapist’s expertise, to offering advice on what therapeutic skills may be helpful for you to practice at home between the sessions. However, if you find that you are constantly told what to do, or worse if you hear your therapist say “Well if it was me I would….” then again reconsider whether this is the most qualified and helpful person to be talking to. At the end of the day, your therapy isn’t about your therapist!