What to Expect from Therapy

If you have ever suggested that another person see a therapist, only to have him look shocked and never bring up his personal life again, you may have come up against the often unspoken stigma about counseling.

Many people have no idea what therapy means, beyond the sometimes skewed images presented on the news or in movies. They may fear the process entirely or expect that the counselor will act as fortune-teller, neither of which leads to a rich therapeutic experience. Becoming familiar with the counseling process can help guide those in need toward the right kinds of assistance, demystify the practice, and set appropriate expectations.

For treatment to work, the client and counselor must create a connected alliance different from those with friends and family. In his book, How to Go to Therapy, Carl Sherman notes that the therapeutic alliance must take place within boundaries that set it off from the rest of a client’s life. He offers the following points to help define this unusual relationship:

Separate Lives: “Ideally, your therapist is not someone you deal with socially, professionally, or in a business capacity….Generally, therapists stay out of your life – they won’t attend your wedding or join you in business ventures.”

Confidentiality: “Therapists are expected to expend considerable effort in maintaining the confidentiality of what transpires in the therapy room.” Maintaining confidentiality ranges from the appropriate disposal of session records to the refusal to confirm or deny to a third party that a client is in therapy.

Time: “The duration of each session should be clear (the ‘therapy hour’ is generally forty-five to fifty minutes), along with the matter of fees, manner of payment, and policy on missed sessions.”

Identifying Goals: “Among the dimensions of the therapy process you might want to establish at the outset are: What do you hope to accomplish in therapy? What is the treatment plan? How long will it take? How precisely these questions are answered will vary enormously, depending on the kind of therapy and the circumstances under which it is taking place….The therapist may propose an outline of what he expects to happen, but new goals are likely to emerge as therapy proceeds, and estimates of time are subject to constant revision. One question you have every right to pose, however is ‘How soon might I expect to feel better?'”

Please feel free to contact our counselors us anytime for consultation.

-Information from How to Go to Therapy by Carl Sherman.