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Black Minds Matter

How to Show up for Yourself in Therapy

May 24 2021

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The unexpected journey of finding a therapist that's right for you

You took the first couple of steps. You did your research, found a therapist and now your first appointment is scheduled. That was easy, right? Probably not. The first therapist you found probably isn’t the one you went with. You probably went on a hunt! But now you’ve found someone you like, and the journey has only begun.

The journey to therapy and achieving a healthy mind doesn’t end with simply arriving at the therapist’s office. There is plenty more work to do! In order to get the best out of therapy you will have to quite literally show up for yourself. After all, your therapist can only help with what you address, open up about and decide to focus on. So what does that all mean?

We spoke with Registered Psychotherapist Meghan Watson, MA, RP about how we can not only show up to therapy, but also get the most out of it.

And don’t worry - if you’re just thinking about taking the dive into therapy, we have some news for you, too.

“I see a lot of people try therapy, and are turned off by it due to personality differences between them and their therapist or feeling lost to find one that works with their needs and schedule,” says Watson. “I truly believe there is a therapist out there for everyone who wants one, so keep looking - I promise you’ll find one that can help you do the work you want to do.”

If you have already found a therapist that you like, it is now time to focus on keeping an open mind to the process. Essentially, a rule of thumb to keep is that a good therapist will show you how to open your mind to the things that feel touchy and sensitive, but if you’re in therapy you must prescribe to the aforementioned journey.

“It’s essentially the most important part in my opinion. Therapy is a bit like a dance,” says Watson. “The relationship you build with your therapist will be one in which you have to learn new steps, find the right music and develop a rhythm and routine with your dance partner.”

With that dance partner you may find yourself saying things like, “I’ve never told anyone that before” or “I don’t think I’ve ever said that out loud.” The good news is, that’s exactly what a good therapist hopes you would say! It indicates you are experiencing feelings of newness, change and transition, and that’s exactly what therapy is about.

But let’s be real. That transition can be stressful – the openness you are experiencing is you quite literally learning a lot about yourself and gaining new skills to improve your mood and relationships, and to better understand your own personal world.

That’s the good news. But there is a caveat to it.

“Consistently I see people struggle with understanding their triggers and just how powerful they are,” says Watson. “Experiencing tough emotions and sharing sensitive parts of yourself is so hard, and processing the things in your environment that affect that on a daily basis is a continual and nuanced process. Most of the time people don’t really know what or why they are feeling the way they do, and it’s usually one of the first things I talk about when I start therapy with a new client.”

All in all, it can’t be expressed enough how important it is to be gentle with yourself throughout the therapy process. Because at the end of the day, it definitely won’t all be fun, and there is a lot to learn about yourself. Try to remember what brought you to therapy in the first place.

Wasn’t the original goal to empower and heal yourself? Do your absolute best to not lose sight of that. As mentioned before, it won’t all be smiles and sunshine, but part of you knew that which is why you started this process in the first place. Embrace it and do your best to not shame it. Your mind, body and soul will appreciate it.

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