What to Expect When Starting Therapy for the First Time

Establishing an emotional bond with a stranger can be difficult under any circumstances, but doing so virtually may feel even more awkward. Hill insists, however, that it’s important to push past the discomfort and try to establish trust with your therapist in any way possible.

“I would encourage anyone seeking to remain motivated in therapy now to keep in mind the reasons they pursued therapy initially and refocus on that,” she says. “While physical and psychological barriers may be burdensome to endure, it is important to remain dedicated to pursuing your mental well-being. Also, talk to your therapist about any challenges you feel that may keep you from continuing treatment. They are the perfect person to help you explore these concerns and troubleshoot how to work through them.”

There will likely be homework

Therapy is about more than the one hour or so a week you spend talking to a psychologist. Therapists often assign homework to patients so that people continue the practice of caring for their mental health throughout the week. “Most of the work of therapy takes place outside of the hour that the client is meeting with the therapist,” Miley says. “I might ask the client to practice a behavior or engage in an activity to explore or experiment with content that is related to their goals.”

If you’re feeling depressed, it might be particularly difficult to stay motivated enough to keep up with these assignments. But once you push past those feelings, the assignments can be extremely beneficial to your mental health and overall mindset.

“My therapist assigns me homework after almost every session,” Greenberg says. “It varies from thought exercises to coming up with lists of things that distract my brain long enough to motivate me to jump out of bed in the morning. I appreciate that she’s active and holds me accountable to doing my homework, because I feel like I’m really taking the necessary steps to better myself. Especially now, I enjoy it because I know it’s only helping me, and I can actually see progress, which is an amazing feeling.” 

It’s also important to know, however, that if you find a particular sort of approach, assignment, or exercise isn’t helpful for you, you can ask your therapist to try something different.

Therapy won’t fix everything

Therapy is an excellent tool for accessing emotions and caring for your mental health, but it takes time and effort to see positive results. To truly improve your mental health, you have to commit to taking care of yourself in big and small ways, like eating regular, healthy meals, sleeping more, and drinking enough water.

“My advice to people navigating anxiety, depression, and mental health troubles for the first time is to first practice self-compassion,” says Miley. “Self-compassion means that you wish kindness and well-being for yourself in the ways that you would for others in your life. Having self-compassion and knowing that you are not alone is the first step in creating the space inside of yourself where change can happen.”

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