what to expect
Seeking help for the first time?
You may be feeling uncertain about the process and that's totally alright. Here are some things I've thought about that may help address a few questions.
1) Do I have to be mentally ill to see a therapist?
No. While I specialise in anxiety disorders and depression, you do not have to meet clinical criteria in order to see me. I can also help you to work through typical everyday challenges such as handling relationship conflicts, improving stress management skills or increasing work-life balance.
2 ) What happens during the first session?
The first session is what I call an intake session, where I would be asking you some questions about your current issues, personal history, family background, and goals for therapy. Everything will be kept in strict confidentiality and you do not need to talk about anything you feel uncomfortable about. The information I collect will help me analyse your situation and design an individualised treatment plan that fits your needs.
3 ) What do we talk about during therapy?
In every session, I will invite you to speak openly about what's been going on in your life, what's troubling you, or whether there are any new goals you'd like to discuss. We would refer to the treatment plan from time to time to ensure that we are on track. In therapy, you can say exactly how and what you feel honestly without worrying if you are going judged or penalised in any way. Anything you want or need to say is OK.
4) What happens after each session?
Occasionally, I may give clients some homework to reflect upon and complete after a session. The homework might involve taking practical steps to some changes in your lifestyle or habits that are relevant to your goals. For example, it may be simple suggestions like exercising more regularly, making a daily five minute journal entry, or reorganising your schedule to fit in some social activities. It could also include skills-training, whereby you are challenged to practice various strategies to respond to your emotions and thoughts more positively. During your next session, you might share your progress and address areas where you got frustrated or stuck.
5) How many sessions do I have to attend?
The number and frequency of sessions depend on the issues you present, and how ready you are to work on resolving it. Sometimes we may subconsciously know the solution to the problem at the back of our minds, yet we struggle with dealing with it because we lack the motivation, skills or confidence to achieve our goals. The general objective of therapy is to help you share your feelings, understand yourself better and sharpen your life skills. Therapy is about whatever you need - a temporary source of support during a transition phase or an ongoing experience to optimise health physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
6) Why see a therapist instead of talking to a friend or a family member?
Some of us are blessed with a loving, supportive network of family members and friends where we can share everything with them as their encouragement and insights are very helpful. However, people who already know us may not be objective all the time. For example, you may be experiencing some problems with your boss and you share this with your wife. As much as she wants to be there for you, she is also dealing with her own stress, and sometimes this makes it hard for her to support you wholeheartedly. As such, seeing a therapist can be a unique opportunity for you to share your heart out without invalidating your opinions or having someone to impose his or her expectations and worries onto you.
When you are in a safe, therapeutic space of being able to be completely honest with yourself, you will find that you can embrace your past, learn from your flaws and make wise decisions in the long run.
Therapy is a useful tool that can help you to become the best person you want to be. If you are curious about how it works, give it a try and see how things unfold. You have very little to lose and potentially more clarity, purpose and happiness to gain.