By Julie-Ann Sherlock 

It’s been many years since I last had therapy. However, I still remember being almost more anxious about what it entailed than the actual anxiety I was being treated for in the session! It seems almost counterproductive at first, especially if you are an introvert and find talking to strangers anxiety-inducing. But if you commit to the sessions and work on your issues in this safe space, you should come out a stronger, more confident person. 

Still, getting to the point of healing takes time and effort. The first step is admitting that you need to face whatever is troubling you head-on and deal with it. When you have arrived at that point in your life, your journey of transformation can truly begin. 

My last time in therapy (and I have been a few times down the years) was as a result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to an accident my youngest son and I had while at a football match. It left me questioning life, choices I had made as a parent, and whether I was actually fit to be a parent. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helped me put my life back together. 

For most people, myself included, the road to therapy begins with confiding in your general doctor about your worries or stresses. The medical professional will then refer you for the appropriate treatment or arrange for you to see a psychiatrist or psychologist to explore your options. 

This is where the hard-but-life-changing work really begins. Once you make the brave decision to embrace therapy, it is time to prepare. 

Before Your Appointment

One of the most important things you can do before your appointment is to decide what you hope to achieve from your sessions. Think about the issues that you need to resolve or what you wish to change in your life. Then make a list. 

As you write, think about how you can explain these items to the therapist. Add some keywords or even write down exactly what you would like to say. Take the notes with you on the day so that if you feel overwhelmed or tongue-tied, you have a list of prompts. And in a worst-case scenario, if you feel unable to talk at all, simply pass the sheet to the therapist and let them guide you to opening up. 

While in list-making mode, write down all the medications you take so that you can give them to the therapist and avoid any issues arising. When you have figured out what you hope to gain, it is a good idea to have a look online at the variety of therapies available. This allows you to get a feel for which ones you would be most open to exploring. Of course, the doctor may have other suggestions or may feel that a therapy you have chosen is unsuitable for your issues, so let them guide you. Use your research to gain a better understanding of the methods used and help to remove the fear factor. 

Some therapists may take a phone call from you before your session. This might help alleviate the worries of talking to a stranger. During this call, you can clarify any questions you have about the therapy, how often you will be required to visit, how much it costs and get a feel for how the sessions might flow.

Talking to a trusted friend or family member about any therapies they have had may also help. Hopefully, you will then feel less nervous about going and will be open to receiving the healing that your life needs.

On The Day

Now you have prepared as much as possible for your session, it’s time to relax. If you can, take the day off work or away from family duties. Making some time for yourself before your appointment will help you unwind more and get your head in the right space for therapy. 

Do one of your favourite activities — take a walk, read a book, go shopping or for a massage — make the day about you and your needs. If you can’t take the whole day, try to get at least an hour cleared before going to your appointment. Rushing straight from work or from a hectic morning with your children will slow down your session as you will use the first minutes of it decompressing and getting into the right frame of mind. 

When you step into the office, close the door on the world outside and focus on your needs. Remember that the therapist is a professional and not going to judge you. It’s important to remember that your therapist is there to help. Take a deep breath, centre yourself and open up to him or her. It could be the most important conversation of your life. Afterwards, try to go easy on yourself and have some me-time to digest what has happened in the appointment. 

And, remember, if you feel your therapist is incompatible with your needs, you can always ask to change or for another form of therapy. This is about making your life better, so do what is best for you.